Close
Report Comment to a Moderator Our Moderators review all comments for abusive and offensive language, and ensure comments are from Verified Users only.
Please report a comment only if you feel it requires our urgent attention.
I understand, report it. Cancel

Xbox team looks "obsessively" at Sony says Molyneux

Xbox team looks "obsessively" at Sony says Molyneux

Tue 12 Jun 2012 2:17pm GMT / 10:17am EDT / 7:17am PDT
BusinessPeople

The former Microsoft exec and Lionhead boss is also "shocked" by Microsoft's lack of attention to Windows gaming

In business, it's only natural to look across the board at the competition. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all keep a close eye on one another to see how respective strategies and product lines are evolving. According to ex-Lionhead leader Peter Molyneux, the Microsoft camp actually looks at Sony "obsessively."

In a wide-ranging interview with Molyneux last week at E3, GamesIndustry International prefaced a general question about Sony with our own comment that Molyneux and people in even higher offices at Microsoft must be constantly looking at Sony. Molyneux quickly noted, "Yes, very much so. Obsessively so."

Overall, Molyneux believes Sony's own first-party studio system could be its savior, but he's not sure the company's corporate troubles will enable them to flourish.

"If Sony can double down on those first party developers, give them the headroom to be inventive and be creative, especially when it comes it any next gen platform, then they could pull lots of rabbits out of the hat"

"Sony has always had a very strong first person line-up, which I think is incredibly smart. They've got good developers. They've got some very talented developers. The way I always feel with Sony is that if they double down on those first party developers, give them the headroom to be inventive and be creative, especially when it comes it any next generation platform, then they could pull lots of rabbits out of the hat," he remarked.

"What I worry about, with their corporate pressure and the pressure on costs, I worry about the ability to do that. More and more - and this is a personal thing - I just don't know where they're going in hardware terms. They had the Move, but it wasn't as early as the Wii and it wasn't as innovational as Kinect. They seem to be third in line in that race. I have expected, every single press conference for the last year, Sony to bring out this magic rabbit out from a huge hat and say, 'Aha, world. You really don't realize what's going on.' And I do worry about them."

Sizing up Microsoft's E3 showing, Molyneux commented, "I thought it was a very smart move on their behalf to focus on demos. And actually, I thought EA's line, 'You're going to see ten great demos from ten great developers,' you could have said the same for Microsoft. I felt there wasn't nearly as much Kinect stuff as previous years, which was a little bit of a surprise and a shock to me."

He continued, "I like the SmartGlass thing that they were talking about but I didn't completely understand it. I'd like to have seen more examples of it. It sounded like it was a big thing, because here's Microsoft supporting Apple. It really didn't get a lot of play for that. I like the Nike Fitness product. I thought [the conference] was good. It was, as usual, super hyper-professional. They finished on the second. But what did it tell us about them structurally in the next two, three years? I don't think it said anything about it. I think - in fact, it almost painted a stone wall in my mind. It was like they were holding their breath and waiting for something else"

Molyneux sees all the console makers as struggling to deal with the reality that they're no longer the only game in town in 2012.

"It's always shocked me about how little Microsoft cared about the Windows platform. There was hardly a single talk about Windows 8 at all. You would've thought, with a billion installed machines, there would be at least some play"

"It's going to be an interesting problem for all the console manufacturers I think. It's because so much computer entertainment, is spreading and diversifying over so many different platforms. They no longer have the luxury of keeping us all funneled into these consoles. A whole lot of manufacturers in the industry have been in a luxurious position for so long, where they could restrict the entertainment content to the masses. They did a very good job of squeezing the PC out and making this just about three formats and now it feels like it's sand dripping through their fingers. It's escaping from them," he observed.

Speaking of the PC, Molyneux was also surprised by Microsoft's continued lack of attention to the PC format for gamers.

"I would hope the next generation would bring about a new wave of innovation. If we don't do that in consoles, then you will find that those people that want innovation will start retreating to other formats. Look at the PC. It's incredible to me how there's been a resurgence in PC gaming. There's a lot more innovation now... I think that's the other thing about the Microsoft press conference. It's always shocked me about how little Microsoft cared about the Windows platform. There was hardly a single talk about Windows 8 at all. You would've thought, with a billion installed machines, there would be at least some play. And the whole metro interface is much more gamified, but there was no talk about it at all," Molyneux said.

