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Daglow: Consoles, big publishers not going anywhere

Daglow: Consoles, big publishers not going anywhere

Thu 29 Nov 2012 3:15pm GMT / 10:15am EST / 7:15am PST
PublishingMarketing

Industry veteran says digital revolution won't eliminate established roles, notes that many designers "give short shrift" to marketing

The rise of digital platforms, smartphones, tablets and crowdfunding from the likes of Kickstarter has afforded today's game designers many great opportunities, but also many new challenges. Getting a game noticed in a digital marketplace is certainly one of the larger challenges. Games veteran Don Daglow gazed into his crystal ball in a recent interview with GamesIndustry International, and noted that there will always be a need for the big boys of publishing like EA or Activision, even a decade from now when packaged goods might no longer be relevant.

"My crystal ball says that big publishers are still an important part of the landscape in 10 years," he says. "I just think that they will function differently than some of the models we see today. My guess, my instinct, is that, first of all, we're going to continue to have big blockbuster games on consoles and various platforms that will come from long term dedicated in-house teams of publishers... The exact structure may metamorphose a little bit."

Marketing and publishing go hand-in-hand, and while many upstart developers have embraced digital and self-publishing, it's not always the smartest move.

"If anything, I would think that some of the publishing partner programs from the really good publishers may get bigger 10 years from now"

Don Daglow

"I also think, one of the things that game designers sometimes give short shrift to, is how important good marketers are. As we get into online direct to consumer sales, the line between a salesperson and a marketing person blurs more and more, but there are fabulous people who work inside the publishers who really understand how to go out and acquire players, how to match players that they're going after with their marketing with the games those people will really enjoy," Daglow continues.

Daglow notes that the best game marketers can actually enhance the experience for a fan base, rather than being seen as some nuisance or disturbance.

"What we all hate is junk mail. Ok, they wasted part of a tree and they sent me something I'm not interested in. Brilliant marketers know how to go out and help people find games they want to play. So instead of being mad at the marketer for sending them junk mail, they're thanking the marketer. 'Oh, hey, this is cool.' And, in effect, they're thanking the marketer for doing that. That isn't a skill that just everybody can have and sometimes those in the game design community live under the illusion that we're also marketers," he says.

"It's a different specialty and the people who are good at it are incredibly good and they enhance the game experience. That knowledge, I think, is going to stay heavily concentrated in publishers. It's going to be more generally available than it was. But the idea of the publishers falling apart and ceasing to be I don't think is the case because I think the publishers are going to have that kind of skill they can bring to bear. And I think especially for smaller teams, newer teams, teams that don't want to think about those things, I think that the publishing partner model, if anything, I would think that some of the publishing partner programs from the really good publishers may get bigger 10 years from now and broader than they are now."

While mobile gaming has been one of the biggest drivers of digital growth, spurring on many a developer to self-publish, the big budget, triple-A console titles will stick around. Mobile is growing in importance every day, but it's not ever going to replace that in-depth console experience, Daglow insists.

1

"I think that 10 years from now - I think you have to go out 10 years for it to get really interesting, because that's when you have a chance for things to just completely make your brain fall out with the change - I think that having a box that is attached to the big living room entertainment screen that gives you really high quality visually stunning game play, I think that that is still going to happen," he says. "Now, the question is whose box is that going to be and exactly what is that box going to be like? What do we know about that box? Well, it's going to have to be like what we currently call consoles in order to deliver that visually stunning interactive gaming experience."

"There are some things that none of those [mobile] formats can do the way console does on that big TV and I think that that is going to continue to be a very real market," Daglow continues. "There are business issues right now, some of which I think technology is going to make moot. What processor will be in that box? That's going to be a very interesting war. Clearly that box is going to be connected. Who is it going to be connected to? Is it going to be connected to what we today think of as a cable company? Is it going to be what we today think of as an internet connection? Is it going to be some other kind of connection we haven't even thought of yet that the telephone company or somebody else tries to come up with? What I think we do know is that it is a combination of power, big screen, and connectedness, that will unlock the economic potential of those boxes."

