Peering At The Future: Jesse Schell Speaks
December 3, 2010 Page 3 of 6
You told me Schell Games focuses on branded content. Game developers, in the sense of I think who has formed the core of the industry for the last while, and continues to form a lot of the core industry, might be surprised to hear that you're focused on branded content exclusively.
JS: Not exclusively. I'm just saying it's one of things I think is going to be important. I'm looking at growth areas. When you look at the future of social games -- how are social games going to be different than they are today? -- one of them is going to be branded content.
Because the same cycle happens with every game platform. The platform comes out, and it's got all new IP, fancy new stuff that no one's ever heard of, and then gradually people put their toe in the water and start to put branding on it, right?
And then eventually, more or less, my observation is about 50 percent of revenue seems to come from branded content in the long run. Well, look at social games right now. What percent is branded content? Very little.
I think those people are not sure what's the right way, blah blah blah. They'll start experimenting, and I think it will go there. So, in terms of growth areas, I think it's a growth area.
We're used to hard cycles. Consoles lasted a certain time; everyone knew when they were starting, everyone had a basically good idea of when they were ending, and that's all they really had to plan for.
JS: Right. No, the whole downloadable thing is disrupting everything, and no one quite knows how it's going to end up. I mean, I remember having these arguments in the mid-'90s at Disney. We made this big argument that everything is going to be downloadable.
"Hey, stupid. Why aren't we doing anything downloadable because that's where it's all going to go?" And some wise old person there said, "I understand what you're saying, but keep in mind that we keep finding ways to make the discs bigger, and we keep finding ways to fill them."
Now, in order to make accurate predictions, you have to figure out like how big can the discs get, how big is our capacity to fill them, and how does that curve relate to the growth and whatever happens with your bandwidth curve? Because there will be a certain point where you're like, "Yeah, no. I'm not going to wait three days to download a game."
And storage, too.
JS: Right. Right. And I don't have the RAM for it. So, there's complicated questions like, "Will it all go the way of music?" I suspect the answer is no because music, it's like no. A song is four minutes long, and you can throw more bits at it, and it does not sound any better. But games, it's not that way. So, exactly how it turns out is mysterious.
Though in some ways it's surprising because the traditional game industry had this sense that games always look more and more realistic and get better and better. And then what are the most popular games in the world? It's Facebook with Flash and simplicity.
And even the Wii was retrograde from that perspective.
JS: Well, and the error, I think, that people think about, is they assume... They think of games like a car that's driving from town to town. "Where's it going next?" It's like, no, it's not a car that drives you from town to town. It's a thing that like is blossoming out, radiating in all directions.
So the answer is just like, "Yeah, eventually it's going everywhere." Just like "In what order?", right, is kind of the question. Which means it can be going in two directions at once. That's what we're seeing, so...
And now I want to talk about, get to actually, your keynote at Unite, which was quite interesting and thought-provoking.
JS: I was scared to death because it was new material, and I'm always scared of new material. I'm like, "Is anybody going to care?" I was imagining an audience full of people tapping their watch. "I really want to know about the 3.1 Unity features? Can we get this over with?" But people did seem kind of interested.
I look for opportunities to give talks to make me think about new things. They asked me to do this keynote, and I'm like "What should I talk about?" They're like, "I don't know. You tell me." And I'm like, "Oh. What's important about Unity?" And I had to think about that a little bit.
Partly, like the multiplatform part is important, but as I kept coming back around to it, I think Unity really will be the birth of... it has the potential, if it gets scale -- and in fact, I'd love if you would put this in your article because I forgot to mention it on stage; I was a little shy about mentioning IT exactly -- the most important thing for Unity is to get scale, to get installed in every browser.
[CEO] David [Helgasson] ought to be paying a penny to every developer who causes a new install to happen, right? At his rate of 2.5 million installs a month, it would only cost him 25 grand. Yes, 25 grand a month, and developers would be excited about it. "Ooh, how can I crack this new market, because I'll get a bounty from David?"
Anyway, so scale is going to be important for the, and once they get it and they have multiplatform, I think they are best positioned to be the place of experimentation and growth for AI characters.
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