Former Playfish boss calls new consoles "a distraction"

Kristian Segerstrale says publisher focus on next-gen will let digital companies gain the advantage

Former Playfish CEO Kristian Segerstrale believes that the "distraction" caused by the next generation of consoles will leave more room for digital companies to build success.

In an op-ed for TechCrunch, Segerstrale argues that the "innovator's dilemma" that a new cycle of consoles pose for established publishers will distract them from more significant opportunities elsewhere in the industry.

"The next generation consoles are doing a wonderful job at distracting the big publishers away from the fastest growing parts of the game industry," he said. "That clears the water for pure digital plays to gradually build up dominance with new IP on new hardware platforms."

Segerstrale pointed to Bobby Kotick's dismissive remarks about mobile in a recent Activision earnings call as an example of how entrenched certain publishers have become. He also highlighted EA's tendency to spread its talent across too many platforms as another common weakness.

"The innovators' dilemma confronting the big guys is creating continuing unopposed growth opportunity for new and established digital pure plays alike," he continued. "That is giving new players time to build up the brand and marketing advantages that big publishers have held for years on what are rapidly becoming legacy platforms."

And the opportunities are everywhere. Segerstrale suggests that, while a game like Clash of Clans offers a more mature take on its genre than any mobile game before it, there is a dearth of mature alternatives. Indeed, Segerstrale argues that a number of classic genres have yet to receive a definitive title for mobile devices.

"But who is making the category-defining racing game, the best first person shooter, sports game, real-time strategy, monster breeding or puzzle adventure game on these platforms?

"The console guys are hamstrung by their lack of focus. The starlets who already dominate one or two categories will have similar focus challenges due to successes to date. Seldom have there been such clearly profitable, well-defined opportunities for new start-ups to re-imagine these experiences for personal touch screens."

At present, Kristian Segerstrale heads up the investment firm Initial Capital. Prior to that, he co-founded Glu Mobile and Playfish.

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Latest comments (3)

Nick Parker Consultant 4 years ago
We are all in the same industry but it seems we run in parallel tracks, finding it challenging to cross the imaginary line.

I appreciate where Kristian is coming from and there is an issue with focus from the larger traditional publishers who like to operate in comfort zones but they need to have enough eyeballs strategising across all platforms. If they can do so, they may well prove Kristian wrong but it remains to be seen.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
Just 19 days ago you told us that Kristian is now at Supercell!

As ever what he says is very well thought out and incisive.
The old school publishers don't have their eye on the ball. They are just doing what they did before. Or trying to do a bit of everything, to see where the mud sticks.
What is needed now is laser focus on digital distribution. Plastic and cardboard is in its death throes and is just a distraction.
The successful digital publishers are growing at a meteoric rate. Soon they will be the main players in the industry, replacing the old school guys.
Just look at Rovio,, Supercell, GungHo, Kabam etc. They are the new order.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany4 years ago
With the exception that most of the big publishers releasing games on the next gen consoles are also releasing their games on PC.

I don't understand the need that some people in the industry have to polarize everything and create sides. Just check that "That clears the water for pure digital plays to gradually build up dominance with new IP on new hardware platforms." Well, isn't that exactly what most of the companies are trying to do with this next gen? Just look at Ubisoft, for example.
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