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Bleszinski to console makers: 'All that red tape needs to be stripped away'
Bleszinski to console makers: 'All that red tape needs to be stripped away'
February 25, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

February 25, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi
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"All that red tape needs to be stripped away in order to create an ecosystem to allow for a product like Minecraft to actually happen on a console."
- A newly-independent Cliff Bleszinski explains why right now might not be the best time to be a console game developer, and why he's not jumping at the opportunity to get right back into it.

"I really think we're in a massive state of turmoil," he explained. "But at the same time, people love playing games on their iPad. The PC is going through a wonderful renaissance right now."

"I just want to see what happens," he said.

Bleszinski's thoughts mirror those we've been hearing from our development community lately: when it comes to consoles, a lot of you are asking for more open policies and less of the "red tape" that he's referring to, both for content updates and for getting a game onto consoles at all.

Sony is promising that its upcoming PlayStation 4 will be the "most open console" available but, as we found out, it seems the company was speaking more about the hardware than it was about its submission process.

With the massive amount of support we're seeing for (mostly) open Android consoles like Ouya and the GameStick -- as well as some big talk from Valve about opening up Steam to be an all-inclusive API (as opposed to a submission process) -- traditional consoles may be in danger of losing content creators if they don't make it easier for developers to be let in.


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Comments


Jonathan Murphy
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He's right. The industry is moving in a new direction. I think Steambox has the potential in 5 years to be the leader on the market. Of coarse I could be wrong. But what I'm not wrong about is the new direction. It's happening now and it will continue into the next generation. Any company that follows the old thinking will find themselves joining THQ.

Jimmy Albright
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While I'm definitely for lowering the barrier for entry, I'm a bit worried about some of the potential problems by Steambox being 'too open. That being said I think Valve has in general had a positive impact on competitors and setting the bar at a great place for digital distribution for consumers.

I was pretty happy to hear about the upcoming 360 games on demand sale, definitely a step in the right direction, at least for consumers.

http://majornelson.com/2013/02/22/the-xbox-live-ultimate-game-sal
e/
(link, if anyone's interested)

If the Steambox means better treatment to consumers and developers, it should be a great thing.

Bob Johnson
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Steambox the leader? Have you seen or played with a STeambox yet? It ain't out.

I would argue it is much much easier for a MS or Sony or Nintendo even to say, 'hey publish whatever you like to our platform' than it is for a Valve to jump into the console business from ground zero.

Jonathan Murphy
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I was one of the first guys in the industry to proclaim the Wii would be a huge success and the PS3 would be dead last in sales. It was a painful 6 years watching MS rise to success and dump it all into cough Kinect. But I was mostly right. I called Midway, Atari, THQ's fall. Back when people scoffed at me for it.

I still stand by my prediction of Activision, Ubisoft and EA dead in 4 years. It's fun predicting stuff.

Mark Ludlow
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While I agree with what he's saying, the irony is, Minecraft is already available on a console.

Ian Uniacke
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I suspect he means that a game like Minecraft won't start on consoles.

Carlo Delallana
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But it wasn't born on the console. Imagine what kind of hoops and hurdles Markus Persson would have to go through if Minecraft was to be console-first. Obtaining a dev kit, getting a publisher, etc.

WILLIAM TAYLOR
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Minecraft didn't start on console but who cares? Shadow Complex, Fez, Braid, Journey, Mark of the Ninja, Flower, and all the other awesome XBLA/PSN games didn't launch on PC first. If there were no good indie games on consoles, I could get behind Cliffy, but that's not the case.

There is value to the console experience and the console approach and I totally don't mind the way it works now because there is a steady supply of great indie games. Yeah, we don't get every single game ever made, but no platform gets that.

Bob Johnson
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Yeah but what's wrong with starting on the pc and if your game is a hit move it to consoles where the more mainstream are?

Or start on iOS.

And I think the console makers are making things easier for smaller developers than the last generation. I don't think they are going the other way. And given the number of quality smaller cheaper games we saw on consoles this past generation I can only imagine there will be more of those experiences.

John Flush
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the funny thing about this is Minecraft would even be bigger on a console if it didn't take so much to put out a patch for it. the PC gets updated every month... the console edition? only after months and months of console red tape.

