It appears that the Ouya is going to be a bit delayed.
This is good news though, as it is being delayed because the console developers have more cash to spend on it, $15m more to be precise.
Ouya already raised around $7m on Kickstarter, and now, when it should be taking its last steps towards completion, it has had almost twice as much more injected into it by lovely venture capitalists.
We were expecting the console in early June, but that has slid back to 25 June. The time and money will in part be used to solve an issue with sticky buttons, something that usually only happens once consumers have taken some hardware home with them.
The money comes from venture capital firms and other companies including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Nvidia, Shasta Ventures, and Occam Partners. KPCB’s general partner Bing Gordon will join the Ouya board of directors as a result.
“We want Ouya to be here for a long time to come,” said Julie Uhrman, Ouya founder and CEO.
“The message is clear: people want Ouya. We first heard this from Kickstarter backers who provided more than $8 million to help us build Ouya, then from over 12,000 developers who have registered to make an Ouya game, next from retailers who are carrying Ouya online and soon on store shelves, and now from top pioneering investors.”
Gordon is in charge of digital investments at KPCB and is a veteran of the games industry, having started at Electronic Arts in 1982.
“Ouya’s open source platform creates a new world of opportunity for established and emerging independent game creators and gamers alike,” he said.
“There are some types of games that can only be experienced on a TV, and Ouya is squarely focused on bringing back the living room gaming experience. Ouya will allow game developers to unleash their most creative ideas and satisfy gamers craving a new kind of experience.”
Ouya consoles should start arriving in living rooms on 25 June. If you want one, you are going to have to come up with around $100 dollars, plus another $50 dollars if you want two controllers.
Anonymous has restarted its attack against North Korea and once again is using a North Korean Twitter account to announce website scalps.
The Twitter account @uriminzok was the scene of announcements about the hacked websites during the last stage of Op North Korea, and reports have tipped up there again.
The first wave of attacks saw a stream of websites defaced or altered with messages or images that were very much not in favour of the latest North Korean hereditary leader, Kim Jong-un.
They were supported by a Pastebin message signed by Anonymous that called for some calming of relations between North Korea and the US, and warned of cyber attacks in retaliation.
“Citizens of North Korea, South Korea, USA, and the world. Don’t allow your governments to separate you. We are all one. We are the people. Our enemies are the dictators and regimes, our goals are freedom and peace and democracy,” read the statement. “United as one, divided by zero, we can never be defeated!”
Before the attacks restarted, the last Twitter message promised that more was to come. It said, “OpNorthKorea is still to come. Another round of attack on N.Korea will begin soon.” Anonymous began delivering on that threat in the early hours this morning.
More of North Korean websites are in our hand. They will be brought down.
— uriminzokkiri (@uriminzok) April 15, 2013
We’ve counted nine websites downed, defacements and hacks, and judging by the stream of confirmations they happened over a two hour period. No new statement has been released other than the above.
— uriminzokkiri (@uriminzok) April 15, 2013
Downed websites include the glorious uriminzokkiri.com, a North Korean news destination. However, when we tried it we had intermittent access.
Last time around the Anonymous hackers had taken control of North Korea’s Flickr account. This week we found the message, “This member is no longer active on Flickr.”
A cyberattack campaign, dubbed #OpIsrael by hacking group Anonymous failed to bring down the Israeli government websites over the weekend.
Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, of the government’s National Cyber Bureau said that while the attack did take place, it did hardly any damage. Ben Yisrael said that Anonymous lacked the skills to damage the country’s vital infrastructure. And if that was its intention, then it wouldn’t have announced the attack before hand.
“It wants to create noise in the media about issues that are close to its heart,” he said, as quoted by the Associated Press news agency.
Posters using the name of the hacking group Anonymous had warned they would launch a massive attack on Israeli sites in a strike they called #OpIsrael starting April 7. Last week, a leading hacker going by the handle of “Anon Ghost” said that “the hacking teams have decided to unite against Israel as one entity…Israel should be getting prepared to be erased from the Internet,” according to Israeli media reports.
