In hindsight our own brief was a little too ambitious: gather four respected and intelligent games developers in one room and quiz them on their thoughts on where the industry was headed in 2012. That's a big subject - too wide-reaching when you consider just how the games business has fractured, splintered, evolved and frankly, gone a bit mad, over the past 24 months.
But after 60 minutes around a table what we've come out with is as much a summary of how the industry has changed as it is predictions and hopes for the future. We've touched on many of these subjects before on GamesIndustry.biz, particularly over the past two years. There's no doubt still more to discuss, but there's plenty of meat over the next four pages: from bust to boom in the independent development scene, the evolution of the console business, the question of whether graduates are sufficiently educated for the reality of employment, the future of TV and the consumption of living room entertainment, the democratisation of distribution, developers as rock stars, how to justify triple-A development budgets, embracing free-to-play and $1000 business models, the hire-purchase of gaming hardware and a solution to the death of High Street games retailing.
All of this insight comes from our interviewees who gave up their time during December: Frontier Developments boss and Elite creator David Braben; Jamie MacDonald, a SCEE stalwart who saw projects like SingStar, EyeToy and LittleBigPlanet from start to finish and now oversees production and engineering at Codemasters; Simon Oliver, owner of Hand Circus, one of the first developers to see the potential of iOS with the creation of Rolando for iPhone; and Jason Avent, who before founding Boss Alien was game director for racing studios Black Rock and Climax.
Q: Let's begin by trying to sum up 2011, which is a big ask. What will 2011 be remembered for?
Jason Avent: That the UK games industry has gone over to Canada. The big studios have gone down by half. It's been a nasty year. But there's been lots of opportunity as well.
Q: The UK industry seems to have fragmented into a more and more agile market with smaller pockets of developers - is that a good thing in the long term do you think?
Jamie MacDonald: It's too early to tell, really. There are an awful lot of micro-studios that have shot up as a result of the larger studios closing down. And to be blunt about it, when their redundancy money runs out I just hope they are still viable businesses, most of them. Otherwise they'll be off to Canada.
There are an awful lot of micro-studios that have shot up as a result of the larger studios closing down. When their redundancy money runs out I hope they are still viable businesses
Jamie MacDonald, Codemasters
David Braben: Not necessarily, there are quite a few companies in the UK that are recruiting. There's an ironic parallel which is that very few students are coming through at the moment because of the way education is. So there are roles for those people in the bigger studios still, including us, and I know Codemasters is recruiting as well. The point there is, and I absolutely completely agree, it is too early to tell whether it's good or bad. It's a mixed thing and that's never not been the case. It's always been good and bad if you look back at 2010, 2009... There have been different causes. But we've been in a state of flux ever since this whole industry started. New things have happened, changed, platforms have shaken up the snow globe terribly. What's happening now is just that again. Every computer I've heard of has been called 'next-generation' at some point.
What we're seeing now is opportunities galore, where next-generation doesn't just mean performance, it means so many things, it means new business opportunities with things like the App Store which is turning things upside down. Things like in-game purchasing, that sort of thing is only two or three years old if that. The real point is the whole free-to-play thing is revolutionary. Making £40 games looks slightly anachronistic but having said that look how many sales Modern Warfare 3 had on day one. The world's biggest entertainment launch.
Jamie MacDonald: It sucked the oxygen out of the market for a lot of other products. It's been happening over the past few years but has been really apparent this year. If you're not one of those top five releases you're really going to struggle. This is a truism that a lot of the industry is reliant on those big slugs of revenue. Certainly for the console developers and publishers, they have to re-factor how they see their business and how the revenue stream is going to work because it's not going to come from those big slugs anymore.
Q: The games industry has always been unique in that it has an almost artificial boom period of one quarter a year. Is that indicative of an anachronistic approach of the business or is that dictated by consumers? Will there be a move to a more fluid model, a more continuous model - is that an evolution?
Jamie MacDonald: I think so. The death of the retail sales model has been over-exaggerated in terms of timing. Most of us here accept it's going to happen but it's not going to happen tomorrow. The console industry just has to change in the same way the music industry has, and hopefully more successfully. We've got to manage that transformation and the way we employ people and the structure of how we develop and publish games. We've got to take into account the economic realities. It's not going to go away; it's going to accelerate.
Q: There seems to be two real issues that affect the UK - the drain of talent to other, more attractive regions, and the lack of properly qualified students coming through education. How long can the UK sustain that shedding?
