Thursday, July 04, 2013

Console Post of the Week

Don Mattrick, President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, resigned this week to become CEO of Zynga.

No, this is not a story from The Onion. I'm serious.

Of course, this has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the cluster-F that was the Xbox One launch and subsequent debacle. And all the other Microsoft employees involved with the high-level planning of that launch who leave in the next three to six months (to "pursue other opportunities" or "spend more time with their family") won't be related to that particular fiasco--at all.

High-level disasters have high level consequences. Sony must have ploughed through at least six top executives while the PS3 floundered and hemorrhaged cash.

There will be consequences at Nintendo, too, as the Wii U continues to be almost entirely invisible.

So I was thinking about the new consoles this morning, and thinking about the "AAA strategy" of almost every major publisher, and realized that this is the first time consoles have been launched with the software industry in this mindset.

Is this going to cause a high-speed collision?

Remember, publishers aren't taking chances anymore. They want bank. Even if they do put out occasional new IP, it's basically respun from something that already sells a ton of copies. Innovation at the AAA level has never been this weak.

Remember what gave the Xbox instant credibility? Halo. Exclusive.

Remember what made the PS2 absolutely explode? It wasn't just the price cut to $199--Grand Theft Auto III (the first in the series to use a 3D engine) was released the previous fall. It was exclusive to the PS2 (in a console sense) for two years.

Remember Wii Sports? Instant credibility for the Wii. Actually, it was much more than that--instant hysteria for the Wii. Exclusive.

Landmark, exclusive games are a huge part of a console getting established in the market. It doesn't mean a console can't succeed without them, but it makes it much more difficult. And I don't see anything on the horizon that will have that effect with either of the new consoles.

It would also seem that the fewer games that come out for a console, the more difficult it will be to get established. And it's guaranteed that there will be substantially fewer games for the One or the PS4 than there were for the 360 or the PS3. Publishers just aren't making as many games.

See the squeeze here?

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