Games are in a "Cambrian explosion" of formats and styles, says Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada -- but he warns that may be creating a confusing or unappealing image of the medium to some consumers.
"Whether content or service, there needs to be some image within customer's [mind] of a format," Wada said in his Gamasutra-attended keynote at the Montreal International Game Summit. "Once that is finalized, we will be able to [expand] the field we play on."
Right now, Wada said, "We are in a Cambrian explosion, in a sense," of distribution methods and game formats," meaning few consumers have a clear idea of what a "game" even is. (The "Cambrian explosion" phrase, referencing the Earth's seemingly sudden proliferation of early forms of life, has also been used by The Sims creator Will Wright in recent speeches.)
For example, he said, films are generally two hours long or less; television is a half hour or an hour, and runs in a series regularly for several months; and a newspaper is delivered in roughly similar size every morning.
Those mediums could have evolved in very different ways, but at a certain point, they standardized, and consumers know roughly what to expect when they experience one.
That's not to say a range of formats is entirely bad, Wada noted -- but it can go too far. "Diversification is good," he said. "The content will be more deep, and there will be more consumers, and there are more chances for monitization, and that is very good for the industry."
"It is a good thing, but if it spreads too much, the new users for the games will become puzzled at what 'games' are supposed to be."
That confusion has afflicted even former gamers: "When I ask people in Japan, they say they don't have enough time to play games, and that's why they left games," says Wada. "They all think you need to sit in front of the TV for hours to conclude a game."
"Of course, that is not the only type of game, but that is the image they all have. Once that image is settled, they will never come back to play the same game."
The answer, the CEO believes, is some degree of consolidation, and he called upon the development community to work towards that goal -- perhaps even with new methods like episodic gaming, by which an action game is split up into half-hour chunks and distributed over several months.
"Games need to be consolidated into several formats, and everyone needs to work to make that happen," Wada said. "We all take our format as a given, and nobody considered it, but I think it's going to be more important."