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GameMaker exec: "Consoles have become a barrier to creativity"

GameMaker exec: "Consoles have become a barrier to creativity"

Thu 04 Oct 2012 7:32pm GMT / 3:32pm EDT / 12:32pm PDT

YoYo Games CEO Sandy Duncan talks to us about GameMaker on Steam and the "revolution" of indies

The games industry in 2012 is in a unique position. While huge publishers like Activision and Electronic Arts attempt to maintain dominance of the market, there's an ongoing surge of development talent that's decided to leverage the digital boom to sidestep the imposition of dealing with a publishing partner. It's becoming a developer-driven business, and there are a number of tools at their disposal. One of the more widely adopted tools has been Unity, but there's another tool - GameMaker: Studio from YoYo Games - which just received a huge boost: it's now available on Steam.

Released as part of Steam's first wave of non-game software, GameMaker is now suddenly exposed to a vibrant Steam community of 45 million users. Prior to Steam, GameMaker: Studio has been downloaded 10 million times, hosts a community of a half a million registered users and is deployed in more than 5,000 schools and universities worldwide.

"With the slow death of Flash as a development platform, the web is up for grabs"

Sandy Duncan

GameMaker ideally will lead to a true democratization of game development. After downloading the software, users can instantly begin creating games with a free version and purchase packages that unlock features, functionality and additional export options. There's huge potential for exposure within the Steam community, both on Workshop and on Greenlight. Additionally, GameMaker takes advantage of Steamworks features like the ability to save your work to your personal Steam Cloud space, so developers will be able to continuing working on projects wherever they are.

"Steam gets more visitors in a day than YoYo Games gets in a month. Sure Steam has many purposes, but one of those now includes game development!" an enthusiastic YoYo Games CEO Sandy Duncan told GamesIndustry International.


Duncan revealed to us that Valve has been interested in making Steam a haven for game development for a while now. "They initially came to us about a year ago. We wanted to get GameMaker: Studio finished first. Once we had done that in May I restarted the conversation," he said.

"Our community has been asking for us to expand the creative possibilities within Steam and we've done that today with the availability of the Steam Software Store and GameMaker: Studio," said Mark Richardson at Valve. "Now that we've provided unprecedented access to and support of the best technology, we hope to soon see a huge surge of great content published to our community and submitted to Steam Workshop and Greenlight."

Indeed, with Steam, iOS, Android and other digital portals, developers are empowered with more choices than ever. You could argue that with tools like GameMaker and others we're seeing a true revival of indie "garage" development. Duncan sees it as even bigger than a revival.

"This is more than a revival, it's a revolution and it's really only getting started. We have big plans to do something to make GameMaker even more accessible. With the slow death of Flash as a development platform, the web is up for grabs. We plan to make GameMaker a viable option for these developers. We're also in an era where the first generation of people that have grown up with games as an intrinsic part of their culture are now becoming key influencers. Many of them want to have the opportunity to create as well as play games. GameMaker is easy to get started and as you can already see on Steam, there are folks who have made and uploaded their first games only hours after we launched," Duncan noted.

He continued, "GameMaker doesn't stop there ... at YoYo we've created several top ten games like 'They Need to Be Fed' and 'Reflexions' using GameMaker ... and it's not just us ... The Xbox Live hit 'Spelunky' was originally written in GameMaker, guys like the Dutch Duo of Vlambeer and professional studios like HandyGames are making games with GameMaker: Studio. Finally, the hardware revolution has only started with smart phones; the living room will no longer be 'console exclusive.' Smart TV, streaming services and boxes like Ouya are on their way, and of course we think Steam will be an important part of this."

"Consoles will move from being mainstream to niche in the next few years. Consoles have become a barrier to creativity with massive development costs and closed, archaic ecosystems"

Sandy Duncan

One of the neat features of GameMaker is that it enables developers to create games for a wide variety of platforms without any additional labor needed. "Our developers don't need to worry about specific platforms, we do that for them. We encourage developers to think of App Stores as the 'platform.' With GameMaker: Studio you can write one game and distribute it on all of the biggest stores including iTunes and Facebook from a single code base," said Duncan.

