Kudos to Michael Arrington for trying to moderate a panel of the big social games networks – Crowdstar, Playdom, Zynga, etc. on what’s next in the industry. It was sponsored by Offerpal. He asked the blunt question – why do your games suck? Then clarified, saying though we loved Pong, we wouldn’t play it today. Playdom and Zynga then adopted a defensive posture, basically saying gamers don’t want complexity, accessibility is important, and that by implication, current games are the pinnacle of social game design. I suppose I expected too much – these guys aren’t game designers, and they’re not going to go open kimono despite Arrington’s goading. But to say that social games are at its ultimate state now, and that users eschew complexity, shows they don’t get game design at all. Users may not want to see complexity, but motion tracking on the Wii, physics, AI, these are all complex systems that the user interacts easily with (in theory). Why is complexity a bad thing, a priori? The Playdom guy conflated ‘twich’ gameplay with ‘complexity’. Will someone from these companies please send someone with substantive things to say to these panels? This is the GAME DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE; we make games. Don’t insult developers by dismissing all the evolutionary progress made since Spacewar.
As I sat through this muddle, my friend went to the Windows 7 mobile talk. Apparently, by the end of the talk the room had emptied out. They’re only supporting asynchronous turn-based games at the device launch. According to Ben, the Microsoft guy told the group that “within the constraints we’ve laid, out, we’re confident you will make revolutionary mobile games.” C’mon; did he think people in the audience don’t know what the state of the art iPhone games are capable of doing? I’ve only heard good things about Win 7¸which is a good thing since they’ve lost a huge amount of market share to iPhone, Blackberry and Droid. Palm’s finally given developers a more robust SDK to make games for the Pre, but I wonder if it’s too little, too late.
If I hear one more “shipping a social game begins at launch” comment, I’m going to shoot them. The original social game genre – MMOGs – have been saying that for more than a decade now.
New rule: don’t go to sessions with senior execs from big companies. Your chance of getting useful data is inversely proportional to the title of the presenter, and potentially, the size of the company speaking. I’ll bet Bungie talks will be more useful now than they were when they were owned by Redmond.