Friday, February 10, 2006

The Future of Gaming, as Envisioned by People Who Aren't Managing the Present Particularly Well

Two very interesting comments came out of a discussion of gaming held at "Churchill Club," whatever the hell that might be.

And if you were my wife, madam, I'd drink it. That's my favorite Winston Churchill punchline.

So here's the first interesting statement, from Microsoft's Peter Moore, corporate vice-president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment division
Let's be fair. Whether it's five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, the concept of driving to the store to buy a plastic disc with data on it and driving back and popping it in the drive will be ridiculous," Moore said. "We'll tell our grandchildren that and they'll laugh at us.

Here's what I really like about Peter Moore: he's never hopped around on a stage imitating a monkey. Big ups for that.

Peter clever positions that statement from the consumer's point of view, but that's not a consumer move--it's a straight business move. No need to kiss retail store ass to get product placement, no co-marketing deals needed, and best of all: no used games. We've talked about this on multiple occasions, but it's clear that the software industry is going to make the CD/DVD as a form of game distribution go away as fast as they possible can.

Here's the second interesting statement, this one from Raph Koster, whose name I have correctly, triumphantly spelled for the second consecutive time:
"The entire video game industry's history thus far has been an aberration," Koster told the audience. "It has been a mutant monster only made possible by unconnected computers. People always play games together. All of you learned to play games with each other. When you were kids, you played tag, tea parties, cops and robbers, what have you. The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal."

Detoc and Butler weren't sold on the inevitable death of single-player games, with Butler borrowing an analogy that the entire crowd instantly understood, if the laughter was any indication.

"Linear entertainment in single-player is to media what masturbation is to sex," Butler said.

"It'll always be there, but it is not the real experience."

Raph Koster is chief creative officer of Sony Online Entertainment. Detoc and Butler by the way, are Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America, and Lars Butler, former vice president of global online for Electronic Arts and current CEO of the upstart TWN. "Upstart" means "company no one gives a shit about right now."

Here's what I find interesting: Koster, who's a very bright and interesting game, is in charge of the Titanic. Everquest II? No one cares? Star Wars Galaxies? Ruined and abandoned. Butler? Formerly in charge of the online LaBrea Tar Pits at EA, where good ideas go to die. And as for Detoc, does Ubisoft even have a MMORPG right now? These guys would all seem to have vested financial interests in their visions coming true, and the execution of their vision has sucked ass when they've been involved, seemingly. So I think it's premature to anoint them prophets. And who are they to define our experience as "real" or "not real?" Good grief.

Great masturbation line, though. That's always gets them rolling in the aisles.

Here's the problem with their vision: gaming is a wildly diverse experience. The gaming industry persists in trying to shoehorn a more narrow version of the gaming than their customer base has clearly indicated they want. Lots of people want to play online. And lots of people don't. That's the real future of gaming.

Here's where I say something like this: the future of gaming is a fractal. Now that's not true, but holy shit is that thought-provoking. Too bad I can't use it.

The real future of gaming is like an object in Katamari Damacy: gigantic and incredibly irregular. There will be dozens, if not hundreds, of different markets, many of them boutique. That is the future and no clever speeches will stop it.

Site Meter