Interviews// David Braben, Industry Veteran

Posted 29 Aug 2008 16:19 by
SPOnG: Do you think you'll go back to the Wii at Frontier? There's been talk of a sequel to Lost Winds...

David Braben: Absolutely, yes, we'd love to. I'm not announcing anything there, but yes. We've got a number of games we're looking at at the moment, and obviously doing something in the world of Lost Winds would be an obvious choice, but we're also looking at PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

SPOnG: How do you view those online platforms in terms of the industry?

David Braben: It's a small step, but an important step. It's really just a different delivery mechanism, but I think it's very interesting; where it's likely to go. Especially the way that the Nintendo Channel on the Wii has worked, where users can rate games and can see how other people rated them, and compare them with people like them in terms of what games they've chosen. So, very much the sort of YouTube/iTunes-type model, which I think is very positive.

SPOnG: You've spoken a lot about pre-owned game sales hurting publishers and developers. You mentioned it in your Develop Conference talk. Digital delivery is something that circumvents that...

David Braben: It is indeed. I went into a games shop in Cambridge, and the entire window was dedicated to pre-owned. Everything in the window. And I just thought that was worthy of a rant!

The point is that where previously, only a year or so ago, that was our shop front. Film and cinema actually has quite a prestigious shop front, they have red carpet events and all this sort of thing. Whereas, this is our shop front. We should pay attention to it. As an industry, we should work with retail to make it attractive.

You don't see such tacky behaviour with video. Imagine a mobile phone shop full of beaten up, bashed-up phones. Firstly, it's slightly tacky. Secondly, it's taking an awful lot of revenue away from production of games. Especially in the single-player type game, where people might play it and then sell it.

So, it's really rental. There's a lot of suggestion that games go around 10 or more times. I think that lost revenue is revenue that's being taken away from games development.

SPOnG: So, what do you see as the solution?

David Braben: Long-term, it's online. The trouble is, retail is inviting that by forcing games to do DLC and things like online to decrease the effect of pre-owned. So, it's a vicious circle, and the way to make it more virtuous is to add more value by it. Because, I think we can lower a retail price. That's the point; as a consumer, that's what people want. They want cheaper games. They don't necessarily want to get other people's tatty game.

The other point is that with some games, you know, like Microsoft includes the Microsoft Gold certificate, so obviously you don't get those in pre-owned, is to include more things that are added value for the person who's bought it new, to do more differentiation.

So, a combination of that, lower retail price and just being creative. Look at the PC market, it's been decimated. It's been... well, more than decimated. It's down by a huge amount over the last few years. And it's not clear what that's a result of, but it is clear that console sales haven't been affected in the same way. There is clearly an effect, if you look at games like World of Warcraft, which doesn't seem to be affected. Because you've got the online validation as part of the necessary nature of an MMO, you're going to have much less piracy.
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