Israel’s Bureau of Statistics was down on Sunday morning but it was unclear if it was hacked. Defense and Education Ministry as well as banks had come under attack the night before but the security shrugged it off.
Anonymous did have a crakc at the stock market website and the Finance Ministry website but no one there noticed.
Where Anonymous was successful was when it targeted small business. Some homepage messages were replaced with anti-Israel slogans, media said. Israeli hackers hit sites of radical Islamist groups and splashed them with pro-Israel messages.
Ouya, the open Android-based console designed by Yves Behar, is being shipped to its Kickstarter backers today, and the company officially announced this week at GDC that it will hit retailers in the US, UK and Canada on June 4. Ouya is promising “hundreds” of titles for the June 4 release and the $99 console will be available at Amazon, Best Buy, GAME, GameStop, Target, and the store on OUYA.tv. Additional controllers will be sold for $49.99. And for digital purchases, consumers will be able to get pre-paid cards with redeemable codes at retail if they wish.
The company said that over 8,000 game developers worldwide are currently developing games, including both up-and-comers and more well known game makers like Square Enix, Double Fine Productions, Tripwire Interactive, Vlambeer, Phil Fish’s Polytron Corporation, and Kim Swift’s Airtight Games. “The majority of devs so far are experienced devs who’ve never built an Android game before. About 1 out of 5 have never even built a game before,” Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman said that at the GDC unveiling. She boasted that Ouya “already has more titles a couple months before launch than any console has ever launched with.”
The Ouya hardware itself is even smaller than we had previously thought (think Rubik’s Cube or smaller), and its sleek design and brushed aluminum is pleasing to the eye. Uhrman, however, stressed the controller more than anything else. “What we spent the most amount of time on is the controller. We really want this to be our love letter to gamers,” she said, adding that Ouya focused on the ergonomics, the weight, the feel, and wanted it to be a precise, accurate controller. “This is one of the pieces of Ouya that evolved a lot based on early supporter feedback,” she continued.
Apparently, the feedback led to numerous changes on the controller in terms of button placement, and the style of d-pad. The team found out that many preferred a cross-style d-pad than a disc because it’s superior for fighting games. Also, the engineers retooled the tension of the analogs and the design of shoulder buttons. And Ouya even made the responsiveness and speed of the center touch pad customizable. In this journalist’s hands, it felt comfortable and familiar while playing a few titles.
After showing off the hardware, Uhrman dived into the user interface of Ouya. The whole UI is incredibly streamlined, with four categories and an apps-like layout. The four categories are Play, Discover, Make, and Manage (which is for settings). Play is simply where anything you’ve downloaded – games or music or video apps – will be placed. Discover is the store, and it’s been designed to encourage people to “find the best games.” For example, sub-selections in Discover include featured channels like Go Retro, Hear Me, Genres, and Sandbox. The plan is to offer more descriptive names for games within genres.
“The way games get exposed in the genre list is based on what we call the O-rank, which is our fun algorithm. It’s how we rank great games. A lot of app platforms today use downloads as a metric or they use revenue as a metric and we don’t think that’s a good way to say if it’s a good game,” Uhrman said. “You could download a game and never play it again. And with the free-to-try model, revenue isn’t necessarily the best model either. What is [a good metric] is what proves that the game is fun, and that’s engagement. So things like how long you have played a game, how many times you’ve played that game over a certain period of time. How quickly from the time you boot up Ouya, which is an always-on device, do you play that game… It’s those types of engagement metrics that we think prove it’s a fun game.”
Another interesting area within Discover is Sandbox, which offers developers an opportunity to put builds up and ask people to thumb it up. The idea is for great games to get out of the Sandbox and be searchable and merchandized. It encourages developers to market their games and promote them to fans. Once you get out of Sandbox you know the people next to you have great quality games, Uhrman explained.
The Make channel is an area that appears to still be in flux. Uhrman said the goal is to serve two audiences, gamers and developers, equally. While Make is a place where a developer can upload early builds, over time it’ll be a place for devs to communicate with fans. “We also can grow it to be, what if you want to make a game, here’s how to market a game, etc. We’ll look to devs and gamers for feedback on how to evolve the section,” Uhrman said.
