The fear of creativity

It was not that long ago that I wrote the blog ‘Sandbox Games’. Now I learn that Microsoft has offered 2 billion for Mojang. 2 billion is not much when you say it fast, but the reality is that this is a massive amount of money, even with the ludicrous high taxation norm in Sweden, what is left with leave the man ‘Notch’ with an amazing amount of luxury time to come up with something new and unique. You see, visionaries like that cannot sit still. He might think he can, he might actually truly believe he can, but visionaries like Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriot and a few others never do. Now Swedish Markus Persson joins this group!

Some did not agree with my view given on September 5th, which is fine, but the facts seem to back me up. In the same story there was also an issue with subscriptions, and behold we see ‘World of Warcraft Loses 800,000 Subscribers in Three Months‘ (source: Gamespot), now let it be known that this fact was out before I wrote my blog, so I am not giving any weight to this. It is only my voice that claims that I did not see this until now. There is however another side in the article. It claims: “The company called the decline ‘seasonal’ and pointed out that the dip in subscribers was similar to what we saw in the second quarter of 2012, ahead of the release of World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria“, this is a fair enough answer for now, but overall Blizzard is not out of the woods yet, even though the nextgen versions of Diablo 3 are as wildly wanted as any other version they released, which makes for a quality long term dedicated relationship between Blizzard and their gaming fans. I feel the same way and hope on an additional Act 6, hopefully with the Necromancer and the Assassin.

There is another side to all this, at present several gamers are feeling the cold breath of Sony in several ways. First there is the change that only when online, can a person see his trophies, the port from PS3 to PS4 also came with losses, the gamers at large lost PlayStation Home, and it is such a coincidence that rumours from so many games places up to the days before the release of the PS4 have since gone quiet. Yet, recently Games industry dot biz gave us the following quote “Sony’s virtual world Home will close in Asia and Japan in March 2015, according to an announcement on the official Japanese site“. This has a few consequences down the road, because all you have bought, and all you buy now, will be utterly lost to you. So no more houses, no Harry Potter, no Hogwarts and a league of other items bought will at some point be lost.

We now see two issues:

  1. A console purchase might be temporary at best, and as this market evolved we see a move towards leasing, not buying games. I personally think that this is a dangerous development. We feel for that what we consider we own. Which means that this would enable places like Pirate Bay to grow vastly, even potentially in a exponential way, giving us a new issue, but mostly giving certain corporations new nightmares.
  2. The acquisition of Mojang (if it happens), could be the start of a new wave of indie developers (I really hope so). 99.8% will never have the visionary gene Mojang has, but those who do would soon be bought out and these amounts of money do tend to give the creativity gene the hyperactive status.

Finally I get to have a small go at Pirate Bay. I am no fan of theirs, if you like a movie, or soundtrack, you buy it! I have and lately I have not been able to, but that does not mean I am going all out with downloads. Yet, they could have other options; it seems to me that a large chunk of the population would not like certain steps to be taken to the public. IMPORTANT! Sony has not announced any changes outside of Asia/Japan, but is that such a far-fetched consideration?

I personally see these developments as dangerous for Microsoft/Sony. Yes they are NextGen, yet overall consider the success of Minecraft, people want a GOOD game, is that Google contraption (ouya) such a bad option? Ubisoft can go high-resolution all they want, but if people see their payments dwindle away, another issue will come knocking on their doors too. Ubisoft delivered, I think that it was partially because Watchdogs was new and on NextGen there was NOTHING, so there! Yet, this is not fair either. Yes, it has certain repetitiveness, not unlike the initial Assassins Creed, yet what came after (AC2 and AC2 brotherhood) was such an amazing leap forward, that it pardoned the mediocrity of AC Revelations and AC3 as they were to some degree ignored. This could also be the case for Watchdogs; whatever follows could set entirely new records (hopefully not dependable on cars all the time).

Because of my personal view of a failed Black Flag, I hold out for Unity at present, yet the initial views are a lot more interesting than any presentation of Black Flag EVER was. Yet, in Forbes magazine we see an additional view “If Far Cry 4 is anywhere as good as its predecessor”, and I agree. I kept away from Far Cry 3, for the mere reason that the original Far Cry on 360 was the worst game I played on that console, Far Cry 3 is not that. It had in my view a few issues, but nothing major. Far Cry 4 could set a new boundary and in gaming that is NEVER EVER a bad idea.

So where will gamers go to next? Well, that remains to be seen, but they tend to go where the games and the gaming value is. That part has been forgotten by both big boys Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo is picking up a little, yet the Google console could pick up a lot and they could do it a lot sooner too. Consider that a game like Minecraft can get any person to switch, now consider a treasure trove of great games, or even decently satisfying games. The CBM-64, Atari ST and CBM Amiga, three systems that have a league of quality history, that is even before we consider the early PC games, all waiting to be rediscovered by an entire generation of new players. With a system that can run it, independent developers who can re-engineer it and an eager audience ready to try and buy it.

System shock (1+2), Dungeon Master, Dungeon Keeper, Oidz, Eye of the Beholder, Ultima series, Wing Commander series and Lemmings (believe me, there will always be space for Lemmings). The list goes on and on. Giving it here will keep you needlessly busy for too many hours. I have played hundreds of them and I still smile thinking of some of them. If we could enjoy them in a system with 64Kb, why must we get pushed into impossible hardware requirements? Even today Fallout 3 and Oblivion have never lost their charm. Diablo 3 is another example, yes there is more graphics and resolution, yet both Diablo 1 and 2 have not lost their charm. It is clearly not just the resolution, but a basic form of gameplay that appeals to us.