Simon Oliver: I've worked with an art director based in Finland and we've met in person maybe three times now and we have good chemistry, we work well together. I guess it depends on the type of game you're making on how you work together, but certainly as a small studio it hasn't been too much of a problem having some roles located abroad. Our PR agency was based in the US, our test agency was in Scotland.
Jason Avent: I've not had a problem with graduates because at the moment there aren't many jobs anywhere. A lot of the blue chip employers who would normally enrol hundreds of people into their graduate training schemes are just taking tens so there are a lot of first class honours guys out there with maths degrees and physics degrees and engineering degrees, so actually it's pretty good for hiring graduates. But there are a lot of experienced guys out there that they've got to compete with. As David said, there are companies like MindCandy and Jagex who are taking loads of people on.
Because it never let go of PC, Germany has really gotten ahead on social games and PC games as they've merged
Jason Avent, Boss Alien
David Braben: We have an interview test because these days it's very difficult to know, because people come in with first class honours degrees from a place we don't necessarily know. And it turns out their skills aren't very useful, that's the really depressing thing.
Jamie MacDonald: From a coding point of view?
David Braben: From a coding and maths point of view. We'd much rather take on a maths graduate with no coding experience whatsoever and teach them to code, than the other way around.
Jason Avent: It doesn't take very long to learn how to programme if you've got very simple programming tools and you know how maths works. That's always the hardest thing to learn. But as for things moving countries, we fell in love with games consoles and as a country we've been very successful at that because America, the UK and Japan were the biggest markets for them, and we're really good at making games for consoles. Meanwhile, Germany and the Nordics had a reluctance to adopt games consoles and PC was huge there. Gamescom has an entire room for PC hardware and an entire room for PC games. Because they never let go of PC, and because of the types of games they play, they really got ahead on social games and PC games as they've merged.
I used to play console games exclusively but then I played Starcraft for six months when it came out and League of Legends for nine months and I didn't turn my games consoles on. Battlefield 3 and Skyrim are better on PCs. We're at a point now where if you love games and visuals are really important to you, and the whole experience is important to you, then the best place to go is the PC.
David Braben: That's only if you go for visuals. With a console experience I know it's going to work on a console, with my laptop it's 50/50. I sit with my feet up using a console.
Jason Avent: I agree, with your surround sound system and your big TV...
David Braben: But PC is about sitting forward and it's a completely different experience, so I disagree. Visuals on PC are much better - at the moment.
Jason Avent: But with things like OnLive you'll have that same experience as a console but on PC.
David Braben: That's the point: when does that blur, when is a console not a console? Raspberry Pi, for example, could run OnLive, I'm sure. So you could play Battlefield on that. Is that a dedicated console? The fact that at the other end it's being hosted on a high-end PC, that's the thing to forget.
Jason Avent: And so the next Sony or Microsoft console could be a window to a really powerful PC and the only thing they bring is a really nice controller or a really nice peripheral set and very well branded community.
Jamie MacDonald: I remember when the original PlayStation came out the thing that was so great about it was you didn't have to fiddle about, you put the CD in and off you went.
Jason Avent: Back then that was really important compared to the PC experience.
When is a console not a console? Raspberry Pi could run OnLive, I'm sure. So you could play Battlefield on that. Is that a dedicated console?
David Braben, Frontier Developments
Jamie MacDonald: That console mentality, it has to be totally consumer friendly. It's an appliance. If my mum can't use it it's not a console.
Jason Avent: That's the same with tablets and phones as well. It has to work.
David Braben: As a developer we can test the same set-up that a user is going to have with an iPad, with a 360, with a PlayStation 3 or whatever. We can't do that with a PC. Even in our office, with the PC standing next to it, it's got a different graphics card.
Jason Avent: But for the same price as an iPad you can get a pretty nice PC that should play anything. The experience on a games console is not as good as it used to be on an N64 with a cartridge or on the PlayStation. Now you get a game that's maybe a week or two old and you put it in for the first time you have to wait for a system update.
David Braben: You're right, that's bad, and that's essentially moving towards the PC world. The other thing that we're skipping over is that almost by the backdoor Sony and Microsoft have taken over the living room - just look at how easy it is to watch a move on your console.
Q: I don't know anybody who owns a console and a separate DVD player or Blu-ray player. USB stick is the media of choice. And with LoveFilm, iPlayer, the updates to the recent 360 dashboard...
Jamie MacDonald: In some ways I'm surprised it's taken this long. It's been their expressed strategy for years. When the Xbox 360 and PS3 first came out it was all about the battle for the living room, and it's five years later and we're just getting there.
