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<  Quotes  ~  Cliff Harris: Dumbing Up Gaming

Michael
Posted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:26 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
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I've heard of games flopping because the marketing sucked, budget problems, piracy and poor design but I haven't heard about any big games failing because they were too highbrow. Yet nobody is even trying to make those games.

Cliff Harris, Dumbing Up Gaming
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sagesource
Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:52 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 08 Jun 2009 Posts: 22 Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Have you ever read Clayton M. Christensen's book The Innovator's Dilemma? He argues that successful businesses are doomed to fail precisely because of their own success. Once you have a market that you can fill, it no longer makes economic sense to innovate, only to refine. It is a far better use of your money, at least from the narrow number-cruncher's point of view, to give your customers a better version of what they already have than to gamble on trying to seduce them into adopting something radically different or "disruptive." However, sooner or later, someone is going to come up with that radically different and better approach, and you'll be toast.

So, it's hardly surprising that the game industry, by and large, invests mostly in bigger, bloodier, and more frantic. It's what's sold in the past. Does it make sense to gamble? Not if you've got a lot to lose. A small indie house, on the other hand...

(One indie production that's succeeded in being both fun and potentially quite challenging is Garry's Mod. That can be played as a run and gun, sure, but it can also become quite involved, as I realized when I watched my son use WireMod to hook up a series of virtual circuits that did such things as control aircraft and print messages to his friends on an in-game printer. They even set up a virtual TV/stereo system, spawned a sofa and sat down, and began playing Pong on the TV, an amusingly convoluted affair.... two kids playing a video game of two kids playing a video game....)
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Michael
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:27 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
sagesource wrote:
So, it's hardly surprising that the game industry, by and large, invests mostly in bigger, bloodier, and more frantic. It's what's sold in the past. Does it make sense to gamble? Not if you've got a lot to lose. A small indie house, on the other hand...

I disagree, though. Small companies often have their entire lives on stake. And those of their family members. Big companies simply exit-strategy when they fail and nobody gets hurt. People lose their jobs, that's all (indies don't even have one to begin with!).

And on the other hand, these big companies have so much money that investing in a small indie-type experiment would not hurt them at all. While the gains might be formidable. I agree that taking such risks on big budget titles would be very daring. But that's not necessary at all. We can do what we do at a fraction of the cost. Less than what they pay for staples in a month...
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sagesource
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:42 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 08 Jun 2009 Posts: 22 Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
But they won't, by and large, as Christensen's book makes plain. He has a number of case studies where the right strategy for the industries concerned is glaringly obvious -- after the fact. The "reinforce success" dynamic is just too strong.

And the fact that a small concern will fail and die if it makes the wrong choice is part of the dynamic. There will always be another one to step up and take its place (cold comfort to you, I know).

IIRC, Christensen's suggestion for large companies that wish to remain on the cutting edge is to have a number of small subsidiaries loosely affiliated with them, so that these smaller units can take the risks in relative freedom, but if they come upon something really good the larger company can channel resources to them to exploit it. Something like what Valve has done with the design teams that produced the precursor to Portal and Left 4 Dead, though the latter game can hardly be called original.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 9:52 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I still don't buy the "creative freedom" argument. I don't see how individuals risking their entire lives have more freedom than businessmen playing with Monopoly money. In practice this is confirmed by the fact that the indie games scene is predominantly commercial and that there's at least as many creatively interesting games that have come out of big corporations.
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