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Friday, 25 October 2013

Gaming on the Go: How connected experiences would shape this industry


EA announced recently that it’s working on a high end Battlefield game for mobile. As per a report on Polygon: "We are working on a mobile game of Battlefield that will be high-end and high performance," Gibeau said. "It's our bet that we can successfully pull that off. But we're embarking on something no one has ever done before — to get these games to inter-operate between platforms. Will it work? It already has in some cases. Will it work for all franchises? Not all franchises will make the transition. Battlefield might be a little harder." What does it mean for gaming? Is it the advent of something new or just an announcement to create the hype?



With the evolution of games, the increase in the number of gamers & the proliferation of the variety of devices, I believe that the next possible step in evolution should be the games that people can play across the different platforms available. What would be awesome is that I can stop playing my favorite game on my console, switch it off and then on the way to my office, I can pick the game up again on my iphone. That would be completely awesome. It would allow me the chance to keep on playing my favorite game without the breaks enforced by the platform restrictions. “The player should never stop playing”, this is the dream of every game developer. Making the game functional across different platforms would be a huge step in this direction.



How would this be beneficial to the developer? I think the answer is obvious that it would allow the players to have a continuous experience. But is the extra effort required to make the game cross platform justified? I think so. The biggest problem that most games face is the number of competition for the limited gaming time of the player. This holds true especially for console games which is facing huge amount of competition from mobile games that offer great affordable experience. If the console games can somehow manage to take up the time spent by its player on mobile in playing their own games, I guess they would be in a much better situation as far as competing for the game time is concerned.

The benefit for making games cross platform are huge but they should not be forced for all kinds of games. I think the mobile counterpart of the console games should be able to offer quality experience & value addition to the overall game. If not then it would appear forced and would be quickly shunted by the community. It would work best where there is a lot of social interaction or where the player can decide on some strategy for the upcoming mission. Lets take an example to elaborate this point. Consider making a first person shooter where the player has to go through the different missions. While the main game would be played on the console at home which would involve most of the action, the player can take up various other parts of the game like procuring ammo, training the character to acquire different skills or getting help from allies (could be a social component) on their smart phones. This would allow a continuous experience & hence be involved with their favorite game longer. A win-win situation for both the developer & the player.

While creating these kind of connected experiences, some more points would need to be taken care of. The mobile experiences should be designed in such a way that it would be run on different kind of devices. It should not be too process intensive that it is compatible with only a few high-end configurations else it runs the danger of not being mass adopted. Also it should not given an undue advantage to a gamer with a high-end mobile device as compared to someone with a simpler smartphone. If the platform or the OS is the same, it should provide the same experience.
Connected experiences would be a huge step forward for gaming. I would love to play a game or enjoy a universe that doesn’t make me stop just because I am not at home or not connected to a particular system. I would love to keep on playing, only stopping when I want to & I believe there are many more like me. Hopefully the great minds in this industry would manage to come up with something that fulfills just that & take the giant leap forward.

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Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.

To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited

Friday, 18 October 2013

Why Free to Play is not always a solution?

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The date was June 29th, 2007 when the future of gaming was changed forever. One guy by the name of Steve Jobs with a vision & the backing of an incredible team gave to the world the iphone. The phone changed the landscape of handheld devices forever. It was revolutionary, it was inspired and it brought high quality games in the hands of millions of people.

Gaming changed forever and for the good. It brought the masses to an industry, which has always been considered niche when compared to other mass entertainment mediums. It made gaming mainstream. The industry grew leaps and bounds and a new set of developers and gamers emerged. There is no doubt that iphone and subsequently Android have played a huge role in bringing the gaming industry to where it is today.



There was however one more catalyst that increased the pace of change. The introduction of Free to Play. Free to Play games has been the single biggest factor that has helped to increase the number of people playing more and more games on their mobile devices. It has reduced the barrier to entry to mobile games. True that Free to Play is not a new concept and has been in games for ages. But it has been adopted whole-heartedly by the masses in the form of mobile free to play games.
Where mobile has made gaming casual, Free to Play has made the process of getting new games casual as well. Now players don’t think twice before downloading a game if it is free, as he has nothing to lose. This has led to huge download numbers for games and coupled up with unique business models like In-App Purchases and Advertisement, it has allowed developers to rack huge amount of revenue. This burgeoning success of the Free to Play model has led to almost everyone believe that Free to Play is the only model of success to be followed, specially on platforms like Android. Some major publishers like EA have actually gone to lengths to say that Free to Play would be their major strategy going forward for all games to be released on mobile.