Ultimately, with so many platforms available to developers aside from consoles, it can be confusing for game developers, but the new landscape also creates many opportunities.

"[PR] did two things. They stopped me from saying the wrong corporate thing, but they also stopped me from making a fool of myself. It's very easy to do that now. Very, very easy"

"This is exactly why I left Microsoft," Molyneux, who recently formed 22 Cans, remarked. "I think as a creative person, as someone who loves creativity and loves embracing ideas, this seemed like the perfect time to set up another company and find enough people that believed in one focused idea, crazy though that idea might be, that embraces all this new technology rather than try to ignore it. And the only way I found that I was able to do that was in a start up because there are so many political things that have to go on in existing games development, whether they're supporting retail or supporting some format that's out there. I think only a little start-up can totally embrace that newness and the excitement that's going on."

And as a bonus it's certainly liberating for someone as outspoken as Peter Molyneux. He related to us how it's been a breath of fresh air to be able to talk without restrictions.

"It is very, very difficult when you're a developer owned by a publisher because when you're talking it's not just your voice. It's the voice of your team, which is 200 persons strong; it's the voice of the whole of Microsoft," he said, reflecting on Lionhead. "And that has to be measured, and so at one point, at Microsoft, totally understandably, there would be one journalist in the room and three or four PR people just writing everything down. Now there's nobody. That took me a bit of while to get used to. You almost expect someone to pop up and look in the room and say, 'Well, you can't say that.'"

It does have its downside though: "Freedom is a dangerous drug to take. It is very dangerous because [PR] did two things. They stopped me from saying the wrong corporate thing, but they also stopped me from making a fool of myself. It's very easy to do that now. Very, very easy."

28 Comments

Kevin Patterson musician

187 103 0.6
I have always loved his enthusiasm and enjoyed his creative mindset. I felt sad when people have criticized him for his enthusiastic statements regarding his games, it's just his sanguine personality.

He is absolutely right regarding the PC, MS pretty much ignores it and that is a mistake. If MS releases a moderately more powerful console, then PC gaming will be making a comeback as all the true next gen games will release on PC.
All the graphic engine innovation prior to this console generation was on PC, and with all the High end demos/games shown at E3 from Epic, Square, Lucasarts, and Ubisoft, unless MS and Sony release a high end machine, it will be again.

I look forward to his games with 22 cans!

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Bernard Parker Studying game design, Full Sail University

23 4 0.2
I always respected Molyneux as a developer, but as a PR guy he promised the world and only delivered a few continents! It will be interesting to see what he does outside of MS.

Posted:2 years ago

#2
As always, is a pleasure to read interviews of this man. It will be very interesting to see what he will say in the next one, after the release of Curiosity...

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

473 187 0.4
Honestly. The reason MS ignores PC is twofold. One, Palladium and its successors flopped and piracy is still rampant. Two, PCs don't have license fees like the Xbox and PS3 do so there's no real point for them. Three, everything they have been trying to do recently Xbox wise screams casual gamer and multimedia market. PC is the very opposite. Even knowing you have a system qualifies to play X game requires a degree of knowledge far above the average Joe because of naming conventions and scamming retailers.

Now if MS wanted to capitalize it would create 'tier' standards (like it did for Aero compatibility) and make devs say 'you need a tier x PC' to run a game at 720p.

Then the Samsungs and Acers of the world could go about making windows based 'tiered' consoles for those that didn't wanna tinker.

But obviously MS don't wanna cost that would kill Xbox.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
The reason MS ignores PC is twofold. One, Palladium and its successors flopped and piracy is still rampant.
Still with this? Still?

Piracy is 100 times worse on the 360. With the use of serials, PC games are usually cracked on release date, due to the exe being unlocked.

On 360, games are cracked as soon as they get released to retailers, which means anything from a couple of days to two weeks before release.

I don't care what else happens in this discussion, but let's put down the lie that piracy is worse on PC than 360, right here, right now.

