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We're all possibly lambs to the slaughter - Hawkins

Tue 08 Mar 2011 8:00am GMT / 3:00am EST / 12:00am PST
Development

But the browser will set you free, says Digital Chocolate founder

During the Game Developers Conference last week, one session took multiple social game creators and gave them the microphone to rant for ten minutes on a simple subject: why social games aren't evil and why the people that create them aren't ruining the industry.

Here's another transcript from that session, with industry veteran and EA co-founder Trip Hawkins, talking about the over stimulation of supply on new platforms, shrinking markets and why curation is vital.

"My rant is about my fear that we're all possibly lambs to the slaughter. It's probably going to be a bit of a downer - I'm going to talk about some of the business realities we're going to face.

I think we're all in favour of a full employment economy in the games industry, and I think that's going to require some business issues to be addressed.

We used to have a free and open games business, and then Nintendo came along and introduced a thing called a licence agreement. There's a whole lot of companies these days that have basically copied that model. How's that going for us? Well, let's take a look.

It might be okay if the markets are really growing. There are, for example, a lot of Android devices being sold, but how about revenue on the platform, how much is that growing? Not very much.

Some of these platforms are actually shrinking in terms of customer activity and revenue, and that's really concerning.

Some of these platforms are actually shrinking in terms of customer activity and revenue, and that's really concerning. So if we're gonna get involved in a community ourselves and chose a platform, these platforms have a tremendous responsibility to grow their market fast enough to justify our support.

All of these guys have problems with inadequate promotion, inadequate merchandising, problems with discovery - in many cases with lack of echo through social graphic, which may not be present.

So that's the first question. The second question is: if there's no money being made, they can't sustain. So you can't just look at the market side, you've got to look at the question of the supply, because if the supply is bigger than the demand, then that is eventually going to collapse. We're basically seeing this happen right now.

These companies with these new platforms are basically like the statue of liberty, saying 'give us your tired and your poor developers, no tyranny from publishers, no tyranny from Walmart. This is going to be free, this is going to be open.' At least Nintendo were open and had the decency to tell you upfront exactly how you we're going to be screwed and you could decide if you wanted to do it.

We see that today, with all of these platforms, that it's a very slippery slope. One of the problems today is that they over encourage supply.

A lot of these guys have impressive press relations. A few months ago the local newspaper here had a story about what an incredible job Apple was doing, and isn't Apple amazing - they generate a billion dollars in revenue for developers! They do such a great job for developers! And that's not all, Apple customers are happy because they have 250,000 applications to choose from, isn't that incredible?

C'mon. If you're a self respecting journalist, how can you go to sleep without bothering to do the math? You take a billion dollars, you divide it by a quarter million you get... $4000 dollars each. Do you see the problem with that? That doesn't even pay for a really good Fussball table!

So we have these platforms where there's too much supply, and then everybody wonders why there's a discovery problem but they can't leverage that because there's no curation. How is anyone supposed to find out what's good? How are they supposed to find it? How is anybody supposed to be able to scale?

Guys, these are businesses, they need capital formation - why would anybody want to put capital into it if they're not sure that there's a sustainable way to grow it.

I tell you, on a lot of these platforms today, the only guy who's really hot, who's really growing, is the guy who's made exactly one game, that happens to be doing well. Everyone else has made multiple games, everybody on this panel.

Everybody on this panel has experienced what is known as regression to the mean. The batting average on these games is really tough. Some of these platforms are really tough, for a whole variety of reasons. If you can't figure out how to make a healthy eco-system, it's not going to be a great business for developers to be employed in. This is what we need to be concerned about if we want to deliver great experiences for the public and be able to unleash our creativity.

So this is my rant against developers: do you think that developers think that they're in American Idol? There's millions of people - they can get in front of these people. That's the whole point of the show - to make fun of all the people who think they're going to win. These people think that they're going to win American Idol, billions of people think that they can win.

There's something very inspiring about that, that all these people think that they're going to make a superior game. It's going to be better than Angry Birds. It's easy to think that, because Angry Birds has a lot of visibility - you can look at it and you can pick at it, point out its flaws, why you could do better. What you don't know about is the thousands that tried and failed.

In a healthy eco-system there'd be a whole lot more things that would have had enough success to thrive and continue to grow, and you get this tic that's termed American Idiot. I don't mean any offence to anyone who's here that's not American, but America stands for certain principles and values.

Let's not be that un-American Idiot while we're trying to be an American Idol.

Freedom, and openness, and access to opportunity and may the best man win and a whole bunch of other principles like this. So we don't want these things that don't do this. We don't want something that's un-American. We don't want to be that idiot. Let's not be that un-American Idiot while we're trying to be an American Idol.

Let's try and be a bit more realistic about what we can do, what role we can play in the supply chain. I know it's really attractive - wow, these platforms completely crushed it so you don't have to deal with the retailers, you don't have to deal with these tyrannical publishers. But basically these supply chains are pretty messed up. They're not working for a lot of people.

I'll leave you with one last thought. There is a place which we can gravitate to over the years. It is in fact a place used by some of these platform companies. It's extremely ubiquitous, it's open. That is the browser. Think more about the browser. The browser will set you free."

6 Comments

Raf Keustermans CEO, co-founder Plumbee

28 2 0.1
So first a rant about how difficult the discovery process is on a platform with hundreds of thousands of products, and at the end a suggestion to move to a 'platform' (the open web) where there are not hundreds of thousands, but hundreds of MILLIONS of products/websites, where the discovery process is even more difficult, and spam, black hat SEO and aggressive affiliate marketing tactics are used by your potential competitors. How does that make sense?
Or did I miss something?

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,255 421 0.3
@Raf. Don't think you missed anything. That's how I read it too.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

585 323 0.6
Think about core talent. And by that, I don't mean studios. (Studios come, and studios go.) I mean actual core creators. Actual people.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Krasimir Koichev Producer, Riftforge

35 0 0.0
@Raf There's no paradox - I rather agree with Trip.

At the app store, Apple is the single decider. On the web, you have different discovery mechanisms and it's not ALL about black hat SEO (and the 800 pound gorilla - Google). Look at Minecraft, it has a website, a few links from Penny Arcade and 1M sales.

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Rhys Thomas AS3 Game Developer, Hooplo

1 0 0.0
heard of the many new sites coming out such as SocioPath as well as the old big ones Facebook??

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Raf Keustermans CEO, co-founder Plumbee

28 2 0.1
@Krasimir How is Apple the single decider on the App Store? They don't decide anything. It's a level playing field; every guy and his dog can get an app or game in the app store, it's up the users/reviews to make them successful or not.
If you point at the ad hoc success stories on the web, you can also point at similar stories on iOS, Facebook. Angry Birds anyone? Still don't get his point.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

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