There are many, many topics to choose from when it comes to the video games industry and while there are some more glaring or obvious than others, all of them affect gaming on some level.
From the biggest weaknesses currently facing the industry to the next-generation of consoles, gaming has plenty of topics to discuss and think about.
To discuss these many subjects, Vice President and Creative Director of Disney Interactive’s Junction Point Studios Warren Spector and CEO of First Post Studios Jacob Robinson were both nice enough to take time and discuss it all with quadrust.com.
Spector said every problem is an opportunity and the unknown future or what is next, is the biggest problem for the industry.
“The biggest problem we face is also our biggest opportunity. No one knows what the future holds.
“Were not just faced with a new console generation. Nobody knows what the future of gaming is and that’s terrifying.
“It means dollars are being spread across multiple gaming platforms. It doesn’t matter how crazy your idea is, there is always a way to reach the audience,” Spector said.
Robinson said he believes gaming is facing an identity crisis where the problems are easier to address, but finding the solutions could be the hardest to thing to do.
“You have traditional console and PC game companies attempting the great shift to digital, social and the free-to-play model since they see that competitors are having success.
“You have manufacturers frightened of the impact that cloud gaming can make to their next-gen hardware and game sales.
“You also have social platforms and mobile spinning out of control with frequent changes to APIs that makes it difficult for both small and large social game developers to predict revenue,” Robinson said.
He said manufacturers need to acknowledge and accept the realness of cloud gaming and should be working on ways to adopt it into their next-generation systems, while still improving the home console experience.
“When you have a rapidly evolving marketplace with Facebook, mobile, and F2P (free-to-play), you need to mitigate risk as a publisher by making deals with independent studios who are already having success in these areas.
“If it’s new and looks promising, publishers should at least have a deal pending with a developer for that platform to stay ahead of their competition. For developers, it’s much more of a simple solution, but the hardest to accept.
“Developers need to stop copying each other and to find ways to create new experiences for their audience. Users flock to great content wherever it is, whether it be on the web, console or desktop,” Robinson said.
Going off of what was said by Robinson, the industry is inundated with sequels and has very few IP’s debuting.
According to IGN’s list of upcoming games, over 70% of the games that have yet to be released is either going to be a sequel or prequel.
So knowing this, why don’t developers and publishers produce more IP’s?
Robinson, whose company’s finished the hit mobile IP Snacksss about a year ago, said there is two specific challenges studios will face when attempting to bring an original vision to life.
“First, companies that have multiple stakeholders over a new IP will find that having too many cooks in the kitchen will create an IP that doesn’t resemble the vision that the original creator had in mind.
“The second challenge companies face is with naming their new IP and creating a brand for it that is connected to that IP forever. Studios will often spend many months working on their game name alone,” Robinson said.
Spector said he felt the difficulty with Disney Epic Mickey because they didn’t know who Mickey was as a hero, and gamers everywhere will get to find out more about Mickey once again when Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is released on Nov. 18th.
He thought not knowing where you are going with a game and not having an end point lined up, is a major challenge that comes with an IP.
“It’s that you have no idea what you are doing. We didn’t know who Mickey was as a hero.
“It’s working with a blind canvas. I’m kind of a kitchen sink guy. Just throw it all together and then figure out what parts fit and what parts do not. You have to find the constraints for yourself,” Spector said.
When it came to some common misconceptions people have about the industry, Spector thought there wasn’t very many nowadays, especially since all of the different platforms out there, make it extremely difficult for someone not to be a gamer in some fashion.
Robinson said the two that stick out to him are that all developers are filthy rich, driving around in fast sports cars, and when a change occurs in a game, it’s all the developer’s fault.
“The reality is that game developers struggle day in and day out to make money to cover overhead and fund future titles, and are forced to make business decisions that impact their customers negatively just as any other type of business out there is forced to do.
“Often developers are forced to make business model or game changes to their games by their game’s publisher or licensor and will take the greatest beatings from the community. The developer will obviously not place blame on the publisher to save face.
“Writers and fans need to consider the publisher’s perspective in this scenario. Most often it’s a situation where the publisher is trying to squeeze more revenue out to make up for any losses they are experiencing which may risk alienating a portion of their audience,” Robinson said.
With the ending to Mass Effect 3 this past year, there was quite an uproar from fans about how things finished up, but much like it was said above, there could have been any number of reasons why the game ended like it did.
Perhaps the developers wanted things one-way and EA wanted it another? Maybe it wasn’t the fans’ negativity that drove the founders of BioWare away from the studio?
Regardless of what the answer is or was, the people with the money are usually the ones who win the battle of decision-making.
IGN has a “Big List of Game Release Dates” on their website dating back from this past June through 2013. Over half of the games that are released during or before 2013 are rated or will be rated “Mature 17+.”