Regardless of how players get their games in the future, the great thing that digital is enabling for developers is that direct connection to the audience. And listening intently to the audience is probably the most important thing for today's game makers and those of the future to do.

"I think in some ways there are some similarities where you could say we're like the movie business in 1951"

Don Daglow

"What digital delivery does is it makes the art of listening to your player utterly central to your life. We used to sit around and build games for a year and a half, two years, even three years, having some player contact, knowing how we felt as players, and then you made this judgment call about what you thought would please players. And if what you thought was right, then people would say a lot of nice things about you. If your judgment call was wrong, it wasn't such a good feeling," Daglow notes.

"Now you have this continual dialogue, where a lot less of it is a matter of doing some research and listening and then estimating, but a lot more of it is about continually listening... we hear what they say and what they don't say over time and we're not asking them to design the game for us, but because we know them and like them and are in touch with them, you get a feel for them and once you have a feel for them that's where being a game designer comes in. Because once you have a feel for them you get an indication. That's a cool feeling. I like that way, way better than the old days of do your research, guess, and hope that people like your game design. This contact with players - there are days when it's frustrating, but I find it really, really exciting," Daglow adds.

With Steam, Facebook, iOS, Android, free-to-play and more gaining prominence, even the last five years in the games industry have been a whirlwind of change. Considering that the first commercially available video games were created in the early 1970s, that puts the industry at around 40 years old. And Don Daglow has witnessed it all, so how does he view the state of the games business compared to other entertainment industries?

2

The Thing, a horror classic from '51

"I think in some ways there are some similarities where you could say we're like the movie business in 1951 because television at that point came along and people started to say, 'Wait? You can stay home and watch this? You don't have to go to a movie?' The movie business changed in fundamental ways - a lot of people predicted its death for years. I remember reading articles like that when I was a kid growing up, and the reports of its death were greatly exaggerated but the movie business changed in many fundamental ways in order to continue operating as a business and entertain people. But the movie business still has this wonderful place in our society. And TV is a completely different beast that exists alongside it," he observes.

"It is not a perfect analogy, but I think there are some comparisons; we have new kinds of games, we have new business models that are emerging for the games industry, and all these new ways to reach new players and new ways to entertain old players... And that dictates fundamental change for what had been our dominant piece in the console business. On the other hand, this is why I keep coming back to ten years from now and that screen on the wall in the living room. I think that just as film adapted to the presence of television, I think that something similar to what we think of as consoles is going to adapt and prosper alongside all those things we're seeing now."

23 Comments

Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University

436 496 1.1
He's absolutely right. The industry is very young, and we should celebrate the emergence of new platforms, business models and consumers, but that doesn't mean the console model is going anywhere. It will have to adapt to survive, but if it does adapt, there's no reason why consoles can't continue to grow and prosper alongside a booming mobile sector.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D

863 707 0.8
Popular Comment
Damn. Bruce is going to be so pissed.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Andrzej Wroblewski Localization Generalist, Albion Localisations

103 78 0.8
Marketing has great value when it comes to sailing the high seas but people need to remember that in order to sell something, you need something to sell. In terms of added value and impact on the product -- there's no room for marketing. Yet -- these days marketing people tend to give themselves credit for everything and conduct a fully-fledged war against their creative peers. Unless they realize that they're not bringing any real added value into the equation, until they start supporting true content creators -- they'll be forcibly more and more reduced to the role of salesmen.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Hugo Trepanier Senior UI Designer, Hibernum

156 144 0.9
@Andrzej, marketing contributes to your product by raising awareness and generating interest. If you have the best product in the world but no one knows about it, chances are you won't sell any. The opposite is also true: some genius marketing teams have sold polished turds to unsuspecting customers by generating more perceived value than the actual product itself.