Kevin Reese
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I concur with Cliff on the 'PC renaissance' point. I've been playing PC games since the beginning and seems like we are right at the initial stages of a second PC gaming golden age now. With Kickstarter and create tools available for indie game makers, the amount of quality -- and more importantly, innovative -- PC games coming out in the last 1 - 1.5 years is very impressing. With Chris Roberts back in town and the Occulus Rift coming...

Kevin Alexander
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Ironically enough, all of us remember 4 years ago their were discussions about PC gaming in a traditional sense being something that was going to die off. Perhaps that wasn't entirely wrong to assert retrospectively. But what most didn't quite foresee that PC gaming would be able to position itself to evolve with emerging technologies effectively more so than Sony and Microsoft seem to be able to.

This is giving them an edge undoubtedly, but we'll still have to wait and see.

Bob Johnson
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Pcgaming always gets a bit of a renaissance at the end of a console generation when the power gap is at its greatest.

Pcgaming though can only go so far because it is a pain the arse for most people. Installing mods on Minecraft for example although perhaps that is an extreme example.

There is a lot of good that comes from having standards on consoles too. I think some folks dismiss that way too easily just as they think pcgaming is no problem. The masses should take it up.

Lewis Wakeford
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People are getting more and more technical these days. Maybe not to the point where everyone is hacking out C++ code, but a lot of people can follow a tutorial to install mods for example. Though in your particular example Minecraft mods are a bit of a pain as you need to fiddle about with the .Jar or something.

Bob Johnson
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Yes but your example of following a tutorial to install a mod is why pcgaming is a hassle for most.

My example was extreme though. There is plenty of hassle to pcgaming before you ever get to mods. Driver issues. Installing vid cards. Having the correct specs. And the multitude of bugs and incompatibilities that creep up.

James Yee
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Well don't forget Steam Workshop is making the installing of mods WAY easier. Civ V mods pop into mind as they fit into the "simple" catagory of I pick it, it downloads and installs, and I go.

Which is one reason why I'm looking forward to what Steam does in the near future.

That said yes, in general buying/installing programs on PC's is more difficult than on Consoles. Though with APP stores (both Mac and PC as well as Steam) this is getting to be a non-issue there too.

Merc Hoffner
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Not that the sentiments here aren't necessarily true, but I would gently remind that what the development community wants and what the consumer at large wants are not exactly the same thing. The key to a sustainable future is keeping an eye on what the consumer wants (even if they don't know it yet) while operating in a sensible cost window. Anything else may be nice, but MUST be a lower priority. And just to be clear, innovtive distribution mechanisms aren't a substitute for innovative gameplay, even if sometimes the positive sentiments sweep us along.

I'd also gently remind that most publishers never saw so much money coming in as when they were having a terribly hard time of it with the Emotion Engine and all the associated restrictions (a time when updates weren't allowed - the game bloody well had to work), and that it's taken the control, structure and restrictions of iOS and Steam to functionally monetize what would have otherwise remained derelict on Newgrounds. Remember those days? When distribution was actually unrestricted? No, nobody does. App store /= internet.

Lewis Wakeford
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I think there's no real danger to the actual content creators in opening up the platforms a bit, assuming there are decent "user-based" quality control features available. App stores should work a bit more like, say, youtube. Popular stuff (not necessarily good) rises to the front page, niches are not hard to find with a quick search and the truly awful garbage like some kids 9 second iPhone home video gets lost in cyber space forever.

Just being in the store doesn't guarantee a game lots of sales without any prior marketing, but the current obstacles in the way of making money from the game are significantly reduced without many (or any) new ones being introduced.

Michael Pianta
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@Lewis

But it can't be JUST like YouTube, because a program has a lot more complexity than a video. Someone has to make sure that the program works, that it doesn't damage the machine, that it isn't stealing sensitive information from users, and so forth. YouTube doesn't check the content of a video until there's been a complaint. On a console every game would have to be checked before hand one way or another. If you let the community do this you have XBLIG. Otherwise you have to have some kind of restrictions because Microsoft (or whoever) itself will never have enough staff to check everything that might be submitted. This is the problem Valve has right now, which is why they made Greenlight.

Joshua Hawkins
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Please read the gameindustry.biz article. Cliffy isn't really talking about the indie scene per say. He's talking about developers being able to update their content easily w/out having to completely re-certify their product. Nobody really know what types of markets are going to be successful next gen so consoles need to be able to provide the flexibility for developers to test the waters before diving in on a failed business plan. 5 years ago it was all subscriptions, and nowadays it's all about the free-to-play model... what's going to be next, and what can consoles do to make sure they're leading the market?