A console that’s as open as Ouya should have a fairly simple submission process for developers right? Uhrman confirmed that it’s not overly complicated and should be something most can complete within an hour. “It’s something we thought a lot about given that we’re an open platform… but we wanted to make sure that there are good quality games, at least to the extent that it was optimized to the television and for the controller. So the guidelines isn’t necessarily a quality review, but it checks if there’s malware, does it break or freeze often, does it use our controller schema in the right way, we need to make sure there’s no IP infringement, no pornography, does it elicit real-world violence, you are who you say you are kind of thing – that’s the review. We try to keep it under an hour. Developers can choose to go live immediately or they can choose a certain time,” she detailed.
Curiously, there’s been no partnership reached with the ESRB to rate the games in North America. Right now, the games will be self-rated by devs and community reviewed. Given that Ouya is being sold in mainstream retail, however, we do have to wonder if this will pose potential problems for the company in an atmosphere where some people are still pointing fingers at violent video games. “We’ll take it as it comes; right now we want to expose great content from any type of developer and we do have the thumbs-up/like feature or the report if this is abuse on the system,” responded Uhrman, adding that “We basically say that we can change the rules at any time and we can reject the game for any reason that doesn’t fit our content guidelines – we want everybody on Ouya to have a great experience.”
Ratings aside, one of the big questions surrounding Ouya is whether or not it can truly carve out a market for itself in the console space as industry veterans Sony and Microsoft prepare to launch their respective next-generation systems. The games we saw on Ouya are not graphically intense and are very indie in nature. Can Ouya handle high fidelity triple-A releases? Or does it even need to in order to get noticed?
Ouya does has a partnership with OnLive, so that’s one way to get triple-A games. “That’s one solution. We also support 1080p, hi-def… and we have a USB port so someone can add an external hard drive, so for games that are heavy you could absolutely use that. We have a max download size of 1.2GB for the first download, but as a developer if you want to add and send additional content from your servers you can,” Uhrman said.
“Traditional games take longer to develop, and we have some of those in development that we’re really excited about. Ouya is not about the number of polygons on the screen,” Uhrman acknowledged. “That’s not where we went. We wanted to have innovative and creative exclusive content, and we’re already starting to see that.”
Exclusive content plus a very appealing $99 price point is what could make the system an easy impulse buy for many gamers Uhrman believes. Moreover, Uhrman noted that most core gamers tend to purchase more than one console, so Ouya is likely to be something they’ll want to buy even if they are getting a PS4.
“Ouya offers something different; every gamer has a different expectation depending upon the platform and we believe we’re going to have innovative, creative games and exclusive games to Ouya… And the barrier to entry at just $99 where every game is free-to-try, I think opens up the opportunity for a number of gamers, even core gamers. Core gamers on average own more than one console. We don’t really think it’s an either/or situation. We’re offering something different – I think they’re going to want Ouya too,” she said.
A number of traditional consoles in the past have launched selling at a loss. Since Ouya is built with off the shelf components, it may be easier to contain costs, but Uhrman wouldn’t confirm that each unit is sold at a profit. “We’re really comfortable with our business model,” is all she would say.
That said, if things go the way Uhrman would like, this is only the beginning. Ouya will continue to evolve its software and hardware, and the hardware is likely to get refreshed quickly.
“We’re like any other software platform that iterates and grows over time, and we’ll have a hardware refresh rate more similar to a mobile refresh rate than a console refresh rate because we want to take advantage of the best chips out there and falling commodity prices. We will certainly make sure that there’s enough content that’s optimized for that chip and we don’t push on higher prices to the consumer,” she said.
Does that mean some Ouyas in future will not be compatible with certain games? Uhrman is looking to avoid that scenario. “We have a plan where all content will be compatible with future Ouya systems; we don’t want to fragment our own market for developers, and we always want gamers to have a great experience,” she commented.
