Molyneux skeptical about tablet/TV gaming

22Cans' boss talks about the Wii U and Xbox SmartGlass

22Cans founder Peter Molyneux is busy with the launch of Curiosity on mobile, but he took time to talk with IGN about Microsoft's SmartGlass and Nintendo's Wii U. Molyneux admitted he was excited by the technology, but remained skeptical about using tablets and television in concert for gaming.

“The thing about the SmartGlass is that the tablet is a thing that you have with you all the time. Now, in that sense, I understand completely as a consumer and I'm excited to see what these guys do with it. But I do have a problem with it. I now have a screen in front of me on my lap and a screen up on the wall that I'm looking at. Which one should I be looking at? Should I be looking up at the big screen and down, or at my lap and up? Should I be checking down on my lap every few seconds? What's going to incentivize me to move my eyes from the wall to my lap?” Molyneux told IGN.

“I think what people do when they have multiple screens is something very simple. They will listen to the big screen whilst distracting themselves on the small screen. That's not what SmartGlass and Wii U are talking about. They're talking about producing an entertainment experience that you're engrossed in.”

“The psychology of making a game is hard enough because plasma screens are so big now. It's hard enough to get the player to move their eyes from the center of the screen to the borders,” explained Molyneux. “Getting people to move their eyes from the screen down to their laps is incredibly hard. There has to be some huge motivational thing like the words coming up, 'Look at your GamePad now.' If you're going to do that, from a design perspective that sounds a bit clumsy and complex.”

The split in attention isn't the only reason Molyneux is down on Nintendo's new console. He also slammed Nintendo for not having a compelling selling point behind the console.

“I struggle to see anything amazing coming out of Nintendo. There are a few, “Oh, that's smart,” but there's nothing that makes me rush out as a consumer to buy the new device. I'll give you a great example of how tech should be used. It's what Nintendo did with the Wii when it first came out. They introduced motion control. They were one of the first companies to introduce motion control and they had a fantastic Wii Sports Game. As soon as I picked up the controller and started waving it around, I got it. I already understood it. But I'm not sure there's a same sort of application out there for Wii U. I think to myself, 'Well, what's the reason to get it?'” he said.

The full interview with IGN is available here.

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Latest comments (19)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
For a guy so devout to innovating, it sure is confusing when he fails to see obvious innovations.

I'm surprised he's not all over both of them with a plethora of innovative ideas.
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Please can we stop the attempt to paint certain figures in our industry (usually with unhealthy links to certain media/writers) as the equivalent to film directors, or great musicians? The game development business has not been for some time a ‘one man band’ development process – and PM was never a one-man-band developer. He was part of a team, and for those that worked within him he offered a valuable component, but not an exclusive one to the games produced.

I really want to move away from the cult-of-personality that some media want to paint round PM, and others, as a means for cheap quotes and a fake paternalistic perception. I understand for n00b journo’s it’s easy to believe the hype that certain ‘legendary’ executives wrap themselves in – but if you speak to those that were there, they also have feet of clay (as can be seen by the ‘redacting’ of their Wiki entries!) I know writing is hard for those fresh to the genre, and depending on Wiki and quotes from ‘legends’ is easy!

Finally, rather than the lazy journalism of a single voice – why not try and regain some credibility in the readers eye, and report the ‘whole’ team behind development, and aim at a ‘warts and all’ approach to reporting. Now as the credibility of the media is at its lowest superseded by the audience turning to online, and the sales of the games they review plummet, maybe a time for realization, reportage and honest approach could buy back some of the lost sense of credibility?
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago

Someone Google up the word "Xavix" and let everyone who says Nintendo invented, came up with or whatevered motion control know that they were actually pioneers (albeit with a much smaller user base)...
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Show all comments (19)
Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent7 years ago
He's right. Spot on. In fact, almost word for word my reaction upon the Wii U's announcement.
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Nick Parker Consultant 7 years ago
@Kevin I agree. There is a group of industry "stars" who the media turn to in order to sell a story or a conference. Some of these stars are worth listening to, the rest do not offer any new opinion but take a stance which they know will be controversial. As for Nintendo, it's caught between a rock and a hard spot. If it gets the advertising message right in terms of educating the consumer to the benefits of the Wii, demand will certainly outstrip supply. At 5.5 million units manufactured before end of March 2013, stock shortages are guaranteed. In an ideal world, Nintendo could allow these units to sell-through without the level of marketing it's promising, thereby reducing losses and keeping back marketing for when stocks are replenished. I'm not sure the P&L will make great reading over the next six months/year.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Parker on 10th November 2012 9:24am

