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End times for walled gardens

By Steve Peterson

End times for walled gardens

Mon 12 Aug 2013 2:03pm GMT / 10:03am EDT / 7:03am PDT

Consoles are starting to allow cross-platform gaming, and it will change the market forever

Traditionally game consoles have been walled gardens, where users could wander freely amongst the delights of the games provided. You were never allowed to play with gamers who dwelt in other gardens - in fact, you couldn't even see them or be made aware of their existence. Now, that reality is changing.

We're seeing glimmers of this on Nintendo Wii U. Australian indie developers Nnooo are releasing Cubemen 2 later this year on the Wii U, joining the PC and iOS versions in allowing cross-platform multiplayer and sharing of content.

"I'm really proud to be able to announce this," said Nic Watt, creative director at Nnooo. "We've spent the last few months working with both Nintendo and 3 Sprockets, the game's developer, to make this a reality. Cubemen 2 is an amazing game and a great fit for Nintendo players. We can't wait to see how creative they are, whether in tactical multiplayer online or in the new levels they build." There are 4,000 user-created levels available, which Wii U users can access. The game is playable across the Wii U, PC and iOS.


Cubemen 2 will let Wii U players and iOS players go head-to-head.

This is newsworthy because it's so rare. World of Tanks on the Xbox 360 has its own servers, and there will not be cross-platform play with World of Tanks on the PC. Certainly Wargaming would love to see that happen. Activision would be happy if Call of Duty players on Xbox could play with PlayStation players; likewise EA would be excited to have FIFA players competing across all platforms. Yet the console makers generally don't allow this.

Uniqueness is one of the key selling points of consoles. Exclusive titles sell hardware, and that's been true for decades. If you really want to play a particular title that's only on the PS3, that's why you'll choose a PS3 over an Xbox 360. Hardware makers want to have exclusive titles in order to sell hardware... yet an exclusive title is limiting the audience by its very nature. Yes, Halo sells Xboxes. But Halo could sell many more units if it was also available on PlayStation. If the profits in the business are really from software sales and not from hardware, is this limiting potential profitability?

Look at it another way. Xbox Live has some 50 million members, PlayStation Network over 90 million members. Those are impressive numbers... until you start looking at the size of other networks. World of Tanks has 60 million members. Apple's Game Center has over 65 million members. Zynga has 187 million monthly active users. Facebook has over 1 billion members.

The potential audience for gaming is far larger than any one network - well, maybe not larger than Facebook's network, but certainly larger than any console's network. The power of gaming platforms is rising, making it easier for games to be cross-platform (especially more casual games). The vast majority of the gaming audience would prefer that a game is available on multiple platforms.

Read more of this analysis, including where cross-platform gaming is heading, on our sister site the [a] list daily.

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Kenneth Bruton Producer

40 8 0.2
I welcome cross-pollinated platform gameplay! It was great, for instance, the EVE Online and DUST on the PS3 merged. So iOS, Android, and Wii U players will share the field for the first time! Very exciting! It is a shame that World of Tanks did not follow suit, because that would have been very cool (perhaps they did this at Micro$oft's urging...) Maybe others will join in.

Posted:3 years ago


Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,292 456 0.4
Let's not forget though, that Portal 2 (PS3/PC), DC Universe (PS3/PC), FF11 (360/PS2/PC) and Shadowrun (360/PC) have all trialled cross platform play, the last two at the start of the generation, and one first party each from MS and Sony.
So whilst it is cool news, it may be premature to call it a trend just yet, anymore than those others started a trend seven years ago.

Just to be clear, it could be excellent if this is the start of something, but I would be reluctant to call it.

As for Halo making more cross platform, if it sells MS hardware, and people then buy a few more games, even third party ones on that machine, the licence fees of all those titles will probably make MS more than cross platform sales. If people played Halo on Playstation, and hold off on Xbox, they will thereafter buy CoD, Fifa, GTA and Assassin's Creed on the hardware they already own, losing MS all those licence fees.

Posted:3 years ago


Adam Campbell Producer, Hopster

1,467 1,567 1.1
Well cross platform play was previously hindered by console policies even if it existed in some quarters . Dreamcast had cross platform play over a decade ago yet a number of subsequent platforms were walled across two generation when it comes to networking. So I am hoping for a sea of change. The idea of Nintendo opening up is exciting enough on its own.

Posted:3 years ago


Gordon Brown Quality Manager, Latis Global Communications

5 4 0.8
Final Fantasy 11 has featured cross-platform play since 2002. The hindrance with such a feature wasn't with player interest, but as Adam said, console policies. Sony and Microsoft simply do not want to share part of the same microcosm with anyone else. Understandably it dilutes their own brand. FF11 was more palatable to the two because the game was fairly self-contained.