Ouya will be interesting to watch. It’s a bold move for the industry and everything we’ve seen so far is completely unconventional. Whether or not that will pay dividends in the long-run is hard to judge at this point in time. “The market is calling us the ‘un-console’ and we like doing things the ‘un-way’,” Uhrman remarked.
Mac owners will get to play the upcoming release of BioShock Infinite, thanks to Aspyr Media. Aspyr will be handling the Mac conversion, as well as the marketing of the Mac version of the game.
While the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of BioShock Infinite will arrive on March 26th, the Mac conversion does not have a specific release date beyond its planned arrival at some point this summer.
The news really isn’t that surprising, as BioShock Infinite looks to be one of the biggest titles to be released this year; and, of course, Aspyr should do well with a Mac conversion of the game.
A federal jury found that video game company Nintendo infringed an inventor’s 3-D display technology patent with its handheld 3DS video game system. The jury awarded the inventor, Seijiro Tomita, $30.2 million in compensatory damages.
The technology involved provided 3-D images without the need for 3-D glasses. Last month Tomita’s attorney, Joe Diamante, told the jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that Nintendo used technology that Tomita developed for its 3DS. Tomita worked for Sony.
Nintendo said that 3DS doesn’t use key aspects of Tomita’s patent and added that a 2003 meeting with Nintendo officials that Tomita cited in his argument was merely one of several the company held with vendors selling 3-D display technology. Lindvall declined to comment following the verdict. Nintendo officials were not immediately available for comment.
Several Sony stores in the US have discounted the 3G PlayStation Vita by $100, with some branches asserting that it’s because the 3G machine is due to be discontinued.
A news story at Joystiq discovered the price cut, which extends to many but not all of the Sony stores in the US. Wi-Fi only models have not been discounted.
Sony employees from Denver, Las Vegas and New Jersey told Joystiq that the model is being taken off the market, but others were uncertain. Nobody was able to say whether the model would be replaced by a 4G machine or if we’d only see Wi-Fi only Vitas in the future.
The 3G package, which includes an 8GB memory card and a PSN voucher now costs $199.97 and comes with a data plan contract – which would seem to run contrary to any discontinuation rumours. However, if a 4G Vita is in the works, continuing data plan deals with networks would make more sense.
Sony has been contacted for clarification on the story and whether any price cut will become global.
Sony announced its Playstation 4 console last month, with most of the firm’s event devoted to the AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) that will drive the console. Now Nvidia has said that despite its chips not powering Sony’s next generation games console, games developers programming for the console can use its Physx technology.
Nvidia’s Physx technology is a physics library that works on PCs and current generation consoles. It’s no longer limited to the firm’s own GPUs, meaning that AMD’s APU can execute Physx code properly, though perhaps Nvidia would argue slower than its own chips.
Aside from Nvidia’s Physx software, the firm’s Apex SDK also boasts support for the Playstation 4. Nvidia’s Apex is a set of tools that allows games designers to rapidly develop models and interactive game content. Mike Skolones, product manager for Physx at Nvidia said, “Great physics technology is essential for delivering a better gaming experience and multiplatform support is critical for developers. With Physx and Apex support for Playstation 4, customers can look forward to better games.”
Nvidia still wants games developers to use its tools despite not being in at least two of the three next generation games consoles, because it gives the firm a chance for its desktop graphics cards to win benchmarks when games are ported to the PC.
Since Sony decided to keep it simple and talk about games and everything except the actual hardware inside the Playstation 4, AMD’s John Taylor not only decided to write a blog post and elaborate on it, but also gave quite a good hint on what we can expect in the near future.
First of all, we noticed that John Taylor, previously working as Director of GBU Marketing has now become the Vice President of Global Communications and Industry Marketing at AMD, so we are quite sure that we will see quite a few interesting things from him down the road. In case you missed it, John Taylor was leading the product communications at AMD from 2006, before joining the GBU marketing team.
Although he does not reveal any precise details regarding the APU itself, John did shed some light calling it a semi-custom APU. As you already know, an APU is a single chip that combines the CPU And GPU with various system elements including memory controllers, specialized video decoders, display outputs and similar things. What makes it interesting is the actual level of customization that can be done for customers that have a very specific demands.
