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Console games desperately need reinvention - Riccitiello

Unity CEO laments lack of innovation, calls events of current console generation "depressing"

The latest round of console wars has been a bit disappointing for Unity CEO John Riccitiello. In a discussion at the GamesBeat Summit yesterday, Riccitiello gave a post-mortem on the first year and change of the current generation.

"It's one of the more depressing stories of the last couple years," Riccitiello said. "There was a clash of ideas that really separated Sony and Microsoft in this generation... The clash of ideas was simply this. They actually had very similar architectures that they were trying to bring to the table, but Microsoft focused on the entertainment marketplace."

Riccitiello suggested that focus was evident in every aspect of Microsoft's original vision, from its insistence on Kinect (despite the gamer segment's apathy for the device) to its original stance on DRM and emphasis on creating an entertainment ecosystem. The Xbox One, he said, was intended to be bigger than games, to be a mainstream cultural force on par with Apple or Google. Sony, on the other hand, just wanted to make a good game system.

"I think it was a little bit like a game of pool," Ricitiello said. "Microsoft was focused on the shot after the one they needed to make... but they missed the first shot and they didn't get another shot at it. Sony worried about the shot they needed to make, which was [to] win the hearts and minds of the gamers. They did a better job of execution with that. Frankly, the broad scope of entertainment may be a bigger idea, but not with an unfocused execution... Sony nailed it. They paid respect, more respect, to our community than the other guys."

Another aspect of the console industry Riccitiello took exception to was a general lack of innovation.

"Console desperately needs re-invention in terms of some of the game mechanics," Riccitiello said. "We play the same game literally since 1997, the advent of 3D gaming. So many of the mechanics are exactly the same. There is some innovation - the Titanfall guys did a really nice job. I don't think the game mechanics of BioShock Infinite are that innovative, but my God that's a beautiful world. I wanted to live there. But there's not enough innovation."

That's not to say the problem is specific to console games. Riccitiello also lambasted the state of the mobile scene where the top of the charts are dominated by games built on the skeletons of previous hits. While he lauded the execution of some of those hits in polishing those ideas, he also called it demoralizing to see how common that is in game development. In the mobile space, specifically, he said the industry has "barely scratched the surface of the opportunity."

"There is too much 'I want to make that game, but I want to make it a little more this way or a little more that way,'" Riccitiello said. "Or 'Hey, maybe I can have five candies connect instead of three.' That just doesn't feel like enough."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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