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American McGee: Home Consoles Were "Unsustainable From Inception"

Jonathan Lester
Alice: Madness Returns, American McGee, Consoles, Free to play

American McGee: Home Consoles Were "Unsustainable From Inception"

F2P Made More Money Than Alice: Madness Returns

American McGee, the ex-id Software Staffer behind Alice and its sequel, reckons that home consoles were doomed from the very beginning - and Free To Play is already more profitable than consoles ever were.

“Earning out on a console title is like digging out from under an avalanche,” he told Game Informer. “If you don’t get out from under the advances within a very short period of time it’s all over. F2P offers an opportunity to release something into the wild and improve it continually until it returns a profit. Making good on the opportunity is in no way guaranteed, but the option is there. This all being the case, we’ve already seen our online F2P games generate more profit and a better ROI than [Alice: Madness Returns] ever did, or likely will.”

Having moved from AA development to the mobile and social space, McGee believes that the home console is simply doomed to extinction and was never going to be a sustainable business model in perpetuity. "Though the console market extracted two decades of profit and mindshare from Western developers and consumers, it was unsustainable from inception,” he continued. “Looked at from the perspective of external markets where consoles aren’t the foundation of the gaming ecosystem, the idea of physical media (discs) and fixed location gaming (consoles) now seems anachronistic."

It's not all doom and gloom. According to McGee, the transition from consoles to more open mobile platforms will benefit both consumers and developers.

"It’s worth examining where the money flowed in a market where consoles dominated and how they helped consolidate power among a handful of publishers. The transition we’re now seeing is a revolution of the model that will lead to greater freedom for future publishers, developers and consumers.”

McGee joins a growing number of developers, publishers and pundits who believe that the next generation of consoles will likely be the last, replaced by free-to-play games streaming from Tablets and mobile devices over the next decade.

Add a comment9 comments
gunnx  Jul. 17, 2012 at 10:22

I've not played Madness returns but the reviews weren't encouraging.
Too much talk about end of consoles, mobile gaming, is that really what the general public want? its definitely not what I want. Please keep investing money into making high quality games and not watered down experiences.

Korma  Jul. 17, 2012 at 10:22

McDonalds makes way more money than fine restaurants, yet amazingly people still eat at fine restaurants for some reason.

Those F2P PC players have been used to spending $15-20 a month just to play the games, so buying in game items instead feels like a good deal for them. Console games have been used to buying the game and that's it, until the 360 it was only a few map pack type additions.

F2P can be done resonably but one you start seeing money roll in it's hard not be tempted to squeeze the players for ever more. The focus is likely to end up on thinking about the best ways to get transactions from people, rather than the best ways to make the game. Some game genres just aren't suitable for that anyway, not that it stops people like EA from trying to use F2P techniques in full price games with their one-time use 'randomised' packs you can buy on Mass Effect and sports games.

phil16  Jul. 17, 2012 at 10:29

Those F2P PC players have been used to spending $15-20 a month just to play the games, so buying in game items instead feels like a good deal for them. Console games have been used to buying the game and that's it, until the 360 it was only a few map pack type additions.

And old PC Gamers like myself were used to paying for a game and getting map and full on mods for free. Its always the way - Its all about squeezing extra pennies from the consumer.

Late  Jul. 17, 2012 at 11:56

I've not played Madness returns but the reviews weren't encouraging.... Please keep investing money into making high quality games and not watered down experiences.


Madness Returns sounded like a good idea, and I was looking forward to it - and then people got their hands on it. The reviews were bad, so nobody bought it. I've seen it as low as £10 on the consoles and still not picked up a copy...

"Boo-hoo - I made a crap console game and it didn't make much money. If I made a crap game on the pc with lots of microtransactions it'd make loads more money."
Don't use that as an excuse to swerve consoles. Use that as an incentive for putting more effort into your games, McGee.

SavageDonkey  Jul. 17, 2012 at 12:27

Irrelevant personal opinion.. trying to make himself relevant!

BlueSmirnoff  Jul. 17, 2012 at 13:04

The whole games industry is just on the edge of collapsing, the hardware loss on console sales is a

part, but mostly it is the huge game budgets with stagnent sales figures that is destroying it, it's

not caused by piracy (though that is a factor on all platforms), it is more the lack of creativity,

the constant clones and sequels, or the interactive movies, people buy it for the imagery, then moan

that it lacks fun, or they've seen it all before.