If you read between the lines, it is quite clear that the APU inside the Playstation 4 will not be the last custom part will see. It pretty much all but confirms that AMD has scored the Xbox Next win as well completing the “Holy Trinity” of consoles. The customization might be an interesting deal as it also means that Xbox Next APU might be a bit different than the one found in the PS4. Of course, it could still end up with the same AMD Jaguar CPU cores that are the main part of the PS4 APU probably the similar GPU part but with such a level of customization, anything is possible.
AMD’s VP of Global Communciations ans Industry Marketing, John Taylor, finished its blog post with quite an interesting line stating that this is going to be a very exciting year for gamers, especially for those with AMD hardware in their PCs and consoles as AMD has even more game-changing announcements still to come.
The fact that Sony didn’t show the actual PlayStation 4 hardware at the press conference yesterday has met with more than a little wonder. The company did show off the new DualShock 4 controller, but didn’t show even a mock-up of the final PS4 console, and this has made many question Sony’s decision to announce the PS4 at all.
Sony will apparently debut the actual PS4 hardware in June at E3, according to a number of sites on the Internet. This seems to be logical, because if Sony doesn’t have it finished by then they have little hope in producing enough to make the launch for this holiday season.
The delay of the actual hardware showing as well as lack of pricing details has presented an interesting dilemma for retailers that are anxious to start taking pre-orders. GameStop, for example, has announced that PowerUp Rewards members can join what they are calling the “PS4 First to Know List,” which will give members the latest information on the PS4 and PS4 related titles as well as the all-important pre-order details when they become available. While getting on the list does not guarantee you a PS4, it does at least make sure that you should be in the loop when the retailer expects to start taking pre-orders for the PS4.
Sony will be ending the free online lunch with the launch of the PlayStation 4. As we have been suspecting for a long time, Sony will be moving to a subscription model just like Microsoft with Xbox Live Gold.
According to our sources, just like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, PlayStation 4 users will be locked out of the majority of the good stuff without a subscription. The subscription service is expected to be called PlayStation World, according to our sources. Like Xbox Live, it is suspected that updates to both the console and PS4 games will be free.
What is not clear about Sony’s new strategy is if similar to Microsoft, it will restrict access to third party services like Netflix behind this subscription model; or whether Sony will stick to just the online features that are directly related to the console, such as online play and perhaps the compatibility streaming that has been talked about.
All eyes will be on Sony next week, as the company intends to show the world the future of the PlayStation business during a New York press event. While we get a glimpse of the upcoming PS4 hardware, it’ll be interesting to see what Sony does to keep consumers invested in its current PS3. It’s likely that a price drop will be announced either at the February 20th event or shortly thereafter.
In fact, analyst Michael Pachter believes we should expect a PS3 price cut in the near future, he tersely responded, “February 21st.” In a second email, he told us that it should come down to $199 and that Microsoft will probably match that price on Xbox 360 by this year’s E3.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that PS3 will see a price cut next week, but it’s certainly a safe bet that Sony will cut the MSRP before the PS4 hits the market. Sony’s strategy thus far has been to bundle in more games and bigger hard drives, and the company briefly sold PS3 bundles for the low price of $199 during last year’s Black Friday period. Most bundles now are selling for $299 (there’s a $269 Uncharted 3 bundle) but it wouldn’t surprise us to see a $50 cut and new bundles soon, especially with God of War: Ascension coming in March and The Last of Us in June.
Anonymous goes after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website after its president called for an internal investigation into what role it played in the prosecution of web activist Aaron Swartz.
MIT president Rafael Reif revealed the investigation in an email to staff that he sent out after hearing the news about Swartz’s death.
“I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy,” he wrote.
“I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.”
Hacktivists from Anonymous defaced two MIT webpages in the wake of the announcement and turned them into memorials for Swartz.
The defacements also had another message, that the government should back away from this kind of prosecution.
“Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” they wrote.
“We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.”
Swartz was accused of downloading research documents from academic service JSTOR and using MIT’s networks to do so. If he had been found guilty, he could have been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison.
