Develop Brighton Debrief 2006

This was the closing session of the main conference, and from my impression, consisted of a lot of slapping each other on the back really. The panel (including Phil Harrison of Sony and Mark Rein) touched on a few points, but basically summed things up as “things are rosy right now, everything’s going well”. Well, I’m not sure how well everyone else is doing but it doesn’t seem that way to me. So at the end of the session I asked whether or not they thought the next-generation of consoles had really grown the market enough to justify the huge cost increases, and basically was there enough money in the system to support the current crop of developers. Admittedly, all credit to Phil Harrison, he took it on the chin and said ‘No’, but to be frank if he’d pretended otherwise I probably would have got up and walked out.

The gist of the reply was ‘No, people are going to have to be smart, reduce costs, and take advantage of new markets’. That to me says everything is not going well. That to me says that we have a set of developers all scrabbling to develop on the next-generation of consoles, despite the fact that they have a tiny market share compared to the current generation, despite the fact that the games cost many times more to make, and despite the fact that the technology is totally untested. That to me says that the remaining big developers are betting heavily on the next generation, and everyone’s just playing a big game of chicken. No-one wants to say: “actually, we can’t afford to continue like this”, because they’re hoping someone else will say it first, and reduce market congestion, or something else that will save them. And most of all, that says to me that Sony knows they (and Microsoft) are pushing onwards too quickly, and that some developers and publishers are going to die in the transition.

Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to run a company based on something more than just enthusiasm for the new crop of technology. It doesn’t matter if its new and trendy, if it doesn’t sell enough product to make back the cost of developing for it, then its worth nothing.

Unfortunately, that was the last question of the session, and apart from some people talking to me about it as everyone was getting up, there wasn’t much debate about it. I hope at least I did something to damp everyone’s enthusiasm a bit, and get a bit of realism back. My goodness, aren’t I a miserable b&*%ard.

One Response to “Develop Brighton Debrief 2006”

  1. RealDark Says:

    Step up and slap everyone down, nice one.

    From a player’s perspective I would add this to the debate:

    Why do games now cost more to develop yet offer me fewer gameplay hours?

    I know some reasons of course, but I wonder if it is taken into consideration.
    The buisiness model for online, subscription based games seems to work at present, better than most, however I’m unsure of how many of these projects fail and how much growth there is before the novelty runs dry. The only games I really play now are online, so perhaps things have changed in the year or so since I bought my last console game, but I doubt it.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your summary of Develop Brighton 2006, as always you seem to provide a very balanced view on things, taking in the big picture. Your understanding of the issues, from the technical to the subjective emotional, never ceases to impress me. I look forward to seeing the industry’s future through your blog and my own perspective. Hopefully I’ll take my place in the industry in time, and see you at a future Develop conference.


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