MacDonald: Game developers need to think like web designers
Former Sony exec and EyeToy creator says web people are proving most successful in casual space
The former VP of Sony's Worldwide Studios, Jamie MacDonald, has said that developers from web backgrounds are proving successful in the casual games space due to their focus on "grabbing eyeballs" and growing user bases over simply making level-based games that tell stories.
And according to MacDonald, people from traditional gaming backgrounds will need to change their mindsets in order to succeed similarly in that sector.
Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, MacDonald - who left Sony last year and has gone on to work consulting start-up companies in the social and casual gaming spaces - said that he first noticed the divide in attitudes between developers from games backgrounds and web ones before Sony, when he was working for interactive TV company NTL Interactive.
"I couldn't help but notice that there are two distinct almost digital media tribes. There's the web people and the games people. It always felt like they were working on tantalisingly close parallel lines which never converge and they kind of have different mindsets," he said.
"A lot of the successful developers in this casual games space and social games space come from a web background rather than a games background. I think that traditionally people from a web background are much more focused on grabbing eyeballs - that's what they would do on an hour-by-hour, day-by-day basis. It's about getting people's attention rather than, say, telling a story. It's about how to distribute their content and growing their audience and that's not something that a traditional games developer has been focused on, which is a more long-form kind of thing.
"It's not rocket science, and the people from a traditional games background will, and indeed are, changing their mindsets."
Talking about the rise of casual games on open mediums such as Facebook, MacDonald said that he doesn't believe their popularity will have a negative impact on console gaming, nor change the established relationship between traditional developers and publishers.
"Was the cinema boxed in by the rise of TV?" he says. "At the time they probably thought they were, but it just broadens and just generally increases the size and scope of the medium. And personally I think the consoles, certainly at the moment, are absolutely providing real cutting edge experiences. The products that other people are working on, in the casual and social spaces, they aren't replacing by any means what's happening on the consoles. They're complimenting it."
And he added that the rise in popularity of social gaming wasn't simply a fad but an important part of gaming's evolution.
"I wouldn't like to say it's unstoppable, but I see it as a central thread of how interactive entertainment is evolving," he said.
"It's not a fad. I think that maybe at the moment it's the area that has a lot of focus, and that maybe the attention will move away from it in the next year or two, but from a business and consumer point of view I don't think it's going to go away. I think that if anything it's going to grow and become embedded and a fundamental part of how we play and communicate with each other and entertainment ourselves."
You can read the full interview with Jamie MacDonald here.