Spector said there isn’t a place for violence in gaming, but there will never be a good reason or circumstance for the government to regulate games.
“I don’t think violence should have a role in video games. I think there is a tendency among some observers of gaming, typically non-gamers, who think it’s all we are.
“It’s certainly not true not. You can’t look at Super Mario or Journey and just say ‘oh yes video game violence equals bad.’
“I think there is never ever justification for government to intervene in the gaming industry. We are clearly and truly distanced from government intervention, end of story,” Spector said.
His last comment was in reference to the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case that was settled back during June of last year.
This U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that was instituted back in 2005, banning the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental supervision.
The court’s ruling in June of 2011 stated the law was unconstitutional because video games are protected under the First Amendment as a form of media.
All of that is not to say the industry does not try to grade and categorize its content for certain ages.
You can check out the ESRB ratings site, which is the rating system the industry uses for its games, much like an MPAA is used for movies.
Spector said he thinks ESRB does a great job and believes it is especially difficult to grade a certain game because every person plays each game differently from another.
“I believe the ratings serve as a valuable function for many consumers. I believe we have the clearest ratings system in North America.
“I think ESRB does a great job and it’s harder for gaming because you have hundreds of hours of gaming and the gameplay can be changed based off of the player,” Spector said.
Digital gaming has become a major financial contributor for most companies nowadays, and to look for evidence you can glance at companies like EA or THQ who are a few of the organizations to have seen major growth in that area.
Robinson said digital gaming is relevant today and despite that, the retail vessel of selling games will be around for a little while longer.
“Digital is absolutely here and now. Every publisher that I talk to is making a big move towards digital, but I believe retail stores will stick around quite a bit longer.
“However, as manufacturers continue towards cloud gaming, I believe a reality where we see 100% digital is very near since it won’t be financially sound for companies to support the retail channel,” Robinson said.
Rumors, news and information regarding the next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft are everywhere, and with so many people expecting their arrival within the next two years, it’ll be interesting to see the impact each system has on each other.
Robinson said he doesn’t think the next Xbox and Playstation will have much of an effect on Nintendo because of how loyal their customers are to the brand.
“The Wii audience is a lot different than your Playstation and Xbox audience, so I believe the question is more about when the next PlayStation and Xbox will be released since Nintendo customers will always buy Nintendo.
“Last round, Xbox 360 came out before PS3 and because of that, I believe it negatively impacted the PS3’s sales since the core gaming audience already dished out their hard earned money on a next generation console that had similar features and games.
“It’s clear that we are at least a few years out for anything from Sony, and with rumors of Microsoft having delays due to hardware issues, a late 2014 or 2015 launch would make most sense for their releases,” Robinson said.
Spector said he does have some concerns for this next-generation as costs will certainly rise, but the question is, will the benefits outweigh the costs?
“My basic concern is based on history. In the increasingly diverse world of gaming, I don’t know how we can double our costs and still maintain a relevant business.
“Typically when there is a new generation you see more IP’s because historically you always do. You’re going to see prettier pictures. I’m not sure what [else] people are going to see.
“It’s possible that publishers could say no to the next-generation titles. When it costs 100 million dollars to develop a game, you can’t maintain a relevant business.
“You’re not going to be able to stay with the PS3 and Xbox 360 forever, so eventually they will change,” Spector said.
Robinson believes his greatest concern is how the industry incorporates cloud gaming, while making sure developers and publishers are still content.
“My greatest concern is their execution with cloud gaming and that they proceed with it while keeping their publishers and developers happy. Cloud gaming is something everyone should look forward to.
“With cloud gaming, no longer does a gamer need to worry about keeping up with the latest and greatest hardware and the price of games will only go down with game publishers not having to share revenue with disc makers and printers,” Robinson said.
Finally, when asked what they thought the state of consoles would look like after this next-generation, both had interesting responses.
Spector said consoles will almost always be around, but perhaps they will be in a different size and shape when the ninth generation hits.
“I don’t know if boxes will ever go away in the same sense that books will never go away. You’ll see more things that look like tablets,” Spector said.
Robinson thought this upcoming round of consoles could be getting major challenges from other areas of gaming, and it’s entirely possible this could be the last generation we see.
“I believe we’re going to be seeing mobile devices, both handhelds and tablets, that can surpass the current generation of consoles, and possibly the next with cloud gaming taking most of the burden of the GPU performance.
“The current limitations of mobile with storage, GPU, CPU and RAM are easily addressed, and with Ouya’s success on Kickstarter, we’re seeing the early signs of interest from a very large customer base with bridging mobile to home entertainment.
“I believe the next generation of consoles may be the last of their kind,” Robinson said.