Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Sometimes even in the height of popularity and success we tend to lose our heads and say things that may sound logical at the time, but might foreshadow possible backfire.

From VentureBeat 

Peter Vesterbacka, whose companyRovio makes the immensely popular Angry Birds game, has a big vision for the future of mobile gaming 
Vesterbacka leads business development for Rovio, and he already outlined some of his vision earlier this week when Rovio announced $42 million in new funding led by Accel Partners. But he was even more expansive today, at a panel I moderated at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin. 
Innovation in gaming has clearly moved into mobile and social, Vesterbacka said, largely because those companies are more “nimble” — it’s easy to develop and release new content quickly. In fact, he said as mobile gaming (including games on tablet devices like the iPad) continues to grow, console games are “dying”. Vesterbacka scoffed at the traditional model where companies charge $40 to $50 for a game that’s difficult to upgrade. (Nokia’s Tero Ojanpera, who was also on the panel, countered that there’s still a place for consoles, because gamers aren’t going to plug tablet devices into their televisions.) 
Of course, those $40 and $50 games are more likely to bring substantial revenue than Angry Birds (which is available in a free version and one that costs 99 cents), and that seems more sustainable for companies spending a lot of money building high-quality games using cutting-edge technology. 
When it comes to the business model for mobile gaming, Vesterbacka acknowledged, “No one has figured it out yet.” But when a game can become as wildly popular as Angry Birds ( Rovio just announced that it has crossed 100 million downloads), Vesterbacka said there’s clearly a business opportunity. He added that the key for Rovio is to continue experimenting and not become attached to any particular model. 
By the way, when people talk about this trend, they often paint it as a competition between casual games like Angry Birds and the hardcore games found on the consoles. Vesterbacka said he’s tired of the phrase “casual games”. He complained that no one talks about “casual movies”, and he argued that an Angry Birds player can be just as involved and addicted as any other gamer — Vesterbacka said he has seen players throw their phone across the room when they din’t quite beat a level.

Here's where I have a problem with this statement;  Console gaming and mobile gaming are far too different to really be in competition with eachother.When mobile gaming can provide the same experiences for me as PC and Console gaming then that's when we're going to see some serious stuff, but as for now. Angry Birds is interesting content, and well made, but not exactly the "David" poised to take out the "Goliath" that is console gaming. Let's look at why Angry birds is popular.

  • Angry Birds has Arcade values.  
  • The game has a fair learning curve, and a simple to follow concept.
  •  Easy to learn, difficult to master.  
  • Different elements that make the game interesting like powerups and such
  • Constant upgrading makes the game seem endless in content 
  • Quality presentation with solid game mechanics.
  • The game has somewhat of an addictive nature amongst players
  • The game is Free or featured at a low cost 

Understand that the game is certainly not a casual game by any means, and it's rather on par with a lot of other games out there. In fact, this game has the building blocks of a good arcade game. It's on the same level as games like Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Pac Man. games like that. Now you see all this praise I have for the game, and you're probably wondering why I don't think that Angry Birds will be the game that signs the death warrant of the industry as we know it.

Well there are a number of different reasons why. Let's look at a few.

 For all it's praise games like AB have always existed on the PC end of the gaming spectrum. As one of many gamers who lived through the Newgrounds Boom of the early 00s, This kind of hits that "been there done that" territory, as games like this and catris are pretty common on sites like that. One hilarious story I can tell you is that one of my coworkers let me try the game on his phone and started boasting that I was addicted to the game, but in reality I was using it to kill time, and haven't really been jonesing to play the game since (Now Tetris is another story as that's my life long addiction that I'll never fully kick).

Console gaming still has way too many experiences that mobile gaming can't provide. Mobile gaming is made to be played in smaller bursts like say if we're in the waiting room, on lunch break, or just killing time. If we want longer experiences we put our phones away and go for our handheld systems - Gameboys, PSPs, DS or soon enough 3DSs. When we're at home we go to our Consoles or PCs for gaming, and even then there are experiences there that cannot be duplicated on the mobile end as of yet. I can't very well play Wii sports baseball on an Ipad or mobile phone because I can't see the screen while I'm swinging the phone. sliding my finger in an arc path to hit the ball is somewhat of a workaround, but I'm clearly not getting the same out of the mobile version as I am the console version.

Scoffing at the console busines model seems kind of silly, as everything is meant to be learned from. Console games aren't easily upgradable, but that's kind of why sequels were important. you're providing things you couldn't the first time around while also giving the user more content to warrant a purchase. Sure you're offering a game that's free or a dollar for purchase with multiple upgrades, and are letting ad revenue cover it, but how long is that really going to last? If we believe that all trends have life cycles then it's only a matter of time before something else pops up and customers move on. It's best to worry about your own long term future than boasting the death of someone else's long term future.

These statements are almost curiously similar to the PC vs Console sentiment towards the beginning of the NES's lifecycle. People believed that console gaming was dead and Personal Computers were the way to go, because they provide so many different things other than just gaming. It's about as silly as believing that PC gaming is dying every generation, and yet both Console gaming and PC gaming have hung on and have grown in many ways.

Mobile gaming only provides single player experiences. No matter how strong processors get, no matter if the ability to move games from tablets and ipads to tv happens there still is that boundary of getting multiple people to enjoy a game together. If this generation has taught us anything it's that local multiplayer is just as important as online multiplayer, and if that's something that mobile gaming cannot provide then it's surely not poised to kill off anything. Let alone console gaming.

So ultimately all I'm saying is that let's not get ahead of ourselves. Angry Birds is a quality product, and worth the praise it gets, but it's certainly not going to end consoles as we know it. Believing that hype is only going to make you look foolish if things actually go the opposite way. It's just best for us to stay positive about our successes and look to the past in order to find a way to achieve more success in the future.

 Arrogance never ends well for most people especially if there's very little to back up the claim.

Game on!

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