Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 9, 2010
Peter Molyneux warns that indies are living on borrowed time, and their opportunity to thrive on certain platforms – notably the iPhone and Android – will soon come to an end under the domination of a major publisher.
A couple of choice quotes:
“We are just one or two games of high production quality away from all this coming to an end. That’s my belief. It’s inevitable that a Star Wars or Disney game, a five million dollar iPhone project, will be released. And when it does, consumers are going to like it.”
And this one:
“But don’t expect this to last forever. Triple-A is here to stay. When TV came along it didn’t replace the movie industry. Social gaming is like TV. It is going to co-exist because, frankly, there’s too much money in it.
“Slowly the publishers are moving in on this space. They will nibble away at the market. My advice for anyone doing iPhone games is to be original, think about the things the big companies won’t try.”
Ah, Peter… may I call you Peter? Peter… well, given the rest of the context of the interview, it’s hard to say you are entirely wrong on any one point… but you are still a few degrees away from “right” and getting colder by the minute.
Now, if a company like Disney or EA spends $5 million on an iPhone App, is it going to garner attention and market share? Absolutely! But will it take home all the marbles? Will it even make a profit? That’s a lot more questionable.
Sure, the mainstream studios have kinda-sorta taken over XBox Live Arcade. But the indies never really had a foothold there to begin with. From the very beginning, Microsoft acted as a gatekeeper for that service, and wouldn’t deal with any but the most professional, “high-end” independent self-funded development studios. A one-person studio was never going to make it on the service, until they created “community games” (now labeled “indie games”) ghetto-live-arcade on the side. Which, admittedly, they’ve done a pretty reasonable job promoting lately.
But on a more open platform, like the iPhone and Android – well, it’s a lot more like the PC. And where are all the mainstream developers on the PC these days? Oh, yeah. They’ve fled back to the safety of the consoles, where gatekeepers hand-pick the competitors. The PC is ugly-crowded. While I really can’t call that a “good thing” when gems get buried in crap, it does make it harder to just buy success. And the door is always open for the indies to keep making games – and a few keep succeeding in spite of fierce top-drawer competition.
It’s not like the iPhone and Android are Nirvana for indies as it is. The vast majority of games for these platforms sink. Only the very top games actually do well (or even make a profit). If the top slots are occupied by mainstream games, then yeah. It’ll get tighter. But at this point, I don’t see it ending an era. Not even close.
And in reality – there’s another issue. Maybe an iPhone game that cost $20,000 to make can end up making a million dollars in sales, which is totally awesome. But — would a $5 million game end up ALSO just selling $1 million? Or $2 million? Or even $4 million? That’s not a winning strategy. So far, profit has been made only because the game makers have kept costs down low enough to make it worthwhile. Will a couple of mainstream, big-budget games REALLY change the rules of the game that much?
It’s possible. But I wouldn’t call it likely. Or anything close to “inevitable,” as you proclaim it.
I don’t know if the big studios will be able to scale. Or if they’ll just buy up some successful indies and let them at it. Or – on a very positive note – if they can manage to drive up the price of iPhone / Android games, which would be a good thing for all involved. I really don’t know.
But you are right about one thing, Peter. In the face of competition that can spend you into oblivion in a toe-to-toe fight, the indies should generally attack from the sides, as skirmishers, rather than taking the competition head-on. Make games that the big guys aren’t. That’s what we do. But just because a handful of dinosaurs decide to come stomping into a field doesn’t mean that all the bugs and small mammals and birds are going to disappear. Taken collectively, we’re actually a hell of a lot better at adapting to changing market conditions than you are.
Filed Under: Biz, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 9 Comments to Read