BAFTA experts cast doubt on Wii U and SmartGlass
Peter Molyneux, Ian Livingstone, Dave Bailey and Alice Taylor struggle to see much use for a second screen
An expert panel assembled by BAFTA discussed the current trend of 'second screens' exemplified by Nintendo's Wii U console and Microsoft's SmartGlass technology.
Despite the many doubting voices that responded to the announcement of SmartGlass at E3 - not least from our own Rob Fahey - Mediatonic CEO Dave Bailey argued that it could prove a "pivotal" moment for Microsoft's approach to its Xbox business.
"They have admitted that there's a bigger picture: they are in the battle on mobiles and tablets, they are in the battle for entertainment more broadly than just games," he said.
"Microsoft has admitted that there's a bigger picture: they are in the battle on mobiles and tablets, they are in the battle for entertainment more broadly than just games"
Dave Bailey, Mediatonic
"SmartGlass allows them to take part in that bigger opportunity, which we didn't really see from the other folks at E3... If we get to open up, over time, Xbox Live onto other platforms that aren't just Microsoft hardware, that's great news. I welcome it."
That sentiment was echoed by Peter Molyneux, who expounded on the importance of gaming companies acknowledging and meeting the challenge that Apple presents to the industry.
"It's a recognition by Microsoft that Apple is here, and it is definitely taking gaming seriously," Molyneux said. "If you saw the conference yesterday, you'll see that they really are taking multiplayer, connected gaming super seriously. Because, guess what, we have been really lazy in our industry.
"We made great strides early on, with connecting people together with servers in games like Halo and Call of Duty, and we kinda stopped there. And there's plenty of holes that smart people like Apple will offer to fill more easily, more delightfully, with more accessible games."
However, both Bailey and Molyneux expressed considerable doubt over the utility of the 'second screen' concept to gaming. SmartGlass, Bailey argued, has more obvious utility in a broader media context, but he confessed that he is unsure about "what Nintendo is trying to achieve" with the Wii U.
"One overriding thing that is true of all hardware, but doubly true of Smart Glass, is that it needs applications that really delightfully support it. And that's where I was disappointed in the Wii U," Molyneux added.
"I struggle, as a designer, to think of how we'll use this second screen. In ZombiU, it had to tell me to look down at the second screen, and that's just rubbish"
Peter Molyneux, 22 Cans
"There was nothing that really grabbed me. I struggle, as a designer, to think of how we'll use this second screen. In ZombiU, it had to tell me to look down at the second screen, and that's just rubbish."
Alice Taylor, former commissioning editor in Education for Channel 4, expressed concern that the growth of companies like Apple, the proliferation of multi-function devices, and the possibility of connective services like SmartGlass could lead to the collapse of Nintendo as a hardware manufacturer.
However, while Nintendo's future in the hardware business was not discussed further, Eidos life president Ian Livingstone dismissed the notion that the Japanese giant would be beaten any time soon.
"Nintendo is effectively a toy company with very deep pockets," he said. "They have highs and they have lows, but if you look at their IP alone, it's worth a fortune. Their platforms might be problematic in the near term, but only in the near term.
"They could easily put Mario on the iPad tomorrow if they so wished. They've got lots of options, lots of IP, and a tremendous amount of cash."