(If you need proof, go here http://orlydb.com/s/xbox360 )

With regards to the interview:
There was hardly a single talk about Windows 8 at all
I don't know any PC gamer, casual or serious, who cares about Win8. I get the feeling it's going to be like WinME. Win7 does everything that gamers need, so until DX12 is Windows 8 only, and is used by developers in games people care about, PC gamers aren't going to switch.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th June 2012 5:54pm

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Roberto Bruno Curious Person

104 69 0.7
The reason MS ignores PC is twofold. One, Palladium and its successors flopped and piracy is still rampant.
Palladium flopping hard as a concept is exactly one of the reasons that allowed the actual Renaissance of today's PC market.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Dave Knudson Sr. Technology Manager, Electronic Arts

42 7 0.2
In my experience Microsoft does do quite a bit on the PC gaming side, but it's more behind the scenes. They are constantly running compatibility tests on 3rd party applications to ensure forward compatibility with new OS and Service Packs. Additionally they've always been willing to run pre-release software for us through their labs.

Trying to do more on the marketing side or enforcing standards is a tough proposition. They tried to do some of that with Games for Windows, but there wasn't really a lot of incentive on the developer/publisher side to actually be a part of the program. Additionally, the public perception of Vista didn't help that effort either.

And as Andrew says, there are no license fees and thus there's not a free flow of cash to support evangelizing gaming efforts.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
Indeed, licensing fees are the equivalent of sitting on the sofa and having people fling cash at you every now and then.

G4WL flopped massively, partly due to the incompetence of MS, and... Well, no, entirely through their incompetence. Early G4WL serials could be used repeatedly, for games other than the ones you bought. This led to people buying Universe at War, and using the serial to activate Streetfighter 4. I seriously doubt Capcom would be so fully behind G4WL if they really knew how many people used that workaround. No other company would be this stupid - not EA, not Valve, not Ubisoft.

Then there's the issues with G4WL losing Arkham City saves. Repeatedly.

But, MS, quite rightly, see little reason in heavily retooling G4WL when they've already lost the race. It's a waste of money. What makes me worried is if they leverage G4WL into Win8, without improving it significantly. That would cause massive amounts of pain to both the consumer, and the PC gaming industry, I think.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Ahmed Sharif Software Development Engineer in Test (R&D), Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

14 6 0.4
@Morville

+1 internets to you good sir. I'm also bored of hearing the piracy scapegoat when it comes to PC gaming.

@Andrew
PC is the very opposite. Even knowing you have a system qualifies to play X game requires a degree of knowledge far above the average Joe because of naming conventions and scamming retailers.
Gamers, casual or hardcore, aren't mindless husks. Is it that difficult to compare a couple of hardware specifications to requirements listed on the back of a box? I am tired of this argument.

Also, what naming conventions are you talking about? I'd also like to ask you, do people also find it difficult when buying a car? Aren't they 1000x more complicated than the handful of components inside a PC? It is common knowledge to know things like horsepower, engine size, ect ect. The same applies to the amount of RAM you have or the speed of CPU. We're not living in the 1970's. We live in technologically rich world and it does not take a "degree of knowledge far above the avergae Joe" to simply compare a couple of values and to comprehend some very basic concepts.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ahmed Sharif on 12th June 2012 8:32pm

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto

86 210 2.4
Piracy is 100 times worse on the 360. With the use of serials, PC games are usually cracked on release date, due to the exe being unlocked.

On 360, games are cracked as soon as they get released to retailers, which means anything from a couple of days to two weeks before release.
That console games are cracked earlier doesn't necessarily imply that piracy is worse on consoles. If console gamers play cracked games less than PC gamers, then piracy is worse on PC.

Given that the barrier of entry to playing cracked console games, is much higher than for PC games, and that players will be reluctant to risk getting banned from services like Xbox Live, my guess would be that a smaller percentage of console gamers play pirated games.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

473 187 0.4
This isn't about the PC market, its about the Multimedia market. You may think otherwise but games are in that weird vacuum between normal 'programs' and TV movies and other multimedia.

Microsoft created Palladium to make the Multimedia market stop bugging it for doing 'nothing' about piracy (there wasn't much that MS could do tbh). Palladium failed, due to the need for a TPM (which standalone mobo manufacturers (Non-Dell etc) wouldn't embrace).

The PC market wouldn't have changed if TPM became as widespread as planned. Piracy would be gone for a year or so, then someone would crack TPM, like they did Cubase ( reverse engineered hardware took them 3 years, check KVR for more info).

