Predict the future by preparing for change
Don Daglow, industry veteran and former founder of Stormfront Studios, has seen a lot of change during his 40 years in the game industry. He began his career programming on the PDP-10, and was one of the first five programmers at Intellivision. He wound up working on pioneering products like Neverwinter Nights, and a host of others. Drawing on his long experience in the industry, Daglow outlined his vision for the future of the game industry.
"For years we have been able to predict one thing about future games," he said. "That was, in a few years, we will have better machines, with better graphics, and our games will look and sound better. But now that has changed. Because yes, the next generation of consoles, PS4, Xbox One will have better graphics, but already with PS3 and 360, we started to see the changes get more subtle from generation to generation. And now you can't really tell by looking at a screenshot, without really scrutinizing it, whether it's from the new or current generation."
"Now," he says, "we have to figure out for ourselves how to predict the future, because the one thing we knew no longer applies."
Mobile, especially, is changing extremely rapidly. "The rate of change is accelerating," says Daglow. "Decisions we had 6 months to make, a few years ago, now we have to make those decisions in 6 weeks. The teams that have struggled in mobile are those console teams that were used to planning 2 years in advance. It's hard to change from that."
China is a good place to be in an industry of constant change, Daglow says. "In China, you are living in an environment where everything has been changing very rapidly. So the idea of rapid change is more natural."
"In North America and Europe, we're not used to seeing that kind of rapid change around us," he added. "It's a special advantage of the moment that I believe Chinese game developers have. Feeling comfortable with change is a tremendous advantage."
In order to deal with the future, we need to both lead and learn at the same time, he says. Some people tell him they only want to lead, and never follow. "If you're so busy leading, when do you learn?" Daglow asks.
By way of example, right now, iOS and Android are going up exponentially. But what if the opposite were true? It's something you can think about, and plan for. "If you think ahead, and if you plan ahead, you can look like you can predict the future," Daglow says. "If you've thought about several possible futures, and you have an early stage plan for those futures, it will look as if you can plan for the future. It's an attitude and way of doing things that can give you a sense of more control. So you're working for the future, instead of being a victim of the future."