Kieron Gillen's workblog

 
             

   
 
 

3/15/2005

 
Guest editorial time, from Graham whose extended thoughts wouldn't post in the comments section. Take it away Graham:

*****

There was one thing from the talks that confused me:

"Then there was the Nintendo keynote. This was the company who established the business model that has crucified the industry today.. Iwata-san has the heart of a gamer, and my question is what poor bastard’s chest did he carve it from?"

This is from Greg Costikyan, and to me it seems like he's taking a dig at the only company that has any clue right now. While Microsoft prattle on about the HD era, where everything is bigger and brasher and so on, Nintendo are the ones who are being innovative in hardware and software. Nintendo are the ones who are making these small, fun games that pay little attention to graphics (though still, it must be said, look nice). So I guess it just seems like he's kicking the only ones who might be in his corner.

Aside from that though, it's nice to see that developers feel this way. Developers are the ones that need to carry out the change, so it's good they're convinced.

Really I'm of two minds. On the one hand, I think there are a lot of people who play games without ever really thinking about them. There are those who go into stores, buy the occasional magazine, and simply go for the latest racing game or football game that looks good on the back of the box. I'm worried that there's a lot of people who are happy with that, and perhaps aren't brave enough to try the odd looking new thing with the 2D graphics that doesn't have wheels OR balls.

Then, on the other hand, my right hand, I have this feeling of "If you build it, they will come." Did anyone think The Sims was a marketable concept before it became the biggest selling game of all time? I'd doubt it. I mean, I watch the full Revenge of the Sith trailer that was released a few days ago, and I think "Man, I want the game that looks like THAT." But what have I been playing most over the same space of time? Tower of Goo, which was created in 4 days and is available for free at http://www.experimentalgameplay.com. I have an XBox, a Gamecube, a powerful PC, a bookcase full of games, and what I'm playing has no discernable end, no menus, no nothing really. I've reached the goal of 25 feet - nothing happens. Yet I keep going back and doing it again in new ways, or just going back to mess around, making odd blob-idols that I then tip over in sacrifice to some imaginary God. It's just fun.

So really I agree with Spector's view, that it's the distribution model at fault. I'd wager considerably less people try out new games at £35 than would at, say £15, or £10, or £5, or if it were downloadable online. Case in point: music. All new music I hear I discover because someone online mentions it. My brother writes about The Go! Team on his blog, so me and my other brother immediately download it from iTunes. A week later and you write about them here, coincidentally, and a week after that and I've already prompted another three people - two of whom were complete strangers - to go and get it themselves. If Thunder, Lightning, Strike were only available in a store, hidden behind a long train journey, would the same thing have happened? No, it wouldn't. Because I'm lazy, because train journey's cost money, and because FOPP, HMV and Virgin all suffer from limited shelf space and never stock the things I'm looking for anyway. It all comes back to an article I read some time ago called The Long Tail (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html), where it's explained why Amazon make more money from the niche markets than the rare megahits.

The same could hold true for games.

If they build it.



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