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OPINION | ALPHA //COMMENT: DIGITAL


Will gamers see a fairer digital future? ’The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves,’ quotes Alex Ward


IN MAY, JAMES Cameron did an “Ask Me Anything” piece on Reddit. One question was Terminator-related. It read, “Are there any timelines where Skynet wins. If yes, how?” His response “One could argue that the machines have already won. All you have to do is look around at how many people are face down texting 100 per cent of the time, everywhere they are, and it’s hard to imagine that the machines haven’t won.” Over the past few years, the digital world has given me a simpler and happier life. But I’m still not able to lead a digital life in the way I want to when it comes to gaming. Thanks to my Kindle and iPad Mini, I decluttered my shelves, I’ve bought more books and I can combine my collection with my family. Result: I read more, and buy more. In 2007, I ripped all of my favourite movies and TV programmes to my Mac. But it’s mostly redundant now – if I want to re-watch The West Wing, I just fi re up Netfl ix or Amazon Instant Video, which runs on every device I own. I’m watching more movies and discovering more new shows. Result: I’m watching more, and buying more. But digital gaming remains messy and complicated. I should be good to go 100 per cent digital, right? Wrong.


GOING DIGITAL First off , the prices are simply extortionate. Why would anyone pay £64.99 to download Watch Dogs to their PS4? That price makes no sense. Digital should be cheaper – simple as that. Ridiculous pricing isn’t happening elsewhere with other content. New fi lms on Amazon Instant Video, Blinkbox, or Xbox Video are priced roughly the same as


//EXTRA CONTENT ONLINE


“After several years of iterating on point-and-click games, I burned out and wanted to do something new.”


What the Mystery Case Files creator did next Adrian Woods, Fezziwig http://deve1op.net/1sQ63qK


“I’m not saying nothing will ever die in our games, but if we include death we want it to be meaningful.”


Magic Notion: The virtual drag queen’s studio


Richard Franke, Magic Notion http://deve1op.net/1nQfEWM


“I can guarantee that if you look at your game’s design document right now it will be out of date in at least


one major place.”


Death of the design document James Sweatman, Jagex http://deve1op.net/1mkm4gx


To see all of our reader blogs visit: www.develop-online.net | Email craig.chapple@intentmedia.co.uk to contribute your own blog DEVELOP-ONLINE.NET AUGUST 2014 | 11


the physical content. Publishers spout off about “supporting a healthy retail channel” – but why not have a healthy digital channel co-exist at the same time? Do publishers and format holders enjoy a healthy mutual relationship at the expense of the consumer? Sharing is the second fl aw in the digital dream. It’s not simple to move games and saves between my consoles at home and at


Amazon and iTunes transformed how


we access fi lms and music but gaming is stuck in the Dark Ages.


work. Xbox One’s simple Syncing makes it bearable. And I can auto-upload my PS4 saves to the cloud. Mario Kart 8’s steep digital price of £49.99 put the brakes on my purchase. So what of the near-future? Will there be streaming subscription-based services? I’d love to pre-order the Watch Dogs sequel now, and get early access or extra content, but I don’t want to pay over the top to do so. I’m really interested in PlayStation Now. I hope Microsoft off ers something similar. I wish both of these systems off ered backwards compatibility. There are a lot of great games from last year I could easily spend the next year playing. But the early reports of beta Now access shows very high price points to access very old content. I’d be partial to the odd game of Rage Racer or other PlayStation games via my PS4, but I’d rather pay one price to access the entire library. I’ve been burned too many times on Nintendo’s eShop. How can an old NES game cost over a fi ver? We’ve had Netfl ix and Amazon transform how we access movies and how much we pay. iTunes and Spotify changed the way we access, fi nd, share and love music. But gaming seems stuck in the Dark Ages. The access is complicated. The prices are insane. The sharing is limited. Both the publishers and the format holders won’t act until we hit them where it hurts them the most: their spreadsheets. Gamers deserve better than this. They deserve a fairer digital world. And just like James Cameron’s prologue at the beginning of The Terminator, this battle will not be fought in the future. It will be fought here, in our present. Tonight. 


Alex Ward is the co-founder of Three Fields Entertainment. He previously co-founded Burnout developer Criterion Games. www.threefi eldsentertainment.com


It’s easy to consume all other forms of media – books, music, fi lms and TV – 100 per cent digitally, but Alex Ward is frustrated that the same can’t be said for gaming.


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