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The conversation that changed my rendered world! Part 5

Ponderings of a 30 year old gamer..

In this (my last blog on this subject) I will be talking about how one meeting changed my gaming life. I will go into how reflecting on the meeting with Guba in the pub and his views on gaming influenced me into writing this 5 part blog and also rethinking how I thought that the gaming industry was for gamers only.

So it has been about 2 months since my meeting in the pub and every now and again everything that was said keeps popping into my head, not only that but I keep seeing signs (not in a Bruce Willis Sixth Sense type of way) of Guba being right.
Let's look at some of the evidence that I have seen that shows the games industry changing course to a more casual, less dedicated market and the perfect example of this would be Eurocom who laid off 155 staff a few weeks back after launching a very unsuccessful PC and console game called 007 Legends. A lot of analysts blamed unrealistic deadlines set by their publisher but this also shows that publishers want more with less.

Social games can be made easier than 'normal' computer games and have a much wider audience and can of course self-publicise on such sites as Facebook and Twitter so no need for large advertising campaigns that cost a lot of money and if the game is not that good it may not have any effect on other sales. This can be seen with the fact that Eurocom have retained 50 of their former 200 plus work force and said they would now concentrate on developing games for mobile phones.

Eurocom keeping just 50 developers, being able to cut their work force to around a quarter of its former glory just shows that developing on mobile platforms is a lot easier and cost effective.

Even Facebook game developers are coming under pressure and seeing developers leaving Facebook to develop for mobile platforms (such as iOS and Android). Social gaming powerhouse Wooga announced that it now dedicates more of its workforce to making mobile games than social games. Wooga CEO Jens Begemann said "A year ago we only had 10 people working on mobile. Now it's over half of the 250-people company."

It just shows that even in this down turn in the global market no platform is immune to pressures of financial issues. It looks like in the social gaming market the mobile phone is going to be king as Begemann commented “We still see growth on Canvas [Facebook] and obviously it's still bigger, but the growth on mobile is extremely fast,"

It is not all smelling of roses in the phone market though as both Rubicon and Microsoft have recently found out. Rubicon, a UK developer for mobile platforms recently attacked Microsoft after his game (that cost £10,000) to port to Windows Phone 8 only made £52 in its opening week of sale.

Paul Johnson recently posted (and then deleted) in his blog “A week after release we have made the princely sum of £52 in sales, That’s not a typo. And despite this, and the fact that GBWG is one of only several halfway decent launch titles, Microsoft have confirmed they will not give us any promotional features or help us with visibility in any way.”

It shows that you cannot just make a game and expect it to sell well on the mobile platform, you need to choose the right one, and not only that but there has to be some marketing of the product to get it to start selling. Personally I see iOS (iPhone OS) as the best way to make money in the mobile games market.

All this said there have been a few well known developers that have come to the fray to support PC gaming, there are the likes of Peter Molyneux with 22Cans who have announced that they're going to create a new delightful reinvention of the god game. He can be seen in his videos saying his first port of call is PC, PC, PC. He has stated that his “first love” is for the PC but they are also developing for both the Apple Mac and iPad.

There were a lot of concerns from fans and backers (will discuss this later) that because it was getting developed for iPad that the game would be dumbed down and not worth backing or purchasing in the future and so all of the 22can’s team is drumming it home that the PC is what the game is going to be developed for first.

Second on the list is legendary game designer Chris Roberts who is now in the process of creating the very exciting Star Citizen. You may know Chris Robert from the older well-known space sim called Wing Commander. In a video he states that he is bringing back the PC, going to show off cutting edge PC graphics and that Star Citizen is a PC only game which will never appear on any other format.

Chris has drummed up around $7 million in funds to create this game. I personally think that this shows that there is a market for this type of game, which Chris’s passion for the PC gaming platform has helped get the funding that he has received and suggests that PC gaming is not dead.

Another space sim in the works is Elite: Dangerous. For those of you that don’t know about Elite you need to Google it. This game kept me fixated for years, and I mean years! I spend many a summer flying around in space either trading or killing but never getting bored.

David Braben who co-created the Elite game is now looking to revive Elite and has been working on and off on it for a number of years. You have no idea how much this excites me, a new Elite with everything that comes with it! Up to date graphics, more systems, and missions… everything that I have been waiting for!

Last of all Simon Roth who has promised to make a space RTS game that has been inspired by Dungeon Keeper (some of you might be old enough to remember or to have played this game). Simon has not been in the industry as long as Peter, David and Chris but is just as passionate about his game and looking at screenshots and videos I think that he has captured what Dungeon Keeper was all about, but in space and without demons (as far as I know at the moment).

All of the above games in development have one thing in common (apart from the fact that they are all on PC) is that they have all been crowd source funded. I’m a massive believer in this kind of funding and it has helped and still is helping a lot more people develop for gaming platforms without the influence of massive publishers dictating what they develop and also what they develop for.

Overall I think that large publishers are moving more towards developing for the mobile market, it's cheaper and you will see higher returns. David Braben talked in a video chat about how hard it is these days to do something different from the norm and how publishers do not want to hear about such games as Elite: Dangerous, also that all development of the latest Elite was funded out of the company with no outside help from publishers.

I can understand why publishers are a little apprehensive, if you look at publishing giant THQ it does not look rosy for them, almost bankrupt and fighting for their lives you can then see why publishers only want to part with their money with winning formulas and that one badly selling title can lead to near failure for the company, just look at Darksiders 2 for THQ, less than 1 million copies sold.

I think that PC games development is going back to its roots, well almost, I can see much smaller gaming studios focusing more on gameplay and content over graphics. Don’t get me wrong I still think that there will always be the Maxis and Valve within the industry but I just don’t see as many of them.

Games development is defiantly shifting towards a more focused development when it comes to developing for none social platforms such as PC gaming, I don’t think that we are going to see the churned out games we have in the past that have not done very well. I can however see the exact opposite for social games, they don’t have the large development costs that can be associated with AAA titles such as CoD or Sim City and if a game fails it is not millions down the pan and thousands of people out of a job, acceptable risk for publishers.

When I think about it PC gaming is not changing for the worse, but it is not for the better either.  Not having publishers taking risks on something new means that there is no innovation, and any innovation is going to happen is going to be either self-funded or crowd source funded (through the likes of Kickstarter) and they will be very few, I just hope that the games that are being made by Chris, David, Peter and Simon make the industry take note of what people want and hopefully they follow suit…