Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Molyneux sez: “Enjoy It While You Can, Indies! We’re Taking Over Soon!”

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.

Molyneux: Indie Havens on Borrowed Time

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

  • Calibrator said,

    “They’ve fled back to the safety of the consoles, where gatekeepers hand-pick the competitors. The PC is ugly-crowded.”

    That’s exactly why Dragon Age 2 will feature some “modifications”:
    “For budgetary reasons, we focused our work on a 3rd person view, that asks for very detailed and nice textures so that the player can admire the game with a close-up view. With an aerial view [isometric] we should cover much more ground and so create other textures. Now, the game mainly sold on console, so we’re going the way of the audience”.

    Read the full report and the update here:

  • Rob said,

    Peter Molyneux, the god-emperor of overblown promises and hyperbole, makes bold statements that are somewhat off the mark? No way.

    I will admit it. I played and enjoyed Fable II, but it brought nothing all THAT exciting and new to the table that I hadn’t already enjoyed a decade ago in a Zelda game.

  • Celso Riva said,

    And the fun thing is that most indies I know AREN’T making a living on android/iphone, but on the “already doomed” PC market 😉

  • Stephen said,

    It’s really hard to make a profit on mobile if you’ve spent millions of dollars. The number of players willing to shell out $5-10 for a title on the iPhone is small enough that you’re going to have to release something ridiculously awesome to make back your investment. And money guys balk hard at trying to sell your premium game for less. Meanwhile, something fun put together by three guys over a few months actually stands to make back its investment at $0.99 a pop (less Apple’s big bite).

  • Spaceman Spiff said,

    Peter, Peter, Peter… I want to say you’re full of excrement.

    But that’s not what it is really.

    You’ve enjoyed success, Peter. A lot of it, compared to most of us. But woah, it’s not all due to your greatness, as much as you might protest otherwise. Getting into the game early, working hard, and luck all get their fare share of the credit.

    But it’s all gone to your head. Success, that is. And for a while now you’ve believed the crap people who wanted something from you have told you. And you believe the stuff that comes out of your mouth, don’t you? It’s a good thing you can’t hear us laughing.

    At no point in the past have you had less to do with the success of any game that your name is attached to, than what you’re doing right now. A figure head and a blow hard, who’s nadir has past. That’s too hard to face, isn’t it, Peter? So just keep drinking the kool-aid which tells you how awesome and relevant you are, Peter. You’re management in a dysfunctional company that keeps your around for the ‘name value’ even though that has done worse than your employer’s stock in the last 10 years.



    The world has passed you by.

    .. Why yes, I have seen behind the curtain…


  • Chris said,

    I’m not convinced the iPhone/Droid app stores are viable venues for AAA, multi-million dollar games and I don’t think the AAA investors are convinced either. I’m also not sure if I agree with Molyneux’s implied assumption that investing millions into a game = instant success.

  • sascha said,


  • Rampant Coyote said,

    The interesting counterpoint Matt just reminded me of is Steam. It’s primarily a digital distribution platform for AAA games – that’s how it began life – yet it remains a VERY good distribution channel for indies. Not quite as open as, say, the Android, but I don’t think the indies are hurt by the presence of the AAA games. Quite the opposite.

  • Xenovore said,

    Yeah, again Pete’s doing what he does best these days: talking out of some orifice other than his mouth.

    The assumption that a few AAA games will somehow automagically push all the indies off a platform — ridiculous!