As the gaming industry is pushing more and more to new micro transactional business models, it is within our grasp to push back and walk towards other solutions that is not about holding us ransom to a monthly fee. Yet, all is not fine there either. At present these monthly MMO’s are doing just fine, ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) with a little over 770,000 subscribers, millions of dollars come in on a monthly base, yet for how long? When the economy is good, many might not care, yet in the view of current developments, that revenue wire will become ever increasingly thinner, then what? At some point many will be forced to select 1-2 of their favourite games to continue, which leaves a gap soon enough, as the business model ‘fails’, or better stated, as the net income will not be in the area of acceptable numbers, what will these companies do then?

I stated it before, there is space if you change the premise of the player and change the options for play, be more fluidic. In my initial view it was a new mapping system, using established locations, but what else can be done? This is at the heart of many contemplations by gamers all over the world, this is partially (IMHO), because the new player tends to be smarter and is also more inclined to listen to their personal friends on social media, so 1-5 will drive the change of 25-100. It becomes a different issue, and if too many of these people are in the student budget ballpark, then the word ‘micro transactions’ will drive them away a lot faster. We will always have novelty moments with Unity (even though the main story line can be completed under 20 hours), Elder Scrolls Online, no one denies that, but the time that EVERYONE goes into the WOW mode is pretty much a given impossibility. I personally believe that WOW continues, not just because they are good (they are good, no one denies that), but the bulk continues because of the vested time they have on their characters. However, WOW is pretty much the only game that can rely on such a level of comfort, or make a claim anywhere near it.

I reckon that as No Man’s Sky develops, the eyes and ears will move more and more in that direction. The ‘promise’ of eternal gaming sandbox style is a lot more appealing than many realise, if you think I am wrong, then wonder why Microsoft is willing to pay 2 billion for a ‘basic’ looking game like Minecraft. Mojang got it just right and re-engineering a wannabe is a lot harder than shelling out 2 billion (Bill Gates likely found it in a jacket he brought to the dry cleaners).

This is the fear these larger players have, not that Minecraft is such a success, but the fear that 2-3 new indie developers have that one idea no one in the high income suits had thought of. Minecraft already represents a low billion and that is only at the start of nextgen gaming. As the game moves from system to system, that revenue will only increase, the secondary danger they fear is as the game is there on Nintendo and other consoles, the uniqueness of nextgen becomes smaller and smaller. A fear that only sounds more and more overwhelming as some regard the failure of Sims 4 and other established brands like Mass Effect are delayed until 2015, which could spell more consequences for the NextGen population, but none of this is new, so why come with this again?

Here we are not looking for the failing established brands (well not really), but the other side of the established makers, the indie developers are getting slowly but surely a new option to shine, as some issues by Sony and Microsoft have not been going forward, we see a growing interest of android development games. this we see (at http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/23/google-play-quarterly-app-revenue-more-than-doubled-over-past-year-thanks-to-games-freemium-apps/) where we see the title ‘Google Play Quarterly App Revenue More Than Doubled Over Past Year, Thanks To Games, Freemium Apps‘, now, I myself do not see my mobile as a gaming tool, but with the Chrome books and the Google ouya, we see a new player and his/her title is ‘gaming enabled’, a group that seems to have been forgotten by executives and gamers alike (myself partially included). Now look back at the games I mentioned earlier and now at the games that Rare developed for the N64. Games released between 1996 and 2003, some became the standard of excellent gaming. The N-64 original of Golden Eye is a lot better than the Wii remake and the Xbox had Time Splitters 3, but then they forgot to make a good compatible version for the 360. a host of games ignored, now ready for grabbing on low end consoles with the promise of great gaming, a premise the high end executives all forgot about.

This is a change in gaming that we had ignored!

We all seem to naturally want to move forward, but is such a step even affordable? Consider that there is a market going towards Christmas, many not able to scrap the coins together for Nextgen, yet the ouya with 3 games at $109 (the price of one nextgen game in Australia) is another matter. good business is where you find it (Robocop quote), that is a reality we have to face, the ‘better’ economy position for many is not getting released until past Q1 in 2015, so if you are an indie developer get used to creativity, because if you get that nice idea out into the open, there is a potential group of well over 100,000,000 gamers who cannot afford a nextgen system with an included game, especially if the android solution is set at 25%, it is an alternative to consider. A global population going the way of pragmatism, one good game is all they need.

This gets us back to my blog ‘The Toothless tiger‘, which I wrote last week (September 8th). I wrote “larger companies have been all about continuing a brand and less about the new idea, which makes indie developers the future (consider the massive success of Mojang with Minecraft), that is the streamline part all ignored“. I truly believe this, which makes the foundations of NextGen rather shaky as cash strapped developers will move towards an open android environment. It also gives us an interesting side effect. The larger players are so used to having the large pool of resources to drown in, that the limits of android will bring forth the old developers as they designed for Commodore and Atari. Games that are slim, sleek and possibly even decent bug free, which in turn gives waves of additional creativity. Will this come to pass? It seems a logical conclusion, but I am not sure. Personally I hope it will and I also hope we will see additional non-male developers, they can shine in this field just as easy as their male counterparts. Time will tell!

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