I don't think it's fair or wise to neglect the power of a good marketing campaign in the success of your game.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Herve Sohm Business Dev. Manager, Ankama Games

5 0 0.0
The Movie/TV business analogy is something I also have in mind for a while. The recent changes in games use created teh conditions for games to become a mass entertainment as big as TV is nowadays. Media groups seems to understand it as well and invest themselves deeper into the online F2P space, an aera where they feel more at ease than in the traditional game business sector. Just need to look around during games trade fairs, more and more TV guys in the business aera.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Firstly some people here are confusing marketing with promotion. Promotion is just a small subset of what marketing is.
If you produce a game with zero promotion then it will have zero sales. Self evident fact. Telling your mother about the game you are working on is promotion.
Marketing is a far broader strategic science that matches the organisation's core competences to the customer's requirements.
So choosing what shade of blue to make the sky in a game is a marketing decision. We are all in marketing. Some just don't realise it.

Next. Of course we will have interactive entertainment on large screens in our living rooms. And it will include gambling and adult themed activities amongst a very wide range of entertainments. But it will not be consoles as we now know them that will deliver this. For a start no content will be delivered on physical media, it is plain daft that some sectors of our industry persist with this. Also payment will by activity. When you go to the movies you buy an experience, not the film itself. It is about time gaming did this and with FTP it is. But maybe not FTP like the current primitive implementations, it is getting very sophisticated very quickly and will become a lot more so. Candidates to succeed in the home market are streaming services, like Gaikai, boxes like the upcoming Apple and Microsoft TV devices or possibly consoles after a radical re engineering of their business model as well as their electronics. Or some combination of all three.

Thirdly most gaming will be on mobile devices. Simply because they will be more ubiquitous and because they will be with their user 24/7. My thinking is that 7 inch tablets will become the "core" gaming device of choice whilst far larger numbers of people will be playing bus stop games on their phones.

Fourthly, of course there will be publishers. Every form of IP entertainment has publishers. They serve three vital roles. They provide finance to get projects actually done. They provide marketing in the broadest sense. And they curate what gets to market, sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

Fifth. Our current developers and publishers are reacting differently to one another in the current multifaceted revolution in how people game. Some publishers, like EA with Kristian Segerstrale driving things, are adapting well. Many others are very obviously not. And some seem to be in complete denial. So several long established publishers will fail, to be replaced by others who better understand what the public wants. The revolution can be very cruel. Zynga led the charge in many areas, for instance, but then the revolution continued and they didn't keep up with it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 30th November 2012 8:54am

Posted:A year ago

#6

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

820 653 0.8
"And some seem to be in complete denial. So several long established publishers will fail, to be replaced by others who better understand what the public wants."

"Consoles are doomed"

750.000 X360, 500.000 PS3 and 400.000 WiiU sold only during black Friday. You talk about self-denial? really?

Movile devices can be with a person 24/7, and tablets may be selling well. But you forget something: not everybody plays in theirs tables/smartphones. A part of the gaming market, indeed, bu calling it a revolution? really? Do you have any case in which a handheld machine became a substitution of a home console? do you know why the PS VITA sold so poorly in general? did you even stopped to think about it. keeping your own self-denial apart to see that consoles are a market on it's own?

I'm done explaining stuff like this, you work on marketing so you should be more open minded and connected to what happens in the streets. But hey! You want to keep thinking that way then feel free to do it. Like believing that soon we will have 7 Billion smartphones activated. Are you serious? one for each person in the entire world? I can't imagine what kind of marketing can think that way (as well as I can't imagine Nigerians and North Koreans getting a smartphone anytime soon)

You know what happened when marketing though "100% of the population will buy my stuff"? Game crash 83. So up to you what you want to believe.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Brian Smith Artist

196 85 0.4
@Bruce - "And they curate what gets to market, sorting out the wheat from the chaff."