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I wouldn't be so worried about getting the player to look at the second screen. In immersive single player games, it can take a backseat, just like it does on the DS. There are still certain functions that you could call clumsy and bad design that can be solved much more elegantly with a second screen, like maps, inventories or puzzles like deus ex hacking.
The real potential for innovation is in the asynchronous multiplayer and coop and I think Nintendo will surprise us there. You could have two people playing one one console play as infantry and drive a tank at the same time, for example, not to mention playing against each other without always seeing where the other player is like with splitscreen.

About the immediate appeal of the idea, I agree though, it's not an easy sell as the wii was.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Felix Leyendecker on 10th November 2012 9:32am

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But there is potential... Just have to make it work eg Valkyria chronicles would be a good experiment
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@Nicholas, thanks for that.
Just to round off my comment and reflect on your points. The failure of the consumer game trade at this moment warrant high-level discussion and introspective observation. The problem with the industry ‘stars’ selected by a hard bitten group of media and conference / association organizers is that they have to go with a safe, advertiser-friendly bag. The saving butt mentality of media and organizers means even while we read of crippling debts at THQ, EA and others, their current/past executives are still lauded – literally the blind consulting to the blind!
It’s easy for me to observer from outside the tent – I left the consumer sector once I saw the problems of dangerous miss-management and appalling executive promotion – but the issue now is that those mistakes are attempting to be ‘redacted’ from the social record, and you see the current ‘stars’ promoting a history and observations that they did not have previously. It’s like they have been politicians all their career and now the investors finally kick them out they suddenly get religion and start claiming to make ‘strident’ opinions they never had.
Fundamentally, we need to hear from real ‘stars’ (developers) with real vision (DayZ, Oculus, etc.,) – we also need the media to clarify the message and drop poisonous allegiances with certain ‘legends’ for free publicity, (why Atari has gone so quiet is that all the ‘Stars’ the media backed let them down big time and the journo’s are running to jump ship before the reality of that mess hits the wire).
I know the media is circling the wagons and trying to garner advertising, but the loss of credibility is terminal. We will need a 100% honest media for Gen-8 launches next year (rather than shills scooping up all the Nintendo, MS and Sony marketing money) – if the media keeps sucking up to ‘Stars’ then we could end up alienating the remainder of the audience and that would be Game Over for the traditional trade – and your ‘star system’ will amount to nothing!
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Andy Samson QA Supervisor, Digital Media Exchange7 years ago
He's probably not paying attention to how TV's themselves are evolving. Right now there are Smart TV's that lets the user watch TV, surf the net and play games without leaving the couch. They have kinect like camera sensors and motion controllers.

With the Wii U, this experience is greatly enhanced by the GamePad. I have an LG Smart TV, although the magic remote is very responsive it's functions are mostly limited to what a Wii Motion Plus controller can do. The Wii U supports the Motion Plus controller and has the GamePad right out of the box that instantly transforms any HD TV into a Smart TV. The touch screen alone makes navigation and user input more convenient.

For games, the SmartGlass or PSVITA remote play does not compare to how seamless the GamePad lets the user interact with the TV and the games. There are a lot of real world scenarios that easily translates to how the GamePad can be used. It can work as a sketch or note pad for solving puzzles. It can serve as a special visual filter/view finder that lets the user see hidden objects on screen, imagine how this can be used for Zelda or Horror games like Fatal Frame. The GamePad will work wonders for MMO and RTS games, users can easily multitask with the GamePad's touch screen interface.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago
@kevin williams: +1 again. I seem to agree with everything you say, fanboy me up. :)
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd7 years ago
Why do people act like dual-screen gaming has never ever happened and it will be really awkward with SmartGlass/Wii U when the DS has been around for 8 years?

This drives me insane. Did I accidentally fall through a time loop to 2003? Holy crap are we seriously still debating the benefits/creative options of multiple displays?