David Braben: In terms of how people consume content, look at the US with the ESPN deal and Netflix...
Jamie MacDonald: The thing is, I've just recently moved into the country and it's a bloody nightmare. It's like going back in time. I can't use iPlayer any more on my PS3.
David Braben: Frontier is based just outside of Cambridge and BT were about as rubbish as it's possible to get. They couldn't get anything to us that was more than a 64k ISDN line so we went to a local start-up and we had a wireless link to the centre of Cambridge that was 64MB and it cost less than BT. It was an invisible service but the government made that really awkward for them because BT had a studio monopoly.
Q: And of course you have to make sure that this access is in place on a global scale if you want real ease of use.
David Braben: They have big problems in the US because it's such a physically big country that it will take a long time to reach middle America.
Simon Oliver: Are you talking specifically about streaming services or digital distribution as well?
David Braben: Well the two are very closely related.
Simon Oliver: Do you think the growth of the App Store in certain countries has been because they have such good connections?
David Braben: You can go to some countries that we would think of as more third-world and the connections are really good. Partly because they haven't bothered putting in a wired network. So they leapfrog from a fixed line network straight to a wireless network.
Jason Avent: Do you think someone else can't come into that living room space now that Sony and Microsoft are already there?
David Braben: It becomes harder by the day, but Apple has a chance there.
Maybe TV will stay the central focus for shared experiences, but I feel like if there's nobody else I'm sharing it with, streaming TV or playing games on the iPad, it feels like this is my entertainment.
Simon Oliver, Hand Circus
Simon Oliver: I find using apps on the TV really weird. That's one thing about the new [Xbox] dashboard, anything other than video on demand feels a little bit "we should have it, so we're going to put it onto the service". On a personal device like an iPad or iPhone you're using it exclusively and it makes sense. The interface is something that Apple could potentially revolutionise. Look at streaming from Apple TV to the iPad, it still doesn't feel right. I feel that maybe TV is going to go away as the main place that people will take their entertainment. Maybe it will stay the central focus for shared experiences but I feel like if there's nobody else I'm sharing it with, streaming TV or playing games on the iPad, it feels like this is my entertainment.
Jamie MacDonald: But I have a choice at home of the room with the small TV or the room with the big TV. I'm not going to watch the football on the small TV.
Simon Oliver: Oh sure, for something that's much more of an event, but for normal TV I'm happy watching it on an iPad.
David Braben: Most people who watch TV have a remote control by their side and a big TV where they consume the content. An iPhone 4 does this. It's a little version of your remote, with a screen, where you're selecting programmes, pausing, rewinding, and then you watch it again on a great big screen, 1080p, surround sound speakers.
Jason Avent: It makes sense that you have something that's multiple purpose and you hold it in your hands and you take it with you. And if you want to do anything that's more powerful you can do that via the cloud, and if you want to view it on a big screen you can. And when it comes to multiplayer everybody in the household can have their own screen, especially when the prices come down to something like the Kindle Fire level. And then you can make multiplayer games for multiple screens and the TV is just used to keep the score.
Simon Oliver: I really liked those Wii demos at E3, showing the two players, one on the Wii U and one using the Wii controls on a TV.
David Braben: I've seen a game demoed on 12 iPads at the same time, one for each player.
Jason Avent: There's no reason why not. If everybody's got a personal entertainment device it makes sense.
David Braben: You can show secret stuff to a single screen and common content to the TV screen for everyone.
Q: The problem with something like this is that there are closed systems. If all devices are made by Apple that's fine, but you have to the TV, the tablet, the phone...
David Braben: But Bluetooth is a completely separate standard and cars have that built into their stereos and your phone will connect to it, which is great. I think the real point is, yes it's a bit too much of a walled garden, but it's in Apple's interest to be more open-minded. We can put anything up on the App Store, even things that aren't up to the highest standards, and they are allowed to fail, which I absolutely applaud. Because that means some gems will get through that might not have otherwise made it through approval. Yes, there's an approval process but it's not as strict as some of the console players.
Simon Oliver: I think that's one of the thing that appealed so much when the walls came down initially that there was no risk associated with developing for it. Apple openly said if you make a game that only you like just to get your content out there, people will play it. There is that outlet, but if you're developing a controller-based game there might not be that distribution that's guaranteed with the iPhone. That democratisation of distribution is great.
