Category Archives: Platforms

Lions, Tigers, Free Games… Oh My!

I’ve been compiling a list of “free game types” in preparation for my GDC Lyon lecture. When I look at the list on a single page, its breadth and depth are a bit stunning. There’s already a mountain of free game content out there, and the mountain is growing fast.

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Games as Platforms Wrap-up

Kim has already responded to my most recent post with a concise wrap-up. To avoid belaboring things, I’ll do the same.

This still seems to me like a case of “take no chances” vs. “take full advantage of the opportunities.” Kim argues that the FS team is already capitalizing on most of my ideas, but that’s not actually the case. For example, he notes that the FS team already helps third parties advertise, but my whole point was that FS can offer both free venues (as they do now) and premium venues — deriving more revenue in the process. Isn’t that a good thing?

At the end of the day, this is a bit like a liberal and ultra-liberal arguing about politics. We’re both platform fanatics. More to the point, we’re suckers for a vigorous debate. …But you’re still wrong, Kim. ;-)

Stay tuned till next time, when we’ll tackle the even thornier subject of peanut butter: “creamy or chunky?” It’ll be a battle royale!

Games as Platforms

Yesterday, I wrote that Microsoft should be doing more to tap the aftermarket for goods and services related to Flight Simulator. Kim, my friend and coworker here, took notice and essentially argued that I was wrong because: A) the 3rd party after-market is good for sales of Flight Simulator, and B) Microsoft could never think of and/or develop most of the aftermarket things that have arisen.

Permit me a bit of grumpiness. I hardly need reminding that 3rd party extensions, especially of the user-generated type, can be very good for business, nor that 3rd parties will think of & do things that Microsoft could not. My point was this: platform monetization strategies (be it for games, websites, or anything else) don’t need to begin and end with “releasing an SDK” or “building a community.” Yes, you can greatly increase the penetration of your platform (in this case, sales of a game) by encouraging 3rd party / hobbyist support of it. And sometimes, you can earn even more by remaining active in the aftermarket. You just need to be smart about it.

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Console Demise? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Every so often, I hear someone say that the demise of the video game console is inevitable (and likely not far off). Their reasons vary: “closed platforms can’t survive”, “consoles are becoming too specialized”, etc. Having thought about it, I just can’t come to the same conclusion. Consoles aren’t going anywhere in the next ten+ years or so (beyond which I can’t claim to understand what the market will look like. There’s too much cultural and technological uncertainty.)

To be clear: I’m defining “console” as “a closed or semi-closed hardware platform dedicated primarily to interactive entertainment.” Does that necessarily mean “software and hardware designed, produced, and distributed by a single company?” No. There could be alliances on the software or hardware side of things, and those alliances could result in independent product variants that share a base level of compatibility. What matters is the presence of very stable standards that lead to a reliable, accessible, and affordable gaming experience. In other words, a guiding hand still matters.

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What XBLA Fans Want

Yesterday, the XBLA team posted on Microsoft’s Gamerscore blog for the first time. Our purpose: to ask the community what it wants (games, service features, etc.)

I’ve read about 500 comments, and I’m nowhere near the end of the list. :-)

The feedback is telling. If you’re very interested in XBLA, check it out. Of course, bear in mind that people commenting on Gamerscore are (generally) pretty hardcore. Nevertheless, their opinions definitely matter — they usually buy a lot of games and they generate plenty of buzz for us.

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Quotes From “PC Gaming in an Age of Connected Consoles”

Today’s session went pretty well. I didn’t stutter uncontrollably, pass out, or embarrass myself in any other highly-visible manner. Oh, and the discussion was nice, too. Some of my favorite quotes:

“The people who have a $600 graphics card know how Bittorent works.” – Mike Capps, on PC games and piracy

“EA doesn’t understand that Kellogg is our competition.” – Rich Hilleman, on the broader consumer market

There was also a great moment, which I unfortunately could not capture in writing, during which we discussed the potential benefits of the PC as a forum for adult-only (or otherwise “risky”) game content, as compared to “family-friendly” consoles. Mike Capps inspired the discussion by noting that adult mods can’t thrive on the console. Soren Johnson shared a story about the portrayal of religion in Civilization, and how political sensitivities around that could have been even sharper on the console. And Rich Hilleman noted that online poker is already a massive success on the PC — in other words, adult-centric PC gaming is already a big market — and also that pornography typically goes hand in hand with advances in media technology. Basically, my panelists were telling the audience to consider an, errrrrrr, “hardcore” strategy for the PC game market.  ;-)

Console != Highlander

Next-Gen recently published an editorial entitled The Road to a Universal Platform which (to be blunt) rejected one naive assertion about the fate of the console with an equally naive (if well-intentioned) proposal to the industry. Let’s dive right in:

David Jaffe recently came under some criticism for a few statements to consumer website 1UP about his future visions of the game industry. The big headline, repeated across the Internet for a day or two, was “Ten years from now there will be one console”.

Like there’s one computer processor? (AMD vs Intel) Or one brand of cola? (Coke vs Pepsi) Or one consumer operating system? (Mac vs Windows) Etc…

There won’t be “one console” anytime soon because market forces won’t tolerate the existence of a single player in this space — not as long as “consoles” are defined as they are today. The market opportunity is simply too great for potential competitors to ignore. And of course, there are the social and legal dimensions to this.

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Indie Concepts and XBLA

(I’m currently in Shanghai and having a blast. Haven’t had time to write something about my experiences yet, so here’s an unrelated article I wrote a few weeks ago but never got around to posting…)

Since I joined XBLA, I’ve refrained from writing about my job because most of what I do is considered highly confidential. In addition, there’s been so much to absorb (intellectually, organizationally, and creatively) that I’m still digesting most of it. But I think there’s one thing I can share that you all might find interesting.

Five months ago, I wasn’t sure what kinds of content developers might be pitching to Microsoft. My assumption was that many pitches (if not most) would involve content that traditional publishers generally shy away from. Experimental gameplay, completely original IP… that sort of thing.

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50mb Vs 500mb

As you may have read, Sony is trumpeting the fact that PS3 game downloads will have a 500mb size restriction, ten times the current limit for XBLA games. This is effectively no different from Sony’s claims that blu-ray makes the PS3 superior to the Xbox 360 in general. More megabytes == higher quality.

Right.

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Et tu, Nintendo?

Et tu, Nintendo??!?

It’s a gray, wet day in Boston, and that mirrors my mood well enough. Within hours of my last published post (extolling, of all things, the virtues of lower-priced gaming options), and about one year after I first began celebrating the Wii, Nintendo announced that the Wii will cost $250. A second Wiimote and nunchuck will sell for $60 ($40 + $20, respectively.)

Is $250 cheaper than a core Xbox and much cheaper than a core PS3? Absolutely. Is it a disappointment for consumers (like me) who allowed themselves to be seduced by rumors of a $200 (or lower) price point?

Absolutely.

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