That single code base can be exported with a single click to then run natively on Steam, HTML5, Facebook, Android, iOS, Windows and OS X. You'll notice that Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Nintendo eShop didn't make the cut, and there's no plan in place to approach the console manufacturers. Consoles, in Duncan's view, no longer represent a good opportunity. In fact, for many developers, consoles are nothing more than a hindrance and inhibit creativity.


"In the living room we get much more excited about things like Ouya, Steam's Big Picture and Smart TV than consoles. Consoles will move from being mainstream to niche in the next few years. Consoles have become a barrier to creativity with massive development costs and closed, archaic ecosystems. We'll leave the console space to other tools that can chase a dwindling opportunity," Duncan stressed.

Open platforms continually come up in conversation. As Ensemble founder Tony Goodman commented to us, if Microsoft and Sony don't change their ways, it could be that "an open console platform ends up eating their lunch." And YoYo would probably love nothing more than to help enable that with GameMaker. Now that the toolset is on Steam, it's expected that YoYo will be receiving tons of feedback, which should lead to numerous improvements in the future.

"There's a roadmap on our web site that provides a high-level overview of where Studio is heading. It's primarily influenced by the existing community," noted Duncan. "With Steam I expect we'll get more feedback and that roadmap will continue to evolve."

"In the meantime, we've started work in parallel on Studio 2.0. Key to that development is cloud computing and delivering a UX that is much more intuitive. Included in our wish list is we'd like to give the millions of Flash Developers some hope," he concluded.


Peter Dwyer
Games Designer/Developer

481 290 0.6
Sadly without more solid efforts like Microsoft's Indie Games. The statement that the consoles are now a barrier to creativity is definitely true. You need no more proof than the numerous ports from app stores to consoles that have occured lately. The flow now isn't from AAA to mobile but, from indie created mobile fun up to the so called gaming consoles.

This is a trend I can only see increasing as gamers finally get fed up of YACOD (Yet another Call Of Duty)!

Posted:A year ago


Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

767 574 0.7
Popular Comment
"Consoles have become a barrier to creativity"

And that is why things like "Limbo" or "Journey" appeared first on consoles, right? Does somebody forces guys like this to program into a console instead of PC?. Blaming a specific kind of platform for limiting creativity is as absurd as blaming the controller when you loose into a game.

More like "Game design this days is becoming a source of zealotry".

Posted:A year ago


Mihai Cozma
Indie Games Developer

123 34 0.3
Well, it can be hard for a team to get an indie game on a console. It usually requires crunching, a lot of effort, milestones, certifications, lots of testing and what not. It can kill creativity in some situations.

Posted:A year ago


James Ingrams

215 84 0.4
The movement to casual gaming followed by the end of gaming continues.When puzzle games can be completed in an hour and cost $1, it will be the end of the gaming market as gamers have known it for 30 years. It will be unsustainable in it's current guise and will attract customers that have no gaming loyalty and will move onto the next big thing.

Posted:A year ago


Roberto Bruno

103 68 0.7
@Alfonso Sexto:
I'm not really sure why those two games (or even few more of them, for all that matters) being published first on consoles should disprove his point or validate yours. In fact, I'm not even sure what your point is supposed to be, beside "I'm angry because someone is badmouthing consoles I like".
They appeared first on consoles because someone paid to make them console exclusives, it's that simple.

Beside, the issue isn't the platform itself. It's the business model that comes with it. When the manufacturer has the last world about what can or can't be produced and published, that's *factually* a barrier to creativity.

Posted:A year ago


Robert Mac-Donald
Game Designer

58 45 0.8
In my opinion consoles are a barrier to creativity when it comes to the gamepad exclusivity.

Pretty much all of my favorite games are only playable on mouse and keyboard (and they aren't FPS nor RTS titles).

Posted:A year ago


Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

550 268 0.5
Does this mean that if you make a game with GameMaker, you can sell it on Steam via Steam Workshop?

