I call it "hitism" (or "headism"); Peter Moore calls it "elitism". In either case, it's the sin of seeing the world only through the lens of megahits. At a games conference this week, Moore, the former Sega US boss and now Microsoft Xbox chief, talked about how to take the game industry into a world beyond the blockbuster.
Here are Moore's first seven rules "to confront elitism and open the doors of our industry", which could just as easily be called Seven Rules Of Long Tail Game Development:
- Beyond The Boys In Their Bedrooms. Appeal to a much wider audience.
- Don’t Pass The Buck On Rising Development Costs. We need to find ways to reduce costs and restructure our revenue models.
- Rebel Without A Platform: Bring Aspiring Developers Into The Fold. For too long we’ve expected the developers of the future to claw their way up to us … we have to start coming to them and proactively develop a farm team of future stars.
- It’s A YouTube World: Embrace Community Created Content. We’re control freaks when it comes to how games are delivered to consumers. We need more spaces where garage designers can get noticed.
- Set Us Free. We should look at delivering new IP in new ways that recognize how powerful a concept shaping your own gaming experience is.
- We’re Too Cool For School: Make Ourselves More Approachable. Games are more powerful, but less approachable. We need to make more games for more people. Expand demographics, online gameplay, strong family settings.
- Lower The Total Cost Of Ownership With Choice. Consumer should have choices, starting at entry level, purchases should be upgradable, don’t lock consumers in.
It's worth noting that Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade platform, which is an on-demand marketplace for small and inexpensive casual games, many of them created by small teams on even smaller budgets, is a great example of the Long Tail of games. In an industry where the cost of developing a traditional console game is now measured in the tens of millions of dollars, a way to reach those same consumers via a online marketplace with infinite shelf space and a place for niche titles of all sort (include re-releases of classic titles from gaming's past) is a perfect way to "scale down" to the market lost to the hits.
UPDATE. Today (8/14) Microsoft announced XNA Game Studios Express, designed to stimulated exactly what Moore was talking about. From the press release:
In the 30 years of video game development, the art of making console games has been reserved for those with big projects, big budgets and the backing of big game labels. Now Microsoft Corp. is bringing this art to the masses with a revolutionary new set of tools, called XNA Game Studio Express, based on the XNA™ platform. XNA Game Studio Express will democratize game development by delivering the necessary tools to hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to help them bring their creative game ideas to life while nurturing game development talent, collaboration and sharing that will benefit the entire industry.
Thanks to Gamerscoreblog for the transcription of Moore's presentation.