Anyone who reads this blog knows that netbooks are going to be absolutely massive as a gaming platform. Now Wired magazine have caught on with this feature article, which is essential reading. And on page 4 of the article there is this gem: “AMD is working on an experimental 3-D graphics server farm that would run high-end videogames, squirting a stream out to portable devices so you could play even the most outrageously lush games without a fancy onboard processor.” Any game industry professional who has not woken up to netbooks will be in big trouble. There will soon be far more of them in daily use in the world than there are game consoles.
Xbox Live revenues for the Xbox 360 have now exceeded $1billion. 56% of the 17 million users pay for the gold service. This is a fantastic business for Microsoft, their Xbox business has three massive revenue streams, hardware, license fees on boxed software and Live revenue. And Live will become by far the most profitable. And it is an area where Nintendo and Sony are being left far behind.
Everybody reading this knows of the enormous importance of the interweb. How it provides instantaneous two way communication and how it is killing off the older, primitive media like newspapers, TV and magazines. They lack interactivity, connectivity and non linearity. And the interweb has been around for a few years now so you would assume that all intelligent educated people are aware of it and are using it.
Instead of listening to us, it appears that most MPs believe that democracy consists of them telling us what they think and what to do. A full 83% of MPs have websites that they can lecture to us from. Or try to. As quite obviously any regular internet user is going to ignore such stuff and such attitudes.
Soon politicians who choose to ignore their constituency online will do so at their peril, because that constituency will reject them. It will be essential for elected politicians to interact with those that they represent. And, perhaps, we will have a better democracy.
I have put the case on here in the past that the Wii could be a bubble that will inevitably burst. So I thought it only fair to give voice to the opposite arguments. Go into virtually any home and there are certain electronic devices you will find. A TV, a radio, a DVD player, a phone and so on. Is the Wii destined to join these in becoming ubiquitous in Western homes?
The enormous success of the Wii thus far (it has sold something pretty close to as many as the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 combined) is down to just two factors. The first is the great man/machine interfaces, the hand held motion sensor and the balance board. These overcome the barrier that the traditional game controller presents to most people who are not in the core game playing demographic. The second factor is first party Nintendo games. There are a surprisingly small number of these titles but they are some of the best video game entertainment that has ever been created.
As a little aside here it is well worth mentioning game polish. This is something the movie industry takes for granted. After you have finished making the content for a movie/game you then need to work away, perhaps for months, to finesse every detail, no matter how small, so that the finished product is a perfect as it can be. Nintendo are one of the very few game developers in the world who polish their games properly. Which is amazing when you consider that it can easily double, triple or more the sales of a game. Even more amazing when we have the example of the movie industry and our products need it more than theirs do.
Back on track. The two Nintendo success factors had the effect of massively broadening out their customer demographic. Traditional game consoles were mainly used by 20ish males, the Wii is used by everyone. So the potential for the traditional console was limited and there were only so many homes that it was likely to end up in. The Wii could, and does, end up in just about any home.
It is amazing how few actual games titles are behind the success of the Wii. For the broad demographic it is principally Wii Fit, Wii Sports and Mario Cart. (Interestingly non of these make the Wii top 20 on Metacritic which just shows how out of touch game reviewers are with reality). Nintendo have not forgotten the core gamer with titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Legend of Zelda. These are such superlative games that any true core gamer should own a Wii just to access them, even (as is most likely) their main gaming machine is an HD console.
But third party developers have, by and large, missed the boat. Most of what they have produced is cheap and nasty shovelware with low production values that is destined for failure. Way back in 2007 I wrote the following “rules” for Wii development:
1) Don’t do shovelware. You are just damaging your brand(s).
2) Write Wii specific titles. Don’t port. You have to respect the interface difference.
3) Understand that most Wiis live in the lounge. And most other consoles live in the bedroom.
4) Polish, lots. Then polish some more.
5) Realise that you have to provide entertainment for the population at large. FPS titles are not a good idea.
6) You need to market completely differently. PR in women’s magazines will work a lot better than adverts in game magazines.
