Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A pivotal time in gaming!

I just spent the past four years focused on the development of DS games. There were a few occasions when I worked on some game designs for the Wii, 360, and even PS3, but it always came back to the DS in the end for one reason or another. Renegade Kid’s fourth game, ATV Wild Ride, is coming out very soon, and our fifth DS game, codenamed Smoke, will be released in the summer of 2011. Also, as you may already know, our first 3DS title, Face Kart: Photo Finish, is coming in the fall of this year.

Now, the question is: what should we develop for next? The DS market is coming to the end of its life. Not much point in devoting many future plans there. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to continue developing games for the DS. But, publisher’s interest in the platform is decreasing fast. The 3DS is about to start its life, and everyone seems very excited about it. There’s also the iPhone and Android. Those devices are providing a rather large outlet for gaming. And then, there’s still the 360 and PS3 of course. But, to be honest, developing a multi-million dollar “next-gen” game seems a little too far to stretch right now. I realize I didn’t list the PSP, because that market has been in trouble since it started. It will be interesting to hear about what the PSP2 is all about. If it too is a gaming device and phone, it may do well, or it may fail next to the 3DS, iPhone, and Android. But hey, I guess it’s possible the PSP2 could trump them all! We’ll find out soon.

This is a pivotal time in gaming. There are many options to choose from for developers; too many perhaps? There are many platforms to develop for, many business models to consider, and many different audiences wanting to play different types of games. In the last round, the Wii and DS both provided affordable markets for smaller publishers to make a profit. Due to those platforms being family-friendly and casual, parents and kids purchased a ton of value priced garbage for those platforms, which fueled the creation of even more value priced garbage. And now, you look at the Wii and DS shelves in Target and Walmart and you see tons of games that you’ve never heard of. The number of games that are released and never reviewed in magazines or gaming sites is tremendously high. I have never witnessed this on a console before. Publishers knew that game reviews of their games had little impact on sales – a crazy concept – but, it makes sense when your audience is primarily people who don’t visit video-game websites or buy video-game magazines. It’s shocking stuff, really.

Now, with the Wii (nearly) seemingly gone, are publishers going to continue trying to milk the Wii market? After all, the primary audience of the Wii is not interested in forking out $250 for a new console when they already have one that works just fine. The Wii might be classified in the same way a casual player views their DVD player, and as such, they might expect to hold onto their Wii for another five years. The Wii does have a remote, just like their DVD, after all. Is it possible that Wii sales can continue that long? Or, will it quickly die with its’ customers going to iPhone, Kinect, and 3DS? 2011 will tell us.

The DS is definitely going away, of course. Its older brother, the Nintendo 3DS, is on its way and will overshadow any DS efforts publishers may have for 2012. 2011, on the other hand, still has a shot at making some profit from DS sales – especially this Christmas. So, what is a small publisher to do for 2012? If the Wii and DS options are gone, the natural choice may look like the 3DS. But, is the 3DS a Wii or is it a DS in terms of retail and budgetary concerns? The problem is that it is neither a Wii nor a DS, and yet it is both at the same time. Really, if you had to choose one that the 3DS resembles the most, it would be the DS. It is a handheld with two screens. I’m sure it will be very confusing for the execs whose job it is to mitigate risk, and such. The 3DS presents the development cost of (nearly) the Wii for a handheld console, which have always been considered “lite” gaming devices. From that perspective, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to invest Wii budgets into a DS market. In fact, it is starting to sound more like the PSP financial dilemma that turned many publishers away from it. I find all of this quite fascinating. The good news is that all publishers are clamoring to get 3DS titles out, so let’s hope this pushes through the barrier of executive concern and lands us nicely on easy street in 2012. :)

Alright, that’s enough waffling for today. I hope you’re having a great day. TTYL.