This week has been crazy in the world of gaming. With all the E3 announcements, press conferences, gameplay video and game impressions that have been posted over the last few days I’m suffering from a serious case of information overload. Now that some of the dust has settled I thought it would be a good idea to get some of my thoughts down about what’s coming our way in the next console generation and what it may mean for mobile gaming as well.
Sony and Microsoft
The biggest news this week had to be the ‘battle’ between Sony and Microsoft as they squared their new consoles off against each other. I’ve been pretty vocal on Twitter about my thoughts on the whole ‘DRM/Used Games/Online Requirement’ issue but I want to really quickly clarify my thoughts on what is going on here.
First, all gaming is moving towards digital delivery. The Appstore and Steam have begun the digital transition and console gaming is trying to get there as quickly as it can. We, as consumers, view digital games differently than we do physical games, we don’t expect to be able to trade or resell a digital game because we’ve never had that ability. When you choose to purchase something digital you’re choosing to purchase that item with the knowledge that you are giving up the ability to trade or resell it. We make that choice for a few reasons, but it all mainly comes down to convenience and price; it’s easier to just download the game and always have it available, and digital distribution can allow for some incredible sales and discounts which entice us to purchase more games.
Microsoft’s folly with the Xbox One is that they are trying to enforce a digital sales ‘ecosystem’ onto a physical product that gamers have built up a familiarity with over the last 30 years. Microsoft is trying to force us into viewing all games as digital licenses, and offering us very little incentive to do so. It’s an ‘all stick, no carrot’ kind of play, and it has really backfired on them. What I don’t understand about Microsoft’s approach is that they only needed to be patient, digital is the future and gamers are going to welcome it as it comes. There is no reason to poison the well with their fanbase right now with this DRM ‘solution’, when more and more games are being sold digitally every day. Even Nintendo is really embracing digital delivery, and doing quite well because of it. ( I actually have a theory that Nintendo has started reducing the number of physical game copies that they distribute so they can direct more gamers to digital delivery. )
There have been a number of people who have defended what Microsoft is trying to do because they say that used games, rentals, and game trading aren’t sustainable with the kind of budgets that AAA development requires in today’s market. They may very well be right, we continue to see more games either ‘go big or go home’ in regards to production value and marketing budget. Some games and franchises are doing really well in this market, and some are having a very difficult time. Where these people are wrong is in their solution, treating gamers like criminals from the get-go isn’t going to fix the industry, but digital delivery can.
One of the best things about digital delivery is that it allows you to find your audience and to determine how best to make money on your product. You see this with Steam sales on the PC, and with the flexible app pricing on the App Store. Not every game is a $60 product, some would find a much larger audience, and make much more money, if they sold for $40, or $30, or maybe for free with in-app purchases. Full digital distribution, without the need to match retail pricing, allows you to do this. It allows you to be flexible with your game pricing and to find the price that is going to generate the most profit for your work.
Digital distribution also allows you to create games with different scopes and production values, it lets you make ‘mid-core’ games and still turn a profit. I think this is why we’re seeing things like the next Deus Ex appearing on iOS instead of on consoles. Deus Ex: The Fall, is a ‘mid-core’ title. It’s not a game that had a gigantic development budget, but it’s a great looking game, that is made by a talented team, and will sell for around $9. I think you’re going to see a lot more ‘AAA’ developers and publishers start using mobile to sell their ‘AA’ titles. Instead of trying to ensure the title is attractive enough to get shelf space at retail, or sell to the much smaller market available on XBLA or PSN, these companies are going to develop games for tablets and reach an audience larger than they ever have before. I have no doubt that Deus Ex: The Fall will be played by more people than it’s predecessor, which was a Game of the Year nominee. (It may even make more money)
While this may sound like another ‘consoles are dying’ type concept I actually think it’s good for the console industry as well. Console’s are going to continue to be the place for the biggest games with the most immersive experience. They are also the best place to get that ‘couch multiplayer’ experience where you actually sit down with your friends and family to play something together. But if ‘AAA’ developers can also produce smaller titles for mobile along the way, either to increase revenue or to bring in new players to a franchise, then it is going to benefit everyone and bring more stability to the industry.
Nintendo is Rallying
Another takeaway from E3 is that Nintendo is doing exactly what they need to do if they want to turn around sales of the Wii U. I think, without a doubt, that the Wii U has the best game lineup of any system for the next 6 months of the year. Between all the first party Nintendo games, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV, Call of Duty Ghosts, and Sonic, there is going to be ton of top flight games on the Wii U this year. I actually have a bet with someone that the Wii U will outsell the Xbox One in Nov and Dec of this year, we’ll have to wait and see if I’m right.
Enough about E3, what is F5 up to?
I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated all of you on what we’re doing, so let’s fix that. Updates have been slow because we have been working on a number of contract jobs over the last few months to pay the bills. While we’ve still been working on our own projects during that time it has definitely been at a slower pace than I would like. I’m happy to say that things have started to speed up and, just like Nintendo, we should have a lot more gaming goodness for you in the back half of the year.
We’re currently working on updates for both Pocket Heroes and House of the Lost. We’ve heard a lot of the feedback from all of you about those games and we’re working to update them and make them even better. I know you’re all tired of waiting for a Pocket Heroes update, so I’m not going to set any dates, but it is still coming.
We’re also working on a big update to our puzzle game, Incrediblox. We’ve actually been developing a new game in the IncrediBlox series titled ‘Blox Blast’ and our plan is to launch this new game alongside a major update for Incrediblox in the next couple months. We’ll have a full post on here about Blox Blast in the near future.
Finally, we are just about to move into production on a new multiplayer action game that I’m really excited about. It’s something that we have been doing design work on for several months and we have actually brought on an additional developer to help us really get moving on it. It’s still too early to say much about it but I do want to tease you a little with the image below that shows off some of our main characters.
This game is one that I’m really excited about and it’s something that we’ve been working towards for quite a while. I can’t wait till we’re ready to share more info with you.
That’s it for today. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.