That'll be why publishers never release crap games then. I suppose sorting out the wheat from the chaff is possibly applicable to the business side of what will make money or not but that's nothing to do with game quality. If anything, publishers will cover up bad features and manipulate marketing in order to sell regardless of quality. Not really a service that's in the customers interest as far as I'm concerned.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd

321 748 2.3
The consoles and handhelds on the market now aren't bound to physical distribution, so why would this not be the case for future devices?

Posted:A year ago

#9

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

257 562 2.2
I always wonder if Bruce actually lives on planet Earth or if all his posting is done from some remote outpost on Mars.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 30th November 2012 1:18pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Darren Adams Often I can be startlingly prescient: http://www.bruceongames.com/2007/08/08/the-platform-holders/
That is from 2007.
As was this: http://www.bruceongames.com/2007/10/25/social-networking-and-gaming/

Posted:A year ago

#11

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.

2,270 2,439 1.1
Bruce, 7" tablets might become the core gamer device in some emerging markets but not in the already established console markets.

In Japan, we already see portable consoles replacing home consoles. However, tablets are not replacing those portable consoles either. In China, it's whatever your store can get away with selling and since consoles are largely banned, phones and tablets have already taken over. Same with all other emerging markets. But in North America and Europe, consoles still dominate for the core gamer market and will continue to do so for a long time.

For all the talk you do about games as a service, you ignore the services that consoles exclusively offer beyond just their games. You don't get XboxLive and Miiverse on a tablet (actually, you will eventually get Miiverse itself on phones, tablets and PCs next year but you get what I'm saying). These are big services that drive demand for consoles beyond just the experience of the games themselves...which also cannot be found on tablets.

I'll explain it in better terms. If movies released day and date at the theaters and for the a little cheaper on your tablet, would that kill off theaters? No. Because your tablet doesn't give you the same experience.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

257 562 2.2
Popular Comment
@ Bruce. It is not your persistent banging on about the same thing over and over or even the shouting about how awesome you are, seeing yourself some kind of all-seeing games guru. The thing which made me make that post was the fact that I hate people that have this 'There can be only one' mentality. It almost seems as if their brains cannot accommodate more than one variable at a time.

You seem to have this 'mobile will kill console/PC or whatever' line you pull out all the time, when in the real world things don't work like that. Sure,certain companies will take a hit, some will fall, some will rise, but at the end of the day consoles, PC's and Mobile will still share the same space.

Just because car companies started making SUV's and 4x4's, it didn't mean everyone would stop driving cars in favor of the new vehicles. It merely meant more choice for the consumer which is all we have with mobile/social, nothing more.

It is not the be all or end all that you keep telling us, which is why I wondered whether you actually live on the planet Earth.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 30th November 2012 3:56pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Nick Parker Consultant

288 158 0.5
I have no axe to grind but I am passionate about market data FACTS. In the last three years ('09, '10 and '11), on a global basis, PS3 sold through to consumers 37.3 million units, Xbox 360 33.5 million and Wii 46.3 million (yes, Wii sold through 21m in 2009 but then fell off a cliff). 2011 was the biggest year (just) for PS3 and Xbox 360 and it is only 2012 that we will see double digit decline for these two. The fact that in these three years both PS3 and Xbox 360 sold through a number of units within a 5% band proves that despite observers claiming the end of the cycle as early as last year, demand remained constant on these two consoles and black Friday last week has shown a consumer demand that any manufacturer at this stage of the current gen cycle would be happy with. Yes, there is more competition from alternative games experiences than before but there is also a significant group of gamers who enjoy console gaming if the content is there.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Darren Adams
"The thing which made me make that post was the fact that I hate people that have this 'There can be only one' mentality. It almost seems as if their brains cannot accommodate more than one variable at a time."

You very obviously have not read my first reply to this article.