What it would have done, is given MS a reason to charge licensing, both for money and as a form of protecting its code, making Windows just as potentially profitable as Xbox. Lots of people will deny the possibility, but think of how much we are likely paying to SafeDisc and such being redirected to MS (plus some percent) for stuff that actually works.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
@ Bryan
Given that the barrier of entry to playing cracked console games, is much higher than for PC games, and that players will be reluctant to risk getting banned from services like Xbox Live, my guess would be that a smaller percentage of console gamers play pirated games.
There's a higher risk associated with playing pirated games, yes, but PC games are more complicated to get running, and often release with 0-Day patches. So, yeah, I get your point, but, equally, it's a hell of a lot easier to burn off a cracked 360 game and chuck it in a console than it is to get a PC release running.

Also, as a side-point, if I were to play pirated 360 games, I'd pay out for a second 360; a cheap second hand 360 to play pirated releases, leaving my original machine with my legit account safe. You only have to pirate 3 games for that method to be cost-effective, and it's something that you can't reasonably do when pirating PC games.

But this is very off-topic, now. Sorry. :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th June 2012 10:49pm

Posted:2 years ago

#12
We are witness to a "industry legend!" attempting to create a new persona and calling in favors to get interviews run, and coverage generated. At the same time we see the 'air-brushing' of past activities and a move for greater recognition as a leader of the industry. Closer evaluation of his actual track-record is denied and certain media are running his coverage in order to guarantee 'exclusives'. I wonder how long this will carry on till he gets what he is aspiring towards?

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
Closer evaluation of his actual track-record is denied and certain media are running his coverage in order to guarantee 'exclusives'
Bueiness as usual in gaming media?

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Jamie Knight International Editor in Chief, Playnation

65 28 0.4
@Andrew

"...Honestly. The reason MS ignores PC is twofold."

and three..!!

#childishgiggles :)

Posted:2 years ago

#15

Jamie Knight International Editor in Chief, Playnation

65 28 0.4
Oh, and while I'm at it...

@Marvin

Busines as usual in the gaming media?Its a bigger 'boys own club' than the freemasons.

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Ahmed writes, "Gamers, casual or hardcore, aren't mindless husks. Is it that difficult to compare a couple of hardware specifications to requirements listed on the back of a box?"

When it comes to graphics cards, yes. I don't think your typical consumer is going to know that if a GTX 260 is the recommended minimum card for a game, a GTX 550 or GTX 560 SE will do just fine, a GTX 560 Ti is more than half again as much power, but a GT 630 is nowhere near enough.

And having just built my own gaming PC recently, and switching over from a decade or so on consoles, I could make a long list of things that would probably cause a fair amount of pain and puzzlement for the average guy on the street who hasn't been a sysadmin for twenty years and building his own PCs since the 486 days. Heck, sometimes I wonder if it's worth it, and I have days where I set the PC aside and go back to my PS3.

I can see ways of overcoming a fair number of the issues, which would in turn make possible a much more "consolized" PC that you could just plug in to your TV and start playing games on. But I don't know if anybody is seriously working towards this. What ever happened to the SteamBox idea?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 14th June 2012 2:29am

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Rob Fahey Columnist, GamesIndustry.biz

76 190 2.5
@ Curt Sampson:

Amen to that. PC hardware firms have an enormous amount to answer for in terms of having made the hobbyist / gamer PC market utterly unappealing to all but the most hardcore end of the market. They've convinced themselves that obfuscating the performance of their components behind meaningless and often deliberately misleading names and numbers is a bonus to their business, but done untold damage to the overall market in the process.

I'm pretty sure I fall into the "not a mindless husk" category - I've been playing games for 23 years, built my first PC 15 years ago, have been writing professionally about the games market for 12 years... And for god's sake, I used to work full-time as a programmer, so I'm hardly afraid of a few numbers. But right now, I've got a PC which is around four years old, and I'd like to upgrade. I've spent several hours utterly fruitlessly trying to figure out what constitutes a reasonable mid-range upgrade that'll play the games I'd like to play. What graphics and processor parts would I need? What bits of my existing box could I salvage? What kind of performance uplift would I get? End result - I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. A document full of tech specs and graphs copied off Tom's Hardware etc., all of it, in the cold light of day, utterly meaningless to anyone who hasn't obsessively followed this market on an ongoing basis for years (which I haven't - I care, ultimately, about games, not about graphics chipsets).

