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Game Developer's Top Deck 2008
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Game Developer's Top Deck 2008

December 11, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 8 Next


The personalities in the Ambassadors group have expanded the market in ways that nobody would have expected 10 years ago. Games are not only increasing in users, but also in media mindshare -- the audience is broadening tremendously.

From new delivery methods to new platforms, without the recent contributions of these people, games would not be in the position they're in today -- which is a far more mainstream and influential one than it was 10 years ago.

Ace of Clubs: Gabe Newell, Valve

Under Gabe Newell, Valve's PC digital download service Steam has gathered over 15 million users. That's a lot of people, especially for a platform that some cynics are continually discounting as dead -- perhaps due to a spreading-out of revenue rather than an actual decrease.

Steam releases developers from the tethers of retail, and gives consumers a much better user experience, while providing a piracy-free alternative to boxed copies. Not only that, since it's developer-run, the service is certainly different from a traditional publisher arrangement. In 2008, this sounds like a re-statement of the obvious -- but can you imagine the current game industry without it?

King of Clubs: Satoru Iwata, Nintendo

The Wii and DS both came out some time ago, but this year, the platforms continued to deliver on several of the Kyoto-based company's rather bold promises. Nintendo has opened the idea of games up to new users to a degree that the company itself didn't even anticipate -- and can now claim the two most purchased consoles on the world market.

Even though it might be Nintendo first-party titles dominating the top of the charts -- scant consolation for third parties -- progressions like WiiWare, the DSi and MotionPlus continue to move things forward.

Queen of Clubs: Will Wright, EA Maxis

Spore has been lauded as the next big thing for several years now, and this year, it's finally released -- which should make it this year's big thing! What the game -- one of the most technically advanced and innovative so far -- does very well is introduce new users to sophisticated, evolutionary gameplay.

The Maxis masterpiece is simple and accessible on the surface, but beyond that, Wright's latest is a world inside your computer, and for scientific ambassadorship alone, gives the SimCity and The Sims creator a place on this Deck.

Jack of Clubs: Steve Jobs, Apple

For ages, mobile game companies have been touting the numbers -- billions of handsets, billions of potential customers. Soon thereafter, another North American cell phone game firm closes, consolidates, or otherwise downshifts. Now, with Apple's iPhone, the field becomes a tad more even.

Though not yet a gigantic market, with an actual store to purchase games from, a pleasant (and somewhat new) interface, and the ability to for developers to circumvent carriers and third party publishers, the iPhone can potentially truly bring games to a whole new group of people. Jobs and Apple have truly created a gaming platform here, for the first time since the Apple II.

Nexon's MapleStory

10 of Clubs: Min Kim, Nexon

MapleStory creator Nexon, "big in Korea" since practically the year dot, has promoted free-to-play PC online games from both the consumer and developer sides for several years now. Among its ranks, the firm's Min Kim has been the most vocal evangelist of this business model in recent years, speaking at conferences worldwide, and lately it seems people have been starting to listen.

You can make hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a month just from microtransactions and other alternative forms of revenue -- and even though too many people may be chasing that dream, it's Nexon and Kim that blazed the way.

9 of Clubs: Hideo Kojima, Konami

There are few game creators with the name recognition of Hideo Kojima, and even fewer still that can move significant amounts of console hardware with the release of a single title. Kojima did just that, giving the PlayStation 3 an extra 200,000 unit sales boost in North America this past June, when Metal Gear Solid 4 was released.

Beyond his importance to Sony's bottom line, however, is Kojima's unwavering insistence that video games are a storytelling medium on par with literature and film. Even if opinions are mixed on whether it succeeded as a narrative, the game remains a study on the power of story to engage players.

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