What the Wii U is doing isn't insanely innovative (although let me tell you, you haven't seen real smoothness and integration in gaming until you've had a controller that's a universal remote for your TV and cable box as well as your gateway to all your streamed videos) it's certainly proven to offer innovative and immersive OPTIONS by an already existing innovative device.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 7 years ago
I have been doing dual screen for a few years now and it really works very well.
Watching F1 races on the big screen and using the small screen to keep up with social media, live car tracking etc works incredibly well and greatly enhances the experience.
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University7 years ago
The notion that I'm too lazy or simple-minded to be able to look around a large television screen, or look to a screen in my hands, is frankly insulting. I go to the cinema, often to IMAX, and enjoy the spectacle of looking around the screen to absorb everything. I sit at home with a decent sized television (37 inches), and if I need to, I flick my eyes from one part of the screen to another. I already look at another screen (my phone) while watching television; to tweet, to use IMDB, to update Facebook, to e-mail or text etc. We're already in a two-screen world, as Bruce and Nicholas point out--whether it's the two screens of DS, or the multiple screens we can use to compliment our television, increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with that. Quite why the Wii U will struggle because of the need to flick between two screens, I don't understand. As I said, we are in the two-screen world of entertainment, in the beginning stages perhaps... So why not extend that experience to gaming, either with a dedicated controller or by (as both Microsoft and Nintendo seem willing to do, to different extents) extending what consoles can do through tablets and smartphones?

Peter's point about there not being a Wii Sports stands, though I'm not convinced it poses a problem for Nintendo. To me , it poses an opportunity. Yes, Wii Sports was revolutionary, but how good was that for the long-term health and success of the Wii? Sure, Nintendo sold tens of millions of systems, but there were many problems. Some of the problems could be seen the first time Nintendo demoed Wii Sports, we just weren't looking for them. We were amazed. We were saying (correctly!) "Wow! This is an experience anyone can pick up and play. that anyone can love"; and that was the market's reaction on launch. In our excitement, we weren't seeing that the cost of that level of accessibility was complexity, and that simplicity would limit what the Wii could offer. The fact we could all grasp, from day one, exactly what the experience was, points to what Wii ultimately become: both mainstream and niche. In tens of millions of homes, with a broad but ultimately shallow array of experiences available. That's not to say there wasn't variety or depth; there just wasn't enough versatility in the remote itself, as revolutionary as it was. That immediate revolution worked against Nintendo in the long-term, and pigeon holed Wii, paradoxically, as both mainstream and niche.

Nintendo's slogan was "Playing is believing", but I honestly think that slogan is far better suited to Wii U, because here is a concept that isn't immediately understandable. In the long-term, I think this will work in Nintendo's favour, and that while being negative, Peter has actually illuminated the strength of Wii U. Yes, there's no Wii Sports, there's no day one revolution: but that's because the Gamepad is a more complex, capable and versatile device. You can play on the Gamepad by itself. You can use it in tandem with the television. You can use it in tandem with Miiverse. You can use it to videochat. You have cameras, motion control, a microphone, a touch screen, NFC, and the whole range of traditional inputs in one piece of kit. Developers don't need to tick all the boxes to make a great experience; they just need to ensure that the ones they do tick are features they've made excellent use of. The lack of communicable instant-benefit is here not because there are no benefits, that lack is here partially because there is no Wii Sports moment; but importantly, its here because there are a multitude of uses, and it will take time for that to become clear, it will take playing in order to believe.

In the mean-time, Nintendo will benefit from early adopters coming on board. Day one, and indeed perhaps the whole prolonged launch window, was never the battle. That's just Nintendo taking to the field. The real battle is the months, and more so years, to come, because it was long-term strength that Wii was lacking, and it's long-term strength Wii U must have. Not by being an instant revolution, but by being a device that brings console gaming directly into a two-screen world, that offers a range of experience and caters with more depth to a broader array of people.

EDIT: This isn't meant to say this is exactly what Nintendo are about to do, of course. It's what I feel they must do with Wii U, and it's what I feel they aim to do. What they aim for and what they accomplish may be two different things entirely. However, this isn't about rescuing their home console business as quickly as possible (as Wii was); it's about proving the long-term viability of their home-console business. That's a very different challenge to what Wii faced and necessitates different answers.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Daniel Hughes on 12th November 2012 10:57am

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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers7 years ago
A lot of work from a lot of people goes into many creative endeavors, like in TV and movies. Key people end up getting interviewed because they're the key decision makers, along with having interesting outspoken opinions. Kevin, you make it sound like its unthinkable to interview a singular person and that it always has to be interview by committee - while group pieces are certainly important and the press would like to get more, outright disregarding interviews with individuals is head scratching.
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@David, thank you for some valid observations - but let me counter.