Posted:A year ago


Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

799 996 1.2
Consoles are a barrier to creativity because they're a barrier to developers.

We've made an XBLA game and it was a nightmare that we'll never repeat. We got as far on Vita as our game running perfectly, but canned it due to ludicrous pre-market expense and paperwork - months worth was needed after the game was already fully playable.

Whilst mobile can offer potential mass sales and no effort at all to actually publish on the store, they'll be getting the new stuff first. Why wouldn't they.

Posted:A year ago


Ove Larsen

28 10 0.4
Well, the low entry barrier doesn't seem to help the iOS App Store. I've given up, a long time ago, to dig through the trash in search of the good stuff.
It's not only happiness and angel song with either system. If you get through the console barrier, chances are that you'll get noticed.
A little discouraging to be creative if few, if any, consumers gives a fuck.
I've never been through the the console process, but logics tells me that I can't be that far off.

Posted:A year ago


Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

799 996 1.2
I think the ridiculous figures bandied about prove that the app store and google play are doing just fine. We were just involved in google's 25 billion downloads promotion. Yes there is a lot of shit, but I rarely see it on either store - check out the charts and trusted review sites, same as most do for console and pc.

This is one of the core problems faced by the traditional console makers, even MS who have a foot in both camps. The sheer unadulterated volume of potential mobile customers cannot be matched by any other device. Not even close. That's a big draw for small developers and indies, and that's where the new stuff almost always comes from. When you couple that with the "other" effort required to get on console or handheld, it's just a no brainer. I'm surprised when any new startup bothers to go that route first.

The only small dev I'm personally aware of is crocodile entertainment, who made a stirling new game for playstation and sold virtually no copies. When we spoke with them at develop, the poor guy was almost in tears. What's the betting what their next title will run on, assuming they survive the first one. And I bet they'll make a bomb out of it.

Posted:A year ago


Ove Larsen

28 10 0.4
I'm not going to argue with you on that, I'm simply saying that quantity has its own problems.

Posted:A year ago

There's also quite a barrier to buy a Ferrari, you know. Did Volkswagen kill off the Ferrari?
No.. it did not. Apparently, the volume of customers is high enough for Ferrari to run a profitable business.

Yes, there are 300 trillion mobile phone users, all willing to download the next ad-ridden, IAP filled, free monstrosity that pops up.
Still, there are 100 million gamers who like to experience full blown high production games, willing to pay a good sum for quality entertainment. More than enough to run a profitable business on. Just don't expect anyone to buy your games if your game is crap.

It's simple.. really.

Can we now, please, stop taking all these prophets of console doom seriously? Especially when his livelyhood depends on selling game engines for... mobiles?

Also, let's be happy there's a barrier for entry on consoles. If anything would kill consoles, it's would be the amount of shovelware you'd find anywhere else.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Laurens Bruins on 6th October 2012 4:01pm

Posted:A year ago


Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

799 996 1.2
It don't matter a toss what those gamers want, it matters what the publishers are prepared to endorse. Somehow those two things do not overlap very much. Mobile is great because their are no publishers to get in the way.

The various "public access" routes to console are probably more likely to throw up good new stuff that's not a FPS, but quality there is as random as it is on mobile. What's needed is some middle ground where small publishers develop "just one A" titles again.

Posted:A year ago

I definitely agree with you on that. Flexibility in pricing is still sorely lacking on consoles, although that's more of a problem with publishers than it is with consoles, I guess.

Posted:A year ago


Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,232 2,161 1.0
You'll notice that Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Nintendo eShop didn't make the cut, and there's no plan in place to approach the console manufacturers. Consoles, in Duncan's view, no longer represent a good opportunity. In fact, for many developers, consoles are nothing more than a hindrance and inhibit creativity.
The irony here is that the opening paragraph talks about Unity which is now part of the Nintendo Wii U SDK.

Posted:A year ago


Roberto Bruno

103 68 0.7
@Jim Webb: Can't say I see that much irony involved here.
There is barely any correlation between these two things.

Posted:A year ago


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