JSTOR has said that it regrets having been drawn into the case.
Symantec thinks that it has tracked down the people behind the recently discovered Internet Explorer zero-day vulnerability.
The firm says that the zero-day exploit appears to have been discovered by the Elderwood group and is a continuation of its Elderwood project, a name given to attacks and exploits based on the same infrastructure components.
The exploit is used in what is called a Watering hole attack, a system whereby people with a specific interest are targeted after visiting a particular website.
It has a less snappy, but more precise name thanks to Microsoft and this is the Microsoft Internet Explorer ‘CDwnBindInfo’ Use-After-Free Remote Code Execution Vulnerability (CVE-2012-4792).
Symantec informs us that this is a zero-day vulnerability that affects Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 6, adding that the Elderwood project has what appears to be “a high level of technical capability,” in a PDF about the group.
The security firm is confident in saying that the group is behind this discovered exploit because of a number of commonalities that it has discovered in the SWF files used. It warned that the group might continue to devise sophisticated exploits over the course of the year.
“All the samples we identified include a function named HeapSpary. HeapSpary is a clear mistyping of Heap Spray, a common attack step used in vulnerability exploitation. In addition to this commonality, there are many other symbols in common between the files,” Symantec said.
“It has become clear that the group behind the Elderwood Project continues to produce new zero-day vulnerabilities for use in watering hole attacks and we expect them to continue to do so in the New Year.”
There is no “perfect answer” to doing business with video games. Let’s call a halt to the pointless “zero-sum” debates that blighted 2012
A day in which you learn nothing is a day wasted; by which standard, a year in which we learned nothing would be a pointless waste of time indeed. It’s worth, as 2012 draws to a close (all that’s left now is the few days of indulgence before the year, in harmony with our waistbands, croaks its last), thinking about what we’ve learned. What did 2012 teach us that we did not before? Never mind, for a moment, the money we earned or lost, the games we played or made; did we grow? Did we advance? Did we learn?
From a business standpoint, certainly, we learned a great deal. 2012 cemented the place of mobile in the gaming ecosystem, forcing all but the most ardent refuseniks (so Nintendo and… er… that’s about it) to recognise mobile as an important part of their business – and even those who were slow to react to the rise of mobile gaming seem determined not to be left behind as tablets gain steam, with 2012 having shown us pretty clearly that the iPad and its myriad imitators are on track to become the primary data device of many consumers in the coming years.
We also learned some things – although not enough, I reckon – about where price points are heading. Freed of the artificial barriers to entry which define console platforms and physical retail, the App Store and Google Play have shown us where prices for digital content will inevitably trend towards – zero. In 2012, more entertaining, successful games than ever before launched at the princely price point of absolutely nothing. Plenty of others didn’t debut at far above 99p, and several of my favourite games of the year would have given me change from a £10 note. Free to play, with all that it entails, remains in its infancy, but is clearly going to be with us for the long haul; hopefully 2013 might be the year when the industry stops having ill-tempered hissy fits about this fact, and starts engaging with making F2P work better rather than loudly and pointlessly damning or exalting it at every turn.
That, perhaps, is a reasonable lead-in to something that I don’t think we learned this year, as an industry – we didn’t learn to stop being afraid of zero-sum games that don’t really exist. Discussions about mobile gaming, even among supposed professionals and experts, often descend into abject ridiculousness due to an insistence that mobile games will come to replace all other kinds of games, or that they are doomed to be a cynical, low-quality niche – neither of which position stands up to the slightest moment of intellectual scrutiny. The same applies to the vitriolic arguments about free-to-play which have washed over and back across 2012 like a stinking, polluted tide – when one side insists that everything will eventually be F2P, and the other insists that F2P is intrinsically evil and wrong, you’re no longer dealing with professional debate, but with dumb fanaticism.