But is Free to Play the solution to all kind of games? I don’t think so. Games are experiences, very unique ones where the gamer not only accepts stimulus but also actively responds to it hence altering the whole environment, which produces the stimulus in the first place. This kind of highly evolved entertainment cannot be restricted to a single medium of presentation. If it were done, it would seriously limit the way the medium is enjoyed by the players. Also Free to Play is suited for those kinds of games, which can go on for a long period of time. Games, which rely a lot on storytelling, for example would not be best suited to Free to Play model. How can a story keep on going forever? There has to be an ending. And if the story ends, which in turn means the end of the game; it would not be the ideal situation for a Free to Play game.



Free to Play has also come under a lot of criticism by people saying that it is necessarily evil that it wants to extort money out of people by all different means. Well, I don’t completely buy into this argument as it also allows people to try a lot more games and then pay for those games that sit nicely with their likings. However, a lot of developers have been guilty to producing games that are undercooked or don’t offer the whole feature package with the intent of making players to pay money. This is unwarranted as players should be willing to pay money to get more of the awesome experience they are already getting, rather than pay money to just taste the whole experience. This shouldn’t be the case and if this persists, it would just erode value in the eyes of gamers.

A lot of developers have credited Free to Play as the single biggest factor for the increase in their revenue. This is true for most of the cases. But lets not forget the point that Free to Play also brings along with it different requirements like the requirement to support the game for a long period of time with constant updates and bug fixes. With the whole ecosystem changing so frequently, it is a herculean task to keep on updating your game. This becomes that much more difficult and financially unviable if the number of DAUs is not big enough to warrant the investment in terms of ROI. But then if you don’t provide the constant updates & the bug fixes, you tend to unnerve your current player base. This seems to be a precarious situation for many developers.

There is no doubt that Free to Play is an amazing model as it allows both the player as well as the developer a lot of freedom. It has taken the industry to unseen heights in terms of player engagement. But is it the answer to all kind of games. Highly unlikely. This industry would be best served if the different models co-exist together so that they can serve their requirement as & when required. I would like to end this with a quote from George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones): “Different roads sometimes lead to the same Castle” which perfectly explains the differences in business models yet the common ground sought by them.

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Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Look Mama: No Gate!!


Closed market or Open, the debate about which is better for the gamer as well as the publishers has been a long-standing one in the gaming domain. Its one topic that brings out the strongest emotions in their supporters who often have never ending points to prove their case. It is one debate that has picked up pace again with Valve coming up with their own apparently open system in Steam Box. Set to go one-on-one against the next generation consoles like Xbox One & PS4 to compete for space in the living room, Valve’s Steam Box has a lot to prove before it can be proclaimed as the decisive winner.




Each has their own benefits, both for the gamer as well as the developers. Each has their own merits and is suited to succeed, depending on the needs. Open systems are generally more open to new and innovative ideas. Since there are no gatekeepers that can prevent radical ideas from getting into the system, it allows for people to implement their ideas, which are often rejected at the doors of closed systems. It allows developers to move away from the proven formula and dwell into something more unknown. Yes it may result into very weird ideas, but often gems come out of these so-called experiments. This kind of result is often more difficult to achieve in closed systems where every idea is evaluated by the owners of the market for conformity to their own set of rule. Needless to mention that Open markets grow at speeds often unmatched by closed markets.

The freedom to come up with new kind of ideas often comes with their own cost in the form of games, which are nothing, more that trash. Games, which appear extraordinary in the minds of the developers don’t necessarily come out in the same way. With no gatekeepers, there is no way to stop these games from getting in the hands of the gamers. This doesn’t help the reputation of the market. Not only gamers but also this is not helpful to the developers as the huge amount of unregulated games often make it difficult for the deserving ones to be easily discoverable. This in turn affects the profitability of the games, which results in discouraged developers. This is where closed markets have a distinctive advantage as they are better equipped to monitor the quality of their games as well as their discoverability, which gives more financial motivation to professional developers.



Closed markets often have lesser amount of games, but have better average quality. This draws in more players as they are more assured of the games they spend their money on. Since the discover ability of the games is better & only better quality games are entertained, these kinds of markets are more attractive to the professional developers. This leads to an ecosystem, which is supportive of the development community as well as the gamers.

Closed markets also allow for much more control over how the market shapes up in the long run as compared to open markets. It is mainly because bringing change in the way of functioning of the market keeping in mind the ever-changing landscape is much easier in closed markets as compared to open markets because of inertia. It also allows for better development of business models & practices, which in turn helps the whole community.


Practically speaking, completely open markets are more of an ideal as compared to reality. Take Steam Box for instance. Yes the hardware is very open in nature that allows the players to install any OS of their choice or even configure their own Steam Boxes. But is the Steam marketplace truly open in nature. The recent struggles and disappointments of a lot of Indie developers point out otherwise. For gaming to really succeed, there need to be a balanced mix of properties of open and closed markets so that the community can benefit from both. Hopefully with time, Valve will get the heady mixture just right for the sake of us all. Until then, let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
To know more about the latest in games, reviews and news, please visit http://www.facebook.com/videogamesunlimited