Posted:3 years ago


David Serrano Freelancer

300 273 0.9
Consoles are starting to allow cross-platform gaming, and it will change the market forever
For whom? A subsegment of a subsegment of the overall audience?

With console game sales declining year after year... which consumers will place value on the feature? The subsegment of the subsegment of consumers who play the games. But how and why will adding cross platform features into the same types of games which now average low single digit percent installed console base sell through rates translate into significantly higher sell through rates on the next gen. consoles? Consoles which may have a significantly smaller installed base? And how will it make products which have clearly proven to be unappealing and inaccessible to the wider audience more appealing or accessible?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 13th August 2013 3:49pm

Posted:3 years ago


Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

621 714 1.1
@David: because perhaps the applicability of the games market ten years ago before the influx of a new gaming population entered the market suggests that that demographic is still relevant.

It would be like only selling skin-coloured tops for Caucasians because they make up a majority of the population. Sure you can, but the low percentage of the minority does not make them any less applicable than they actually should be. In fact the music industry has cottoned on to this and now happily takes a great deal of influence from the minority groups because enough money talks and it would be foolish to ignore avenues for making more profit if only for the sake of making needless hasty-generalisations.

Posted:3 years ago


David Serrano Freelancer

300 273 0.9
@Keldon Alleyne

There has been no influx of a new gaming population into the console market. In reality, new players stopped entering the market while there was an exodus of tens of millions of long time players out of the market. Because the types of games which have defined the current generation of consoles proved to be unappealing to the majority of the long time players and inaccessible to new players. So while other segments of the market have exploded in size and profitability, the console market has contracted. And as Jason Rohrer pointed out in 2011: It's gotten so bad that outside of my friends in the industry, nobody that I know plays video games anymore. The medium is losing its best, most thoughtful players.

Yes, serving niche audiences can be profitable for a segment of the core development community, but not for the majority of the community. For the majority of developers, it's an unsustainable strategy. Because doing so is reducing the console audience down to the lowest common denominator and in turn, undercutting the profitability, viability and stability of the market.

Posted:3 years ago


Keldon Alleyne Handheld Developer, Avasopht Ltd

621 714 1.1
@David: I was referring to the addition to the gaming population not the console population.

Is there any evidence of an "exodus"? And I mean solid evidence, not false conclusions by misinterpreting figures and undoubtedly indicate nothing concrete.
It's gotten so bad that outside of my friends in the industry, nobody that I know plays video games anymore
What is his demographic? because in the people I've observed (though in a different age group) they are all buying and playing their games. They all play COD, FIFA and the like. People my age are a little more conservative because quite frankly we've had decades of iterations and we've no need to shell out for the same titles every year, plus some of us are a little bored and don't care much for the gaming experiences we once held to such high esteem.

Now going back to the population thing. Just because the console gaming population is a "sub section" of a larger population doesn't make it any less relevant than it was before.

Like Jay-Z said, "one percent of a billion more than [people] ever seen. Still they want to act like it's an every day thing." The percentage of XYZ means absolutely nothing. $30Bn is a bigger pie than publishers and developers were fighting for ten years ago, so if it was relevant then then it being a "small" percentage of "something" makes no difference at all. Whether you want to call it a niche or a small niche is irrelevant, the pie is sizeable.

You can go for the bigger pie if that is what you want, though why stop with gaming? Why not go to the bigger pie of people who interact with objects? - that's everyone in the world. Simple reason being that your skill set probably doesn't map directly to that, and amongst other things your business concern is with people connecting their fingers and thumbs to peripherals connected to dedicated gaming devices.

And there's no telling what happens when everyone reduces to the lowest common denominator of the mass market. So far we've had Angry Birds, Temple Run and a few other things that aren't a touch on Mario Bros. for me and probably the entire population who enjoyed that back in the 80's. So whatever that market is that values Mario Bros. and stuff like that, that intrinsic need those games fulfil will always be there. The adoption of Angry Birds is no testament to it being "better", it just caught on. Damn, Mr Blobby was number one for six weeks!

Posted:3 years ago


Adam Campbell Producer, Hopster

1,467 1,567 1.1
There has been no influx of a new gaming population into the console market. In reality, new players stopped entering the market while there was an exodus of tens of millions of long time players out of the market.
Really? Just looking at basic home console figures, the installed base has grown by around 43 Million this generation.

That's almost equal to the Gamecube and Xbox put together. I know figures aren't always dead accurate but that's what we have to go by.

I thought there was a consensus (usually brought on by the 'console is dying' threads) that this generation we have the highest ever console installed base. I'm not seeing this exodus myself and to the contrary, more people than ever playing on them.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 16th August 2013 3:05pm

Posted:3 years ago


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