Last gen consoles mostly missed out on emerging economic models. Mostly because these games required weekly/monthly patches that basically would of meant going through certification all over again, or trying to make those changes server based which is limited and takes a ton of pre-planning.

What's really interested about this article is CliffyB himself. He's normally a cutting edge, take charge innovator and he's sitting out on the sidelines waiting for the dust to settle.

"I just want to see what happens" is not the approach a talented industry veteran should take. Don't let the accountants, and market analysts decide where this industry is going. Take charge, and make something that drives the industry forward.

Nou Phabmixay
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I wish you wrote the summary.

Christian Philippe Guay
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If only all the most driven and passionate game developers could step out from the big AAA studios, regroup, start smaller AAA studios (less than 40 people) to finally make the games they really want to make or feel that need to be made... I would be really curious to see where it would lead us to.

Jarod Smiley
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I have to agree, I've been spending more time with Vita lately than my Home consoles...Rehashed ideas over and over again, I miss the glorious RPG days and content variety of Ps2 era...

Michael Kolb
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Jarod, there's a difference between rehashed ideas and iterative innovative sequels. Don't lump them all in one place. Only Siths deal in absolutes haha. You have to nod your head with Cliff here, I'm interested to see what he'll do now that he's taking a more nonchalant approach to the industry.

Jimmy Albright
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I have the utmost respect for CliffyB, but I really worry that he might not ever find a place where he's valued like he seemingly was at Epic. He's a bright guy, but definitely not irreplaceable. I'm interested to see what he does next, he's been retired for 6 months and so far that's entailed buying a 350,000 car and starting his own tumblr.

I'm not trying to be critical of his life choices, I just worry that his relevance (and influence) in the gaming community is going to fade.

Kevin Wong
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that said, there should be at least some sort of improved quality control process so that the next generation of consoles doesn't get crapflooded by bad independent games like XBLIG did, making it hard for anyone to profit off that kind of development.

Jonathan McAfee
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Maybe I'm just a little crazy here, but it seems to me that we are at a crossroads unlike any crossroad ever crossed by the games industry. A crossroads between 9 different things that confuse developers. You've got Ooya, Steambox, PS4, Xbox720, WiiU, GameStick, Oculus Rift, Tablets out the wazoo, and that thing that Valve is investing in that got overshadowed by the fact that Valve is making Steambox. As an aspiring developer, I'm just kind of sitting here thinking, what's gonna happen when this all hits the fan? Who's going down? Who will reign supreme? What will the industry look like in 5 years? You can speculate all you want, but truly we know nothing until after the market has decided. There are going to be people who make bucket loads of profits, and there will be others who loose everything.

Yannick Boucher
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@Jonathan For all those who have a lot of chips on any platform or business model, there's a crazy amount of "wait and see" behind the scenes, the boisterous facades. And yes, that includes Sony with their PS4.

Developers and publishers are testing the waters here and there while seeing how it all works. Mobile is starting to get closer and closer to the console market (in that you need to be incredibly visible, or die. The pie is getting smaller).

The social/Facebook bubble finally burst.

Apple and Google, who knows what they have in store, and no, just because it's them, doesn't mean it's gonna be an instant winner.

Ouya, it's nice on paper, but my tablet's Android marketplace is already a mishmash of mostly mediocre content, how will it be different on that platform?

Steambox looks great. But explain to me exactly how you keep the oppenness of a PC while bringing in the standardizations of a console, again?


Right now anybody who can "predict" where we're actually going is either: 1- wishfully thinking, 2- just promoting their own wares. The truth is I've never seen so much flux. It's madness, it's a total bloodbath waiting to happen, and we're only at the appetizer stage. In 6 months, things will start to get ugly, and a lot of people are gonna get really hurt (and hopefully there'll be winners!)

Dave Long
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@ the Author - you're very big on dropping the boot into Sony for a lack of openness, but evidence is building that Sony are already becoming more open (http://www.joystiq.com/2013/02/27/retro-city-rampage-sold-much-mo
re-on-psn-than-steam-xbla/). Throw in that Thomas was Alone is also coming to PS3/Vita, and your skepticism seems more like stubbornness than rooted in fact. I'm sure there's potential for Sony to continue to open up, and be more open, but the signs we're getting at the moment are very promising. For some reason, though, we don't seem to hear a lot about it on Gamasutra.....


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