We're at a point where industry dollars are going to go to more similar, high-budget games, and fewer games in the middle get budgets. And then indie. I think we're seeing a stratification happening.
MS: I think we're seeing a slow suicide. [laughs] I mean, isn't that like attrition? To always put more and more money on a more and more narrow path? Where will this end? At one point, right? Where there's nothing anymore. Death. Suicide. I mean, I'm not an economist, but that seems to be where it's going, no? Or is it just a console/PC thing, and well, after that, it's all going to be Facebook?
AH: Or is there always a strong undercurrent of things that aren't?
Activision is very specifically doubling down on things like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, and sort of saying, "We don't need anything else, because we can make these things so titanic that they'll dominate." Whereas a company like EA, its closest competitor, is saying, "We're going to send tendrils out into the different market segments."
And I wouldn't say they're necessarily going to send them out to creative avenues. That's not how it's thought about from the corporate side. So, there are definitely different approaches in the commercial games industry, but it's still about market share, or market targeting.
MS: Yeah, well, the companies you mentioned are publishers. I think in any medium, the publisher's concern will be commercial. There are always, like, small record labels and small book publishers; those exist. But the ones you mentioned are not the small ones. [laughs] So, that's normal.
What's more surprising is, actually, there's not more pushing coming from developers to diversify, to work with other themes, to try and reach other audiences, for instance. Which is just getting harder, and harder, and harder, as things remain restricted to these few formulas.
So hard now that, indeed, if you want to reach a broad audience now, you have to make some FarmVille or something. You can't really make this kind of media game that the games industry has been hoping to make for so long, and trying to get very close to, as well. Now you can only make that for a hardcore audience, anymore. I think that's suicide. [laughs]
There are definitely people saying similar things, that we're going to niche-ify. But I think that's the expectation now, in a way -- that the console space will become a niche.
AH: It already is.
MS: But isn't that stupid? They're already connected to the TV. Build them into the TV! I mean, there's so much opportunity there. That's where I agree with Auriea. You know, a lot of publishers and developers say, "This is commercial. We're doing this for commercial reasons." Bullshit. Commercial would be expanding, and trying to reach everybody. They're doing this because they really love shooting shit up. [laughs] They really love that. It's an artistic choice.
AH: That's good that you love what you do, but don't expect that to get you anywhere.
MS: I think they're happy with it becoming a niche, totally happy with that. That's sort of strange, as a commercial company.
AH: The fun of being me is I get to just look at this and not care too much about it. We're just going to make what we make. I insist that I am not in the games industry, even though I come to things like this, sometimes, to my utter folly.
My point being just that more people need to make this stuff for itself, for the love of the medium, perhaps. And not care so much about where the industry is going as a whole. Because that's sort of like, "Oh, they have a big meeting, and they decide that this is how things are going to be," which is how it always felt about genres, to me.
MS: I think this is sort of something that happens because commerce is similar to games. Winning a game is a little bit like selling a million copies. Maybe this kind of mindset of making games, liking games, is similar to being successful?
I find that a lot of developers that I've spoken to over the years, to some greater or lesser extent that I cannot obviously say, but I perceive, have been co-opted by the marketing departments of the companies they work for.
MS: How do they get co-opted?
I think they get enticed by the idea that if they listen to these people, they will make a game that people like better.
AH: Rather than listening to the people themselves, or listening to themselves, listening to their own hearts, their own minds and desires, beyond mechanics. It just seems like, in no other medium is it so focused on this. I mean, yeah, there's really commercial writers, but there are tons! Most writers, it's coming from someplace else for them, and that's what this medium needs more of.