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.
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