@Nicholas Parker

Hardware sales figures do not tell you how many consoles are in use playing games. Many are replacements for earlier purchases that have died. Many quickly end up gathering dust when the very high cost of games hits home.
All that matters to us is actual spend on games. And as Woolworths, Zavvi and Game all hit big trouble in this time one would assume that something is going on.

Posted:A year ago

#15

John Bye Senior Game Designer, Future Games of London

481 451 0.9
Bruce, you might not have noticed, but we're in the middle of the biggest recession in 80 years. Combined with rising rents and rates for retailers in city centres and increasing competition from online stores, life is hard for all retailers at the moment.

Game is hardly alone in this, although their uncompetitive pricing, wildly excessive number of stores (until the cull earlier this year) and their over reliance on used sales (which left them with huge stocks of old second hand games nobody wanted to buy, and left them with no friends in the games industry when they had to go cap in hand begging for stock after their insurance fell through) made things worse for them than most.

You could just as well say that the clothing industry is on the verge of collapse. After all, the last year has seen everyone from JJB Sports and Peacocks to La Senza going into administration. But that doesn't mean people aren't buying sexy lingerie and sportswear anymore.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

257 562 2.2
@Bruce
I refer to your all your previous posts saying "Mobile will kill console","This is the death of console" etc etc, which you say in pretty much every comment you make. Are you next going to tell me that isn't what you say over and over again?

Posted:A year ago

#17

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Darren Adams

I only relate the facts on the ground. Some have their head in the sands and cannot see that consoles are no longer the premier gaming platform.
But, quite obviously, we are heading for a multi platform future. And large screen living room gaming will surely be a part of that. But the ubiquity of smartphones and the fact that they are with their users 24/7 means that they will be the pre-eminent gaming device. There is no escaping the fact.
It is some time since the number of smartphones in active use exceeded the number of consoles ever made. And these smartphones are reaching whole new demographics who would never get near a 360/PS3.
In September the number of daily Android activations passed 1.3 million. Angry Birds has had over a billion downloads. Gree and DeNA are making billions in profit. Mobile phone gaming is now the main event in video gaming. The world has changed.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd

321 748 2.3
And there it is, the most meaningless statistic to bring to the conversation.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.

2,270 2,439 1.1
Bruce, didn't you just tell Nicholas that those consoles sales figures don't mean anything because they include replacement consoles and here you are spouting 1.3 million activations per day and 1 billion (mostly free) Angry Birds downloads?

You can't tell someone not to use bloated figures and then use bloated figures in that very same debate. That's just bad form.


And Darren is correct, you are the console doomsayer of all doomsayers.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
@Jim Webb

You think that I am a doomsayer. Try looking at this: http://www.kwalee.com/2012/07/03/david-darling-says-dinosaur-like-consoles-are-heading-for-extinction/

And as for the figures, Android has more activations every day than Xbox and 360 had combined sales in Black Friday week.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 3rd December 2012 2:57pm

Posted:A year ago

#21

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.

2,270 2,439 1.1
Bruce: "Don't use over inflated numbers"
Bruce: *uses over inflated numbers*
Jim: "Bruce, didn't you just tell Nicholas not to use over inflated numbers?"
Bruce: *uses over inflated numbers*

"Xbox and 360 had combined"

I'm wondering what will give out first, my forehead or the brick wall it's banging against?

Posted:A year ago

#22

Aaron Brown BA Computer Science Student, Carnegie Mellon University

56 21 0.4
I think many people are underestimating how important the experience of playing a game is for gamer's. Pundits seem far too consumed by the improved convenience and simplicity that is offered by tablet products and smart phones. Which is true, and yes more profitable.
However the best video games are engrossing, visceral experience, where you might catch your self yelling at your screen and jumping out of your seat throughout. This works best from the safety and comfort of your home on a home console.
There will be a core niche market of console gamer's for the foreseeable future.

WoW didn't kill off the D&D market because the experiences simply aren't comparable.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Aaron Brown on 4th December 2012 7:42pm

Posted:A year ago

#23

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