7) Talk to your wife/girlfriend. They understand the Wii better than you do.
A lot of game developers would be a lot richer now if they had taken heed of these.
So we are left with a number of questions that need answering if we are going to understand where the Wii is going (sorry, it’s another list!):
1) Is the very small catalogue of really big games on the Wii enough to keep sales momentum going?
2) Will Nintendo release any more games of this stature on the Wii platform?
3) Will third party developer ever “get” what the Wii is about, mostly they haven’t yet?
4) When will Nintendo pull the plug on the Wii and move on to the next model (this could be as soon as this year)?
5) What effect will the recession/depression have on casual video gaming?
I haven’t the faintest idea what the answers to these are but, as ever in this industry, it will be interesting finding out.
Of course Microsoft and Sony have missed out massively. They misread the market by targeting the core gamer and didn’t realise that the potential was there to bring video gaming to a far broader demographic. Of the two it is Microsoft who have adapted best, as the recent changes to Xbox Live demonstrate. Sony seem to be just sailing on regardless, totally oblivious to the new paradigm the industry is working in.
Amongst third party developers there are some green shoots of understanding about what the market has become. Guitar Hero and Rock band being two of the best examples. But overall it is amazing how sclerotic the brains of many industry decision makers have been. I could name names but some of the recent company results give you a fair idea.
So to answer the original question, will the Wii become a ubiquitous domestic appliance? It would have to jump through a number of difficult hurdles to do so. Perhaps a video game console more likely to achieve such an accolade is the upcoming HD Super Wii. We will see.
Square Enix to buy EIDOS. Potentially a massive bargain. EIDOS was worth so little because totally inept management totally screwed the company up. But it is worth so much because of its immensely rich storehouse of heritage IP. It was inevitable that someone would have the good sense to snap it up. It is going to take very strong management and a lot of investment to get it working again. But if Square Enix achieve this they could be on the road to being one of the few big global game publishers that are left when the consolidation phase is over.
GTA “The Lost and Damned” DLC arrives on Xbox 360. At 1.7 GB this is as much content as many full games. At $20 it shows what can be done by getting rid of the old fashioned idea of physical stock. This is a quadruple coup for Microsoft. 1) It will reignite sales of boxed GTA IV on the 360. 2) Xbox Live becomes even more attractive in a high profile, marketing friendly way. 3) The Xbox 360 is further differentiated from the failing Sony PlaystationPS3. 4) Microsoft should make a massive profit on this DLC and all they have needed to do is pay for it to be made then host it on their Live portal.
$99 iPhone 3G. OK so it is a refurb and it is the 8 GB model, but it is still $99. And this reduces the barrier of entry to all that lovely stuff on App Store. The razor blade business model is alive and well and as our industry make the blades we are in clover.
It looks like Microsoft are buying Israeli 3D motion sensing company 3DV. This is $35 million for camera based technology. Ironically this is a technology that Sony made a complete and total mess of with their Eye Toy, introduced six years ago. Despite not capitalising on the opportunity Sony still managed to sell 10.5 million units, so you can imagine what will happen if Microsoft get this right, something that their Xbox division are developing a fine reputation for in this console generation.
ESA report on the apalling state of European online game thieving. With Italy the worst by some margin, no surprise there. Once piracy gets out of hand on any game platform it destroys the business model, reducing or even stopping development on that platform and ultimately punishing the thieves with the lack of new titles to play on their machines.
All Formats Computer Fairs. I ran this business for about ten years and about 1,000 events. It is history now but I thought I would start this in case anyone wanted to reminisce.
Artforums.co.uk. I run a great online community for artists. This is the Facebook presence of that community.
People with the surname Everiss. There aren’t many of us scattered around the world, all descended from one Gloucestershire man who changed his name. This may bring some of us together.
Bruceongames. The Facebook group for this blog. Please join!
As you can see I don’t need much of an excuse to set up one of these groups. It is so quick and easy and it costs nothing. It doesn’t even matter too much if you get lots of members or not. What matters is having a presence in this immense community. There is no reason not to.