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Online title crowding is "huge problem" - Emergent

Middleware company's VP Katie Morgan expresses concern for smaller developers

The VP for sales and marketing at middleware company Emergent, Katie Morgan, has expressed her concern at the ever-increasing numbers of titles available for digital distribution platforms, particularly with reference to the lack of visibility that games from some smaller developers are experiencing.

"I think it's a huge problem," she told in an interview at this year's Game Connection event in Lyon. "What we've seen at retail over the last five years, maybe more, will happen to the downloadable store front, so to speak - more content available than there is virtual shelf space."

Her warning comes at a time when all three next-gen consoles have maturing platforms for smaller, less costly to develop titles, but also at a time when Xbox Live Arcade - as the longest-standing such service - is coming under fire for overcrowding.

"Over the last couple of years on the downloadable platforms it's evident that the merchandising is starting to suffer," she said. "Right now, because it's being controlled by the first parties it doesn't have... at retail we use market development funds, and we fight for it - the marketing itself become a profit centre.

"You haven't seen that happen with the first parties yet, but clearly relationships drive the marketing and slotting - you can get advice in terms of when not to launch your game because of other launches... it starts feeling a lot like old retail relationships, so it's very hard to know how to get a game with an original IP to stand out.

"I think that first party is doing its job of trying to keep a level playing field, with banner rotations and merchandising opportunities, but the reality is that you've still got a chance of going up against the latest download from Rock Band, or whatever."

And she sounded a further note of caution for people believing that consumers considered such download investments separately to digitally downloaded games.

"A lot of the developers believe that it's not the same money, that it's not the same buyer - but I think they get a little lost in their own passion," she said. "Because the consumer is - they'll come along and see what's up there today, what's new, and their favourite song just came on for Guitar Hero... that's what just got their dollar.

"So I think that's tough. I really want to see a way to corral the energy and passion of those developers, there's got to be a way - there's got to be an iTunes model out there that lets everybody get their stuff up in front of people, and sold and merchandised."

The full interview with Katie Morgan is available now.

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