Net result? I'm not replacing my PC; I'm throwing it out. PC indie titles that'll run happily on my MacBook (be they OSX-ported, as many indie games are, or capable of running under emulation) will get played. PC AAA titles won't get a look-in until they're ported to a console. This from someone who's (by general standards) pretty technically minded and experienced. Is it any wonder so many of us got excited by the prospect of Valve's rumoured Steambox coming along and clearing up some of this godawful mess?

Posted:2 years ago

#18

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
PM is an utter genius. At creating headlines.
Must learn and apply.

Posted:2 years ago

#19

Brian Smith Artist

198 94 0.5
@Bryan - Totally agree on your piracy point.

@Morville - Surely the statement of 'piracy being rampant' refers to the amount of piracy and lost income rather than the ease of it. Your argument seems to revolve around how many titles are pirated and how easy it is.

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
@ Brian

How inclined people are to pirate is related to how easy it is, what titles are available, the price of said titles, and the quality of the game. My go-to example is Shogun 2 - There is no working, up-to-date pirated copy of Shogun 2 available, so pirates can either spend ages trying work out how to get a cracked copy to work, or they can go out and buy it. The latter option is easier, because of how difficult it is to get it working.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2012 1:00pm

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
People pirate $0.99 iPhone games.

Basically if people can easily steal and there is no chance of getting caught then 90+% will.
Our industry has been largely protected from theft by consoles acting as anti piracy dongles.

Posted:2 years ago

#22

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
@ Bruce

And yet, Steam exists and Valve makes a vast amount of money. How does that tie into "if people can easily steal and there is no chance of getting caught then 90+% will."

Edit:

@ Brian

Also, there is no way to actually conclude how much money is lost due to piracy. One can measure downloads, yes, but a game downloaded is not necessarily a lost sale. Everyone should know this by now. By contrast, ease-of-piracy and number-of-titles available is something that can be quantified, even if it's just by looking at pre-databases and reading NFOs.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2012 1:42pm

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Brian Smith Artist

198 94 0.5
@ Morville - I actually mostly agree with what you say but it still doesn't make it good argument to say that it's an obvious fact that console piracy is worse. 'Piracy is a hundred times worse on 360' isn't a fact. I'd concur that it's practically impossible to measure and I'm not arguing the opposite, just that it's not clear cut.

Posted:2 years ago

#24

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
Mmm... Yeah, fair enough. My phrasing wasn't the best. It just annoys me when people pretend that piracy is a PC only problem (which was the clear implication of Andrew's original comment), without realising it's something that affects all consoles, and the 360 more than, say, the PS3. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 13th June 2012 2:51pm

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.

235 164 0.7
Weren't we all supposed to be able to compare our PC's hardware score against the score a game required? What happened to that? Mind you, considering mine marks me down 20% for having a 5K RPM hard drive instead of 7K, maybe it's not particularly accurate... ^_^

Posted:2 years ago

#26

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
The problem is, there's no one score for a PC.

My "minimal gaming PC" has a graphics card at the low end of the high-end range (GTX 560 SE) and the cheapest CPU I could find that would go in the same socket as an i7 (Celeron G530, about $40 or 25 quid).

A fair number of games, especially those up to about 2010, have no problem running at or near 60 FPS at or near the highest settings at 1920x1080. A few of the more CPU heavy ones, even if older, don't do nearly as well. With GTA IV, for example, I can crank up all the shadows and water effects and whatnot, but even with my draw distance set down to about 22, I still get only 30-40 FPS. My GPU is barely ticking over and my CPU is pinned.

Now you could argue that my machine is a bit unbalanced with regard to CPU vs. GPU (I bought the cheapest CPU I could find with the intention of upgrading it later, as well as just to see how it would work), but there are also issues of memory, disk speed for some games, and so on. It's complex.

Posted:2 years ago

#27

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

1,630 1,509 0.9
And it's not helped by bad optimisation of console ports, which means even the heftiest machine is going to be constrained by developers who don't have time or inclination to make their games really work on PC. Dark Souls PC is going to be locked at 30fps. Yes, the developers are a bit clueless about PC dev (they've gone on record saying as much), but they could easily have outsourced the port to another developer, or pushed the release date back so they could learn more about PC development. They did neither, and the PC gamer suffers.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 14th June 2012 9:14am

Posted:2 years ago

#28

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now