A new year means a fresh start for many. In the games industry, a fresh start is exactly what the doctor ordered - specialist retail now seems to be settling down, PC companies are taking a shot at console manufacturing, and the traditional console companies are getting ready to reveal some shiny new products of their own.
With such an exciting year ahead of us, what better than to turn to games industry experts and ask them for their thoughts on various trends and stories as and when they happen?
As part of an ongoing series, SPOnG gets the unedited, open and highly informed opinions of developers, producers and more in the vast world of computer games.
Spilt Milk Studios
Best Known For: Hard Lines
(iOS, Android), co-created with Nicoll Hunt
Considering the critical acclaim of titles such as The Walking Dead and Journey in 2012, is digital now the real viable means of getting games in gamers' homes?
I think digital is ready, and has been for a while, but the platforms holders need to catch up. Oddly (for some) Nintendo seems to be ahead of the pack here. No charge for their online service, day-and-date digital/retail releases. Iím sure this next gen of consoles will all support digital fully and properly, but thereís still a lot of consumers out there who probably donít care/donít want/donít feel they need digital.
Weíve seen a lot of special edition physical packages recently, and I think the AAA releases will still sell at retail just as much as they do digitallyÖ but this year was the best so far in terms of exclusive digital content.
I think 2013 will be the tipping point, assuming Microsoft and Sony both launch consoles this year. Weíre all expecting Sony to do something with their Gaikai tech, and Microsoft will be sure not to be left behind. Itís going to be fascinating!
What are the biggest and most exciting challenges you're looking forward to in the next year?
For Spilt Milk Studios, itís going to be really exciting because weíre aiming to launch at least two games in 2013. In more general terms, I canít wait to see the new consoles. Either theyíre going to show everyone that Ďtraditionalí markets are still viable (I have a hunch theyíll be the perfect mix of retail, digital, premium and freemium models) or theyíll tank horribly and everything will be shaken up.
I donít see the multitude of Android-based consoles like Ouya doing so well, but then they donít have to take over the world to be profitable and successful. I think a lot of people could learn from Nintendo Ė not just in terms of what kinds of hardware they deliver, but in the way that they donít set themselves up to conquer the world, and so even a moderate success keeps them profitable and delivering the games that we all love from them. Hardware doesnít sell, games do, so thatíll be the key.
What are the benefits to you and to gamers of the new console generation after Xbox 360 and PS3?
For me, new consoles means new opportunities. Itís going to become increasingly important for studios to release their games across every screen they possibly can. As touch screens and digital models become more prevalent then the console market Ė and hopefully the platform holders in charge Ė will open up to indies and smaller studios, and the games we make will become more and more platform/tech agnostic.
In terms of raw power, Iím not too fussed. I run tiny teams on the games we make, and so weíre not able to compete on graphics, effects and that kind of thing. So of more interest are new business models, opportunities and interfaces. The Wii Uís second screen is going to give us some great games, mark my words.
As a gamer, Iím just looking forward to seeing what new IPís companies come up with Ė more than anything else new consoles mean the big teams can invest in new IP, and thatís going to be great fun to get involved with. On a more technical note, Iím hoping some strides are made in AI and physics over pure graphical grunt, but we shall see!
Thanks to Andrew for his time. Check out SPOnG's recent industry insights below.
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17/01/13: 2013 Industry Insights with Theo Sanders, Ubisoft Singapore
16/01/13: 2013 Industry Insights with Paul Rustchynsky, Evolution Studios
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27/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Paul Rustchynsky, Evolution Studios
28/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Ted Price, CEO Insomniac
29/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Theo Sanders, Ubisoft Singapore
30/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Steve Lycett, SUMO Digital
31/12/12: Games Industry Insights with Martyn Brown, InsightforHire
01/01/13: Games Industry Insights with Jon Lander of CCP
02/01/13: Games Industry Insights with David Jaffe
03/01/13: Games Industry Insights with Andy Payne O.B.E.
04/01/13: Games Industry Insights with Peter Molydeux, Genius