We can put anything up on the App Store, even things that aren't up to the highest standards, and they are allowed to fail, which I absolutely applaud.
David Braben, Frontier Developments
David Braben: And that anarchic quality to it is very attractive. Thinking back to when I was a kid trying to get into the industry - and it was very easy to get into compared to now. Nowadays its impossible on so many fronts like the programming barriers, even a lot of the new talent coming into iOS are not necessarily the bright young things, and I mean that in the best possible way. We're not talking 17 and 18 year olds, we're talking about people who are at least ten years older. That's an important distinction. If there were a few more 18 year old rock stars coming into the industry the terms 'geek' and 'nerd' would evaporate quite quickly.
Simon Oliver: Look at the Johnny Two Shoes guys that did Plunderland on iOS - a massive success, self-published, and the games they are working on now are phenomenal.
Q: Do you think the games industry is guilty of keeping its stars behind the screen a little too much? There's no other entertainment industry that's like that, where the creative stars are hidden away.
David Braben: That's something BAFTA is doing very strongly, trying to promote the individuals.
Jamie MacDonald: But most of the time it's a team effort.
David Braben: I feel guilty as it's often my name on the awards but I'm there as a representative of the team. Clearly Johnny Depp is doing the role that he's doing in Pirates of the Caribbean but a CG equivalent might not be just one person.
Jamie MacDonald: It's a good point. The gaming heroes that everybody quotes have come from an era when an individual or a small team could create a mould-breaking game. Over the past ten years with the PS2 and PS3 generations we started with 25 to 30 people making a game and now we're on 100-plus with this generation. It would be hard and unfair to focus on any one person. There are a few people that stand out.
Jason Avent: I don't think anyone outside of the games industry knows Cliffy B. The thing is, although it's an entertainment industry it's not based around single people. The characters in your video game will get more recognition than the people who made it, but that's just like any other product or engineering feat. You know a few people in construction like Norman Foster but there are plenty of buildings out there that really enrich an environment but you won't know the creators. And who made the Ford Escort? There's Chris Bangle who worked for BMW who people loved and hated but because he divided opinion he was quite well known.
Jamie MacDonald: There's a rock star approach to Japanese game designers but that's much more to do with Japanese culture. I find it weird to see Japanese games heroes at events with an entourage, all dressed in black.
Jason Avent: You see individuals standing out, especially in the indie games sector. At IGF you'll recognise Jonathan Blow, Chris Hecker, Notch. So I think there it's very much happening because the team size is so small you'll only have one guy in charge of design, one in charge of visuals, so the recognition is there.
Q: The way the industry has changed has coincided with the global recession, the contraction of the economy, but it's also coincided with the rise of social and mobile gaming. Do you think those two things have acted together to change the UK industry, has it been a victim of the economic crisis?
Jason Avent: I don't think social gaming has stolen any consumers from consoles. But I think those kind of mechanics and business models probably will, therefore the console business and console manufacturers should embrace that.
Q: But social gaming has stolen console talent.
Jason Avent: I don't think it would have stolen staff if we hadn't had high quality games work in the UK. I can only think of one really big triple-A game that's been developed in the UK in the last year.
Jamie MacDonald: And that would be Dirt 3or F1 or Disneyland Adventures...
Jason Avent: Okay, Disneyland is going to be big but Dirt 3 - how many units did it sell? Is it up there with Uncharted? Is it up there with Need for Speed?
Jamie MacDonald: No, but Dirt 3 is much more of a hardcore game than both of those, and within its genre it's absolutely triple-A.
If you're developing a controller-based game there might not be that distribution that's guaranteed with the iPhone. That democratisation of distribution is great.
Simon Oliver, Hand Circus
Jason Avent: But you're not talking 3 to 4 million units, and that's what it takes to get the visuals and the quality of experience up to the same kind of level in terms of justifying development budgets. The development budgets wouldn't be anywhere as big as Call of Duty or anything from EA, and it's those kinds of experiences that people will buy two or three of a year on games consoles - and that's it. You were saying there is no middle ground anymore.
Jamie MacDonald: But it's about genre, and the racing genre in terms of the percentage of the market hasn't really changed over the years. It fluctuates depending on whether there's a Gran Turismo out that year but it's quite a stable market. Clearly it grows as the installed base increases, and it's not as big as the first-person shooter market or the action market so they can sustain larger budgets. Within the racing genre that we're in we can turn around a good profit on those number of units we sell. Part of our strategy is to move away from doing purely hardcore racing games and going into a space with broader appeal. The death of the console market has been exaggerated. Although there are these huge blockbusters, I firmly believe if you can create really high quality experiences in an area that is appealing you can still make money there.
