Jaffe: Digital platforms need more commercial hits

Eat, Sleep, Play boss warns of visibility danger arising from too much content

David Jaffe, the head of Eat, Sleep, Play studio and creator of the God of War franchise, believes that the digital platforms - principally Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network - need a more hit-driven mentailty if they are to thrive in the future, despite his love of indie and artistic titles such as Flower.

"For the love of f***ing god, put some commercial titles on XBLA. [With Battlefield 1943] EA's the first company to really go out there and say 'Hey, we're speaking to our console consumer...' Let's think a little bit more about what the consumer wants."

Speaking in the opening session of this year's DICE Summit, taking place this week at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, he also agreed that those platforms are facing issues regarding visibility as a result of too much content being available - but that it was nothing new.

"There's absolutely that danger," he said. "But there's that danger at retail, or when you go to buy a car," adding that he felt XBLA was "in more danger" than PSN because of the greater level of content.

However, he pointed out, marketing has a role to play in generating brand awareness and rising above the rest of the noise.

Jaffe, whose follow up to God of War II was the casual title Calling All Cars! revealed that he felt in some ways working on the game - a PSN exclusive - had been a mistake, but one of the lessons learned was that game creators needed to put the end user's needs higher up the priority chain.

He was joined onstage by David Crane, who pioneered the creation of games in the early days of the industry on the Atari 2600 - Pitfall among them - underlined the threat by using the iPhone as an example.

"It's my favourite platform," he said, "but there are 150,000 apps... Any teenager in his bedroom with a Mac can build an app and put it on the App Store."

The DICE Summit, organised by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, will later feature a keynote from Disney Interactive Studios president Stephen Wadsworth, while Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will deliver a talk on Thursday.

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Latest comments (9)

Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire8 years ago
What next, suggest people don't write a book, produce a piece of music, or create their own movie? Suffice to say, I really don't understand this claptrap.

Surely it's everyone's right, big or small, to a shot at commercial opportunity and success. The odds are weighed massively in the favour of those with a marketing budget, experience, talent and known IP as it is. The digital console channels are relatively closed to the public, too.

After a decade of closing off the talent-pool, finally there are platforms with a level playing field, just as there were in the 1980's and 1990's in the 8/16bit eras. Finally we are seeing a lot of unique ideas and whilst only a low percentage are break-out hits, that's not really a problem, surely.
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Graeme Struthers Project Manager 8 years ago
Mr Brown, well said.
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Matthew Hill Head of Recruitment, Specialmove8 years ago
Seconded !

The fantastic thing about the growth of digital platforms is the massive increase in games it has encouraged. Many of these will be commercial flops, many will be complete rubbish but there will also be plenty of great titles which otherwise may never have had the opportunity to reach the public.

I do have one key concern - namely the long term impact on pricing and more specifically consumers expectations of what constitutes a reasonable price for a game. When I can buy GTA on iPhone for £5.99 why should I spend £20+ for the same title on DS ? In the longer term will consumers be happy to pay much higher prices on boxed product ?

The huge level of competition means pricing has in many cases been driven below £1 or even to zero cost. It's hard to see how many will make a commercial return on this unless they dilute content or adopt different business models e.g. in game advertising. These can be overcome but it's by no means easy. Of course many people may simply be happy to make these games in their spare time as a sideline rather than as their primary source of income.

Exciting times - the rise of small passionate teams with original ideas is one 80's revival I certainly welcome !
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz8 years ago
"When I can buy GTA on iPhone for £5.99 why should I spend £20+ for the same title on DS ?"

In the excitement of getting a new PSPgo, I bought Chinatown Wars for £24.99 over PSN. Same game is £5.99 on iPhone a month later. I really want Beaterator, but I've been stung and don't want to go back to PSN, PSPgo or Rockstar again as a consumer.
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Victor Perez CEO, Games GI8 years ago
I believe the comments of Mr. Jaffe is not against DD, I agree with him that DD will be a main channel when the hits will be exclusively distributed by those channels, because that will bring the massive audience (those that are still buying physical support) to DD channels.
We should separate the desire from the business, right now DD is not the main channel, and far away to be in short time… and when we talk about DD we mix many different things. Since portable platform (Apple Store is not relevant for many other DD, but that introduces the gamers into the right dynamic, but the profile, the products and the price are radical different from other Games Platform), till open DD channels (internet) or proprietary DD channels (XBLA, etc..). If we mix it with DRM, F2P, P2P, DLC, MMO, Subscription vs Item selling…. We will see it is not going to be an easy way to let the public know your product is there (Marketing).
DD is a different world and EA, Activision, etc are just trying to be sure their position in this world will be the same as now, and how in a proprietary platform and proprietary DD channels their role is still useful and as much powerful as it is now.
Agree with you internet gives as a challenge to small developers, but how we are going to have any kind of visibility in this crowded net….
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Dave Turner Director, PRM London8 years ago
Digital Platforms are there for everyone to showcase talent and can be the making of a group of developers based on their own merit rather than having to hand over a beloved IP to a large publisher who start calling the shots. Don't get me wrong some are nurturing but the digital environment allows reputation to built directly.
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Oliver Birch Director of Marketing, Hothead Games8 years ago
In my opinion Jaffe seems to be misunderstanding both the commercial & creative aspects of the DD platforms. This is an exciting area of the industry showing plenty of promise in both areas.

Some DD titles may well have success without too much effort (EA's Battlefield 1943 is a known IP) but others will fail if they are not backed strategically with engaging marketing messages to gaming communities. If done well then even the little man can cut through.

Both publishers and developers need to realise this - some do already, some are burning their fingers, others are starting to find their feet. 1st parties have a lot to answer for too. For example, Summer of Arcade title = visibility = sales.

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Matthew Hill Head of Recruitment, Specialmove8 years ago
On a related note.... Very upset to hear there will be no Rolando 3 - the first two were excellent games by a great developer Ngmoco

According to today's announcement this is due to:-

a) Disappointing Sales Perfomance - "good but not stellar" according to CEO Neil Young

This is a concern given Ngmoco are pretty switched on with their marketing. Does this mean £5.99 is simply too expensive ?

b) The franchise not currently fitting with the company's focus on the freemium model

A concern if by implication freemium model restricts the types of games developed.

I actually think there is a lot of sense in their strategy and look forward to the franchsie continuing in some form - fingers crossed !
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
Competition and market should be open to everyone. Since when it was decided that games is a closed market? That would be convenient for those on top of course and I also understand what Mr Jaffe is trying to say, but you should allow talent to grow. This way major studios will benefit as well and game development in general.

Let the consumer decide which game is better. What large studios need to focus on is to make products that will be always of greater value than the "garage developers" and justify the price. If we don't, this is our failure.

The example that Matt Martin gave is a good one, and studios along with publishers should be careful not to insult the consumer in such way. Each platform should either have a specific product designed for it, or the price should be the same for all platforms. Especially if you plan to publish on every conceivable platform that should allow for slightly lower prices overall, and that would help your product as well!
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