I’m not saying, by the way, that we should all be cautious fence-sitters – there’s no virtue to sitting on the fence simply because it’s comfortable. Strong beliefs are good, but meaningless unless tempered by reason and fact. The fact is that cinema did not kill theatre, television did not kill cinema, video games have yet to viciously murder books, home recording did not kill music and video did not kill the radio star. Media and entertainment industries are ecosystems that accommodate an extraordinary range of different kinds of product and different business models – and that is not ever going to change. The idea that one form of entertainment, one form of business model or even one form of distribution will emerge to Rule Them All, is simply an idiot’s fantasy.
I say that with absolute confidence, not just because it is supported by countless years of history and the sheer wealth of culture and entertainment they have bequeathed to us, but because I recognise where the belief springs from. It’s the unique curse and blessing of the games industry that it teems with “left-brained” people – logical, analytical, mathematical, and quite different from the “right-brained” people who often dominate other creative industries. Video games were born with both feet firmly in the sphere of technology, only gradually moving to straddle the worlds of both technology and art – a marriage which is superbly creative but often fraught, as evidenced by the hissing recoil of many gamers and industry types alike when presented with the (stonkingly obvious) fact that games are an artform.
Left-brain people (yes, modern psychology dismisses this terminology, but it’s so much more polite than grouping you all as “geeks” and “arty types”, isn’t it?) love perfect answers. They like problems which have a correct solution, and see the world in those terms. In many industries, they’re perfect business leaders – there absolutely is a single most efficient way to extract oil or metal from the ground, to build an aircraft, to lay out a road or rail network. In entertainment, though, the idea of a “perfect” solution runs into a huge set of problems which utterly stump the left-brained – sentiment. Emotion. Irrationality. Sheer outright bloody-mindedness.
The fact is – nobody needs entertainment. Not really. If video games, films, books, music, plays, TV shows, paintings and sculptures all disappeared tomorrow, we’d be a much diminished species, but nobody would die. People need shelter, food, clothing, transport, protection, fuel – but entertainment is “discretionary”. It says so right there in your accounts. It’s spending at your discretion – and what that means is that it’s spending guided not by optimisation, but by sentiment.
Is free-to-play the most efficient way for money and experiences to change hands between developer and player? Is mobile or tablet gaming the most cost-effective route for consumers to engage with video games? Yeah, maybe – but what so few of us seem to really grasp is that this doesn’t actually matter. Is MP3 music the perfect balance of quality, convenience and file size? Probably – but vinyl shops thrive and specialist services offering “lossless” quality music files are on the rise. Is Kindle the best way to consume books? Yes, undoubtedly – but I don’t think of myself “consuming” books. Some books I just read; some I own; some I treasure. Sentiment; emotion; irrationality. I went to a shop and bought a leather-backed volume of a book I already own in paperback and Kindle alike. I’ll probably never read it. I love it. Am I an idiot, failing to see that this is not the optimal consumption path and bound to realise the error of my ways eventually? No, because this is my discretion; this is how I choose to enjoy and to spend on my pastime.
That’s why the zero-sum game will never come to pass – not as the strident debaters of 2012 believed. A very large number of consumers will still want things like dedicated gaming hardware, expensive full-price releases and physical products, not because this makes “sense” in an economic or logical way, but because they love those things and because, beyond straightforward questions of affordability, “economic sense” isn’t a welcome guest in deliberations about your hobbies and your passions.
The industry evolves and changes – never as rapidly as it did in 2012, though 2013 will probably make our heads spin just as fast – but little is truly lost. We don’t sell petrol, or sliced bread, or concrete, or train tickets. We sell experiences and emotions, and people will choose to consume those in the way that makes them feel best, not the way that is most coldly, mathematically efficient. Nobody fears that releasing Shakespeare adaptations on DVD will shut down theatres, or that allowing buskers onto the streets will eventually lead to concert halls being demolished. It’s time that we, too, learned that the expansion of the games business leads to more opportunities and more diversity, not to an existential threat to things we love – or worse, a chance to gloat over the imagined demise of things we hate. If you’ve got one new years resolution to make for 2013, make it this one – no more zero-sum arguments. Mobile won’t kill console. F2P won’t kill full-price. Cloud won’t kill local. The forest grows ever bigger; the old tree doesn’t block the sunlight from the new trees, the new trees do not strangle the roots of the old.