Opportunities for success in the console download space are continuing to shrink, with access to distribution and prices being "squeezed" on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, according to veteran designer Don Daglow.
While success in the blockbuster market is closed off to anyone without a million dollar marketing budget and equal development funds, there may still be some digital opportunities for small teams on console, but Daglow warned of a rapidly changing and unpredictable landscape.
"The downloadable console space – that area is in flux. Whatever you think of the way the world works today, don't wait to tell people six months from now because the market is going to be different," Daglow told GamesIndustry.biz in an interview published today.
We're certainly seeing some squeeze in access to distribution and some erosion of price in places.Don Daglow, Daglow Entertainment
"We're certainly seeing some squeeze in access to distribution compared to what we had before. We're also seeing some erosion of price in places. But it is a place where a good game, that maybe even a single programmer did, can still break through.
"So I don't think we've choked off the innovation in that area, but I do think that – like everything else – it's getting tougher," he said.
Daglow has set up his own studio to concentrate on the social gaming space, currently with 10 people working on a project already signed to a publishing partner in a deal reminiscent of the old developer/publisher relationship.
He believes that the knock on effect that the Wii had on the traditional console games market threw many off balance, leaving a lot of companies struggling to react to changes in the current generation of home hardware.
"Because this console cycle did not evolve the way everybody expected, the infrastructure was built for this generation based on the PS2 and Xbox generation, and the Wii disrupted that – the economics never supported it so everybody stuck it out in the hole, in effect, and that has chain-reacted really negatively through the industry in terms of the number of projects, risk taking, the number of jobs lost: all those factors," he said.
Daglow is excited to be entering the console space, not to jump on a bandwagon - he heaps praise on companies that have already discovered and built a business around millions of users that never considered themselves gamers before - but he also sees opportunity for games that are designed to entertain first and foremost, to stand out in a market that struggles to convince some of its legitimacy.
"I actually think of the Facebook market as being like that experience at E3 – and at CES before E3 – in that in each of those situations I came back and thought that the only way to get through this mess, with all that stuff that's out there, is to build something that's fun to play. Focus on the fun and focus on the gameplay.
"It sounds naive, but for thirty years I've been operating on the basis that if you get the gameplay right, even in a crowded market, you'll be okay," he added.
Daglow isn't the only designer who started out creating games in the 70s and 80s to move into the social games space. Wizardry designer Brenda Brathwaite currently works with Doom co-creator John Romero at Loot Drop, while Ultima developer Richard Garriott is also working on a new social fantasy game at Portalarium.
The full interview with Don Daglow, in which he discusses in detail the move Facebook, can be read here.