David Braben: The console market is still continuing to grow, especially if you consider pre-owned figures in that even though it doesn't come to us developers. EA said that half its revenue was coming from digital for console games because some of their games have a digital component.
Q: Just look at the map packs for example for Call of Duty, they are enormous.
David Braben: What's important there is that income, a very big percentage of that goes to the publisher and, more importantly, if the game was pre-owned that money goes to the publisher from the new consumer again. You can create in theory 100 per cent revenues when that game goes around half a dozen to a dozen times. One of the things that was pretty unforgivable that this industry did to platforms like the Dreamcast, they were killed off by the press saying it had been killed off. Actually it was a good platform. The real problem which wasn't really said was the track record at Sega where a number of machines weren't really released into the market properly, like the Saturn. And other machines, including Sega's greatest that was never released, the Neptune. Which was frustrating.
Jason Avent: I wonder if it's a different story now in the dedicated handheld market. With the 3DS seeing the impact of lowering prices and the increase in quality in mobile gaming, I don't know if that's contracted in terms of revenue in the overall handheld market.
David Braben: If we include iOS in the overall handheld market, which we absolutely have to, it's continued to grow. iOS has chomped into Nintendo's space in a very big way. Would I rather spend £1.99 for a game rather than £30?
Unless we get the ability to be able to have free and $1000 purchases in one game on consoles we won't be able to satisfy the consumer
Jason Avent, Boss Alien
Jamie MacDonald: Whichever way you look at it the games market is still growing - it's just fragmented. To go back to the original question of how affected are we by the wider economic crisis, yes, retail sales of games are down. Is that because of the economic crisis? Yes, part of it is. But it's also partly to do with other forms of content delivery being available.
David Braben: It is slowing adoption of new kit, that would be my guess. In terms of how many people will buy new iPhones and iPads and how many are buying add-ons like Move and Kinect at Christmas. It's a big purchase. It affects sales of something like Disneyland Adventures because we're appealing to those that have an Xbox and Kinect and want the game. But of all the industries we're probably the least affected. One of the things we don't see is the TV industry is really badly affected. The eyeball time that the games business is taking is going up and up and up. It's taking people's entertainment time and the TV time is used with things like iPlayer.
Jason Avent: It's really difficult to quantify the decline or increase in interactive use because most of the new consumables are privately owned or they're not charted. You can't find out how many people downloaded things or how many virtual goods were sold on Facebook or how many subscriptions Moshi Monsters has. The audience for Moshi and Club Penguin would have been playing PSone Crash Bandicoot years ago. It's very difficult to quantify what's happened but it has grown. We've always said this industry is recession proof because in comparison to going to the movies or the pub it's actually pretty good value.
Q: It's the same position Hollywood was in years ago when people thought "I could spend a night out for a couple of dollars or spend much more going for a drink or a meal..."
David Braben: Hollywood grew incredibly during the '30s because of the recession. That was when it went from being relatively small to being a major industry.
Jamie MacDonald: That's interesting. If you look at how Hollywood competed with TV in the '50s by bringing out these huge biblical epics with casts of 1000s, and 3D, and then it responded with the growth of indie films in the late '60s and early '70s with the Scorsese and Coppolla movies. I wonder if there's a parallel there with the games industry.
Q: You mentioned moving away from well-performing but niche titles to games with a wider appeal. There's been some debate on that with something like the Vita and whether it's over-specified, or whether it's actually ideal because it's purely aimed at a gaming niche.
David Braben: The issue is you can choose to make a Ford or you can choose to make a Lamborghini.
Jason Avent: World of Tanks is a good example. It all depends on platform. It's difficult to do those things now on PS3 and Xbox 360 because the way the monetisation strategy works is you've got to be able to get people who either will spend a small fee or those that will spend a massive amount. With one price point you miss out on a huge spread at the lower and higher scale. Unless we get the ability to be able to have free and $1000 purchases in one game on consoles we won't be able to satisfy the consumer.
David Braben: If you look at Modern Warfare 3, the $100 edition, that is essentially doing that. The thing that seems to matter is you get a different badge on your online identity, which literally cost the developers nothing.
Jason Avent: But these are only baby steps in relation to other things that are being done in different parts of the games market. That $100 is paid once. Some people will pay higher prices and that will fund the development of a game for a niche audience. I feel bad about how much time I've spent in Modern Warfare 1 online. I probably played that game for a year and I spent $40 for it.