The saving grace for gaming are the indie developers, they are refreshing the field with new genres

or just giving pure gaming fun, not getting bogged down with IP licences, realistic FMV storylinesor

other flap, just that back to basics fun that made the industry in the first place. I doubt the big

publishers will vanish or give up easily, there will still be a big audience for the Mass Effect big

budget titles, but they need to be more choosy and will I think produce less games less often, but

instead concentrate on more paid DLC and expansions for there successes or go for the WoW like

subscription MMOs (though Guild Wars 2 is about to turn that side of the industry on it's head).

Consoles are just fixed spec PCs, they made sense years ago when PCs cost £1200, so you didn't want

your kids to abuse it with gaming all the time, a £200-400 console made sense, but now a half decent

gaming PC costs £600 (£450 + a £150 graphics card) with games costing £25 (more open market and no

added licence fee) and everyone has a PC at home now anyway (if not 2 or 3), console owner or not. A

games console starts at a subsidised £450 (without all the extra components, accesories, online

subscriptions and currency purchases) as they get closer to end of life the price drops to about

£200, but the game prices stay high £30-40, it doesn't take many games before the console costs more

overall, yet for the sake of a £150 graphics card you could play any of the games on a PC, with the

advantage of extras such as editors and community mods. PC games require zero configuration to play

nowdays, though you can tweak the settings to suit you still, what exactly is the reason for consoles

to exist anymore ?

The answer is money, so long as us public are tricked into thinking consoles are cheaper and less

hassle to use, then the big publishers are happy to keep taking our cash and they will rollout a new

generation of consoles.

Late  Jul. 17, 2012 at 14:53

(Urgh @ that formatting...)

It's rare that I dip into pc gaming. On the rare occasion I've done so in the past I usually find myself frustrated.

I've had a look at the minimum/recommended spec on the packaging before buying (though half of the stuff it's talking about means nothing to me). I've used websites designed to tell you whether your pc can handle a game, and recommend settings. And yet half the time the games I buy don't work. And I'm apprehensive about returning them. I'd imagine sometimes it's my fault (I need to tweak some settings), sometimes it's maybe not - but the fact remains I don't know whether any given game will work on my pc.

Laziness? Maybe so. I consider myself fairly intelligent, and whilst I'm not all that tech savvy I'm okay with computers - so if I applied myself to the problem I'm sure I could easily get to grips with it.
But why bother when the alternative is to stick with my console. If it's got "ps3" in the corner of the packaging I'm not going to get much joy. If it's got "xbox 360" I'm sorted.

gunnx  Jul. 17, 2012 at 15:11

PC gaming has its own issues and I dont think they are the perfect replacement for consoles. Piracy will still be a factor for businesses and PC's not really had much success in curbing that. Rapidly putting out new hardware was an effective way to combat it.
I like the fact you can just switch on the console and play a game, I do admit though with FW updates, they are heading more towards PC end.
But on reflection I guess I dont mind what box is under the TV just as long as the games work.

BlueSmirnoff  Jul. 17, 2012 at 16:45

Yeah, not sure what happened with that formatting, looked fine when I posted it!

I agree, the fixed spec console is a great feature, both for development and ease of mind as to whether a game will work, many vendors sell PCs (and laptops) as gaming devices, but they are woefully underpowered, at the other end you get ridiculous high spec PCs that are akin to buying a Bugatti Veyron to commute to work.

I don't think consoles are going anywhere any time soon, but I think they will bet more expensive and will try to justify that price with all those extra features built in, they will aim to be a full fledged media centre I think, TV recording, media play back, one point to access all, the PS3 is almost there now, the games Publishers are all part of big corporations that own TV, film, radio, music and marketing, as well as games, so they are going to milk that market.

PC gaming is still a rougher experience true, it's the price of being more generic, but it has the advantage of being cutting edge, rather than stuck in a fixed spec that is outdated before it releases, but the point I was trying to make really was that the corporations have lost the plot, show me a game by them in the last 10 years that is original, there won't be many (I can't think of one), the future of gaming really lies with the indie developers, who answer to nobody, so can let creativity rule their games, sure in time they may get rich and bloated and will start churning out the same crap, but for now, they are future.


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