Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Microsoft, Nintendo's Barriers to Entry

Creating console games has been something that big companies do, or smaller companies only when they have a contract with a big company. Historically, console makers charged big bucks for development systems -- upwards of $50,000 not so long ago, and more than that you had to apply and they had to accept you. Then each game had to pass an evaluation in order to be cleared for manufacturing... which took months and cost a lot of money to manage.

You'd think it might be easier these days, at least for developers creating games for the online stores of Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. Hah! This interview with some local developers in Santa Cruz has them recounting the lengths they had to go to... posting videos on YouTube to get Nintendo's attention, waiting 5 months just to get to talk to someone at Microsoft. With all that, they still don't have an easy path to success. Imagine how difficult it would be to post an update or an add-on to a game.

Contrast that with Apple's process. You want to be an iPhone developer? OK, $99 gets you the development software. You'll need a Mac to develop on, which would run you another $700 if you don't have one. Build your App and upload it, and wait for approval. Usually it's less than a few days, and your product is in the store. Of course, you have to tell the world about it, and bring the customers in... Apple is no help there. But at least they don't get in your way.

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are all failing to take advantage of the next great revolution in software. The App market has been a huge success, by lowering barriers to entry and creating a vast array of free and low-cost titles that are easy to download and install. This is all possible in a family room, but the Big Three are still too locked into their retail partners and $60 software pricing. They fear a rebellion by their retail partners and third-party developers if they tried to open the floodgates to small developers and free-to-play software.

Apple and Google face no such limitations... I'm sure the AAA titles on consoles will still attract an audience, but there is going to be some big changes coming and the landscape will look very different in a few years.

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