Interviewing the creative lead (or equivalent executive) on a project is one thing - I have no problem with a figure head interview approach for product launch, but not a constant stream of hype-advertorials! To place PM on a pedestal as 'legend' without accurately appraising his involvement, input, or credibility to speak authoritarian on issues of importance smacks as the laziest of journalism, and one would say nepotistic. The amount of over-hype he has received over the years for the likes of Black & White, Fable and Project Milo would have any sane publisher now direct his editorial team to steer clear of reporting PM till he regained some credibility (the same way that certain Atari executives are not quoted as often).

And David, I make it sound like the media 'has fixated' on one mans voice - from pontificating on the TV console scene, on the publishing scene, as well as on his game which now has magically turned into a 'experiment' (never mentioned once in the copious interviews). Way too much exposure which ever way you look at it - and also only one voice - a voice now that dose not want to take criticism or responsibility of a appalling lapse (again) in business judgement and a failed deployment approach to the market (not a great advert of the UK industries brain trust).

It is this 'cult-of-celebrity' that has been fostered by some in the game media - borrowed from other sectors that has proven damaging beyond any bad reporting of actual business behavior within the trade (literally setting people up to fail). In accepting to mark some as 'legends' over others, when in reality they are being lauded for their duration in the trade (and links with certain journo's), rather than what they bring to the table, is a dangerous path to go down for an industry so young and so driven by hyperbole.

Just go back and look at how Bullfrog and Loinhead were managed near the end and then tell me if we are talking about the same 'legend'! Fundamentally, I think it is best to say I am criticizing your need for a constant single voice - rather than just a figure head at the beginning with appropriate (and moderated) recognition after that.
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I don't think that's the main point, David. And if it is, I don't agree either. However, two interviews a day might be a bit overkill.

Edit: Didn't see Kevin's response.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Laurens Bruins on 12th November 2012 5:14pm

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The fall out seems pretty harsh over what is happening, and I understand why some editors will want to try and justify their position, but after Fable II, Project Milo and other claims - and now this latest 'scam' that sees big claims evaporate into a very unsubtle shill for donations. But should it see heads roll on the editorial desks if they have shown favoritism?? What do you think?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 12th November 2012 7:10pm

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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam7 years ago
I agree with Peter on this, to some extent. When I use my phone during a TV show, I end up focused entirely on the phone and just listening to the TV in the background, missing important details of what's going on. And switching focus between a small screen in your lap and a big screen on the wall several feet away is not the same as looking between the two screens on a DS. You have to be careful how you're using the second screen to ensure this doesn't become an issue, and sadly most developers seem to be taking the lazy route of just sticking the mini-map and/or inventory on the Gamepad screen.

However, there are definite uses for this kind of tech, like the Madden demo at the Smartglass announcement, where you could design your own play on your touch screen and then execute it on the console. Using the second screen essentially as an input device while the action on the TV is paused is a much better option than having to switch back and forth between the two or trying to juggle your inventory in real time on your Gamepad while things are attacking you on the TV.

The scope for asymmetrical multiplayer is also great, and you can't underestimate the value of simply being able to play a game on the Gamepad while someone else is watching TV, even if due to the technical limits of the hardware AFAIK you still have be in the same room as the console. I wish I could do that on my PS3, so I could play games while my wife's watching something on the TV that I'm not interested in.

For example, putting a racing game's mini-map on the Gamepad screen and expecting the player to read it while driving is stupid. But imagine instead that it's a rally game, the driver is controlling the game using a Wii Remote, and it's a second player taking on the role of the navigator who's holding the Gamepad and calling out instructions to the player, maybe even with the chance to do a practice drive on the course first and make your own pace notes using the Gamepad.

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking seems to be sorely lacking in most of the Wii U launch titles.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking seems to be sorely lacking in most of the Wii U launch titles.
Such is the nature of a most launch software.

But I have already seen some very clever uses. Your Madden 'draw your own play' is already there for Wii U but most impressive might be NBA 2K13. Take a look a the video below:
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