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Red 5 Studios: "Consoles, I Believe, Are Dead"

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
News
Tags:
F2P, Fire fall, Free to play, Games consoles, Mark Kern, PC games, Red 5 Studios

Red 5 Studios: "Consoles, I Believe, Are Dead"

Former World Of Warcraft team lead and CEO of Red 5 Studios, Mark Kern, has suggested that the failure of big platform holders to move nimbly enough with the times, and the unwillingness of large publishers to change their business models, means that consoles are scuppered, with the PC and mobile scenes offering much more variety and escape from traditional, "broken" models.

The first step, Kern stated, is to recognise that the current business models are proving counter-effective, and are "broken".

"Look at the symptoms. Look at the fact that there's no middle ground anymore," he argued.

"You're either an indie game or you're a massive AAA, IP-backed sequel with derivative gameplay that's rehashed over and over again as it's the only safe bet you can make when you're spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The failure is that there's no middle ground. All the games in the middle that could have been made but have been squeezed out and we've seen all these independent studios get closed down over the last few years."

Kern also attacked the cycle of long-term recruitment marred by post-launch lay-offs, suggesting that such a destructive business strategy was "unsustainable".

"The other troubling symptom is this wave of lay-offs we have after every product launches," he continued. "People say 'Oh, that's normal, Hollywood does it all the time.' Well, it's not normal. It's a symptom of your business being broken.

"In Hollywood they work on contract - it's very different. They expect only to work from A to B. In games, these big publishers are hiring swathes of people expecting to have jobs long-term but then lay them off at the end of a project because it doesn't quite deliver. This is unsustainable."

It's these business models that Kern says will spell the end for consoles, simply because the numbers don't add up and there are plenty of other opportunities, more progressive opportunities, to be had elsewhere.

"It takes billions of dollars of investment to create a console and then you have to milk it for five to seven years in order to get your money back," he said.

"I think the model is broken. You keep making these bigger and bigger bets and what that forces you to do is play it safer and safer. And if you play it safer and safer with your gameplay, people will get tired of the crap you're serving. When that happens, they get bored and they will leave. And you haven't fostered any of the middle ground innovation and new ideas that you need to tap into next.

"So something has to change. Consoles, I believe, are dead."

According to Kern, in order to create that change, publishers need to change their ways of thinking, or face being left behind.

"Isn't it ridiculous that you can buy these fantastic games on iPad, but then you get a publisher like Square Enix charging an astronomical price for an old game port? They just don't get it. They don't get that we have to lower the barrier for entry.

"You have to compete on fun as you no longer have a lock on distribution. Big publishers can no longer rely on the fact that they're the only ones that can get distribution for their titles. We have to compete on different things now, and get back to fun and innovation."

The difficulty, of course, is that (as with all large things), changes in big business take time.

"The problem is, even if they're aware of the issues, there's so much inertia that it's really hard to change," he replied.

"I'll go out and say it; even if the heads of these big organisations do get it - which is questionable to begin with - being able to turn on a dime when everybody's salaries and bonuses are vested in the old business models is a very difficult thing to do.

"I think they're at severe risk right now of being trumped by Apple, by Google, by Facebook. Look at indie games. Look at Riot Games and League of Legends. They have more users than World of Warcraft does. That's crazy. And they don't have a publisher.

"Who needs publishers any more? I certainly don't. I couldn't care less about them at this stage."

Red 5's F2P FPS - Firefall - is currently in beta. You can request a key here.

Add a comment2 comments
gunnx  May. 3, 2012 at 12:57

Why does he compare to Hollywood but then dismiss it as different?
Games industry has gone that way, and perhaps games should be contract based A->B. Games could be invested in the same way movies are. Instead of business risking everything on a whim. I also don't care too much about the middle ground. if there are enough AAA games then that will keep consoles alive, and the indie and low end games will keep mobile alive.

Doors  May. 3, 2012 at 13:30

Why does he compare to Hollywood but then dismiss it as different?
Games industry has gone that way, and perhaps games should be contract based A->B. Games could be invested in the same way movies are. Instead of business risking everything on a whim. I also don't care too much about the middle ground. if there are enough AAA games then that will keep consoles alive, and the indie and low end games will keep mobile alive.


I don't think he does compare it to Hollywood. He says that "people" do. Problem with only AAA titles is that they're just constant rehashes. The mainstream will eventually get bored of this (I'm surprised the discontent is not already more widespread), but the middle ground he talks of I think is the launch pad for new IPs and gaming innovation.

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