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Hawkins: Apple and Nintendo changed business, for worse

EA founder and Digital Chocolate CEO sounds off at dev licences, App Store

Trip Hawkins, founder of EA and CEO of Digital Chocolate, took digs at both Apple and Nintendo during his a session at GDC last week, telling listeners that Apple was over-stimulating supply to the App Store and bemoaning the introduction of development licences by Nintendo.

The rant was part of a 'Social Developers Rant Back' session at the San Francisco event, which also featured luminaries Brenda Brathwaite, Scott Jon Siegel and Chris Hecker.

During his ten minute section, Hawkins rounded on Apple for over-crowding the market place, effectively dis-encouraging quality development for the platform by not helping to promote good titles well enough.

"A few months ago the local newspaper here had a story about what an incredible job Apple was doing, and isn't Apple amazing - they generate a billion dollars in revenue for developers," Hawkins recalled.

"They do such a great job for developers! And that's not all, Apple customers are happy because they have 250,000 applications to choose from, isn't that incredible?

"C'mon. If you're a self respecting journalist, how can you go to sleep without bothering to do the math? You take a billion dollars, you divide it by a quarter million you get... $4000 dollars each. Do you see the problem with that? That doesn't even pay for a really good Fussball table!

"So we have these platforms where there's too much supply, and then everybody wonders why there's a discovery problem but they can't leverage that because there's no curation. How is anyone supposed to find out what's good? How are they supposed to find it? How is anybody supposed to be able to scale?"

The session was a largely light hearted affair with some serious messages behind it, but Hawkins was the only speaker to address the concrete issues of the supply chain for social and mobile developers.

"Some of these platforms are really tough, for a whole variety of reasons. If you can't figure out how to make a healthy eco-system, it's not going to be a great business for developers to be employed in," Hawkins continued.

"This is what we need to be concerned about if we want to deliver great experiences for the public and be able to unleash our creativity."

Apple wasn't the only target for Hawkins' anger, either. The executive also berated Nintendo for its introduction, many years ago, of the concept of development licences for hardware, which Hawkins believes put the nail in the coffin of free and open development.

"We used to have a free and open games business, and then Nintendo came along and introduced a thing called a licence agreement. There's a whole lot of companies these days that have basically copied that model. How's that going for us? Well, let's take a look.

"It might be okay if the markets are really growing. There are, for example, a lot of Android devices being sold, but how about revenue on the platform, how much is that growing? Not very much.

"Some of these platforms are actually shrinking in terms of customer activity and revenue, and that's really concerning. So if we're gonna get involved in a community ourselves and chose a platform, these platforms have a tremendous responsibility to grow their market fast enough to justify our support."

The full transcript of Hawkins' rant is available in the blog section. More transcripts from the session are coming later this week.

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Dan Pearson