The only reason people will buy Vita over another device is if it can demonstrate you can get a gaming experience there that you can't get on any other gaming platform.
Simon Oliver, Hand Circus
Simon Oliver: The Sword and Sworcery developers made a game they knew was only going to appeal to 20 per cent of players but they made the best possible game, tailored from the art style to the music style and it was a massive game because so many of that niche audience bought it.
Q: I've been amazed at the success and reach of Skyrim. Only two games ago with Morrowind it was a very niche RPG with tons of stats, and now it's been slimmed down in those terms but it's a bigger game with more to do.
David Braben: Oblivion was the first mass market men-in-tights game in my opinion. Before it was off-putting to a lot of people but Oblivion has so much in it. It had a pretty atrocious treatment of first-person gaming, as did Fallout, but you forgive it because it's such a broad and rich game.
Simon Oliver: What I found more stunning was Dark Souls and the fact it sold 1.5 million units. I played Demon Souls all the way through twice and I cracked my PlayStation controller. But because it's such a tremendous sense of peril and dread you go back.
Q: Do we think the PS Vita might be the last pure gaming handheld device?
David Braben: What do you mean by pure?
Q: As in it's used primarily for video game playing.
David Braben: Isn't that the iPad?
Jamie MacDonald: My wife uses her iPhone mainly for making calls, imagine that.
David Braben: All smartphones are computers that do phone calls and we forget that because the phone component is never that good.
Jamie MacDonald: I'm really interested to see how the Vita goes. As an ex-Sony guy I still have a lot of loyalty to Sony and it's a lovely piece of kit with a brilliant display. The people I know at Sony are very bullish about it. We have times when we all called it wrong. I thought the Wii wouldn't succeed.
David Braben: The price is going to be a big factor but also the way the younger generation use mobile devices is also very different to how we're used to. The fact it isn't a phone may not be such a bad thing - you can still message on it. And it's got Skype. So presumably you can make calls with a headset. The price is the big obstacle but the real question is whether it will come life when it's got rich software on it and whether it becomes seen as the device to have. The danger is, with the PSP it was a pig to carry around because it was too big, especially when you're carrying a phone around as well.
Simon Oliver: The only reason people will buy it over another device is if the games are better and it can demonstrate you can get a gaming experience there that you can't get on any other gaming platform, especially at the rate that other platforms are increasing in terms of quality and power. That's going to be the hard point, as Vita launches will it be seen as cutting edge?
Console manufacturers can't afford to piss off the retailers otherwise they won't have anywhere to sell the hardware. That is the issue.
Jamie MacDonald, Codemasters
David Braben: The price of the games means there will only be a few bought. Is it a kids' device, a 20-something's device? If it's for the over 20s that market has quite a lot of disposable income and with the recession as it is people are less-inclined to take risks.
Q: Smartphones are essentially bought on hire purchase where you pay for them over two years, that's different to asking a big fee up front before a device has even been used.
Jason Avent: You could package the Vita up with that sort of deal, bundle it with a phone, that happens with the Xbox 360.
David Braben: Another interesting point is we haven't seen rental come to our market other than for games. Rental of devices in other fields where you get the device. It used to be standard for BT phones and for TVs, but not for games consoles - why is that?
Jamie MacDonald: Is it because there's an expectation that over time the cost of purchase will come down, so that makes a rental contract less appealing? Presumably you'd be locked into a rental for 18-24 months and by then the cost of the device is significantly less.
Jason Avent: Maybe that's an idea. You get your PS Vita and pay a subscription for it and you get usage of one or two games that you can swap in and swap out. You join a club for £15 a month and you get really top games for that. And you get hire of the hardware. And then it's much more like an app store where you have to get your games through Sony. Because there are going to be fewer retailers so platform holders won't worry so much about pleasing retailers.
David Braben: I think that's a workable business model.
Jamie MacDonald: That is the issue. Console manufacturers can't afford to piss off the retailers otherwise they won't have anywhere to sell the hardware.
David Braben: There's also High Street space because mobile phone shops would lap that up. If you look in a phone shop window it's just display cases and nothing else.
Jason Avent: It would be a bit like a Sky subscription with telephone, internet and TV in one, but you could have a small mobile phone with a contract, and then it's packaged up with the Vita and a subscription to games.
David Braben: And you could have tick boxes to add to the contract. Add the PS3, add the PlayStation 4, which again is the way Sky does it...