Nancy Drew more popular than WoW; EA doesn’t know what a PC is

I have a theory about game industry execs…most of them are pretty dumb. Sure, I’ve met a lot of really smart guys that “get it” and are just totally awesome. There are a few that I look up to and I try to follow their example in business, design, etc. But there are so many idiots out there that have either gotten their position by dumb luck, the ideas and work of others, or simply being in the right place at the right time, that the joke about the stereotype is actually pretty right on the mark in a lot of cases.

This is pretty self-evident in the industry. How many times have you seen a press release that has left you scratching your head and thinking “wtf?”. This usually happens when someone cancels a project or title that everyone is just dying for, or some stupid concept is greenlighted and given an outrageous budget, and the list goes on.

But I digress, lets talk about Nancy Drew for a moment, and then on to EA.

The NPD Group reports the top 10 PC games for the week of Oct 13 are as follows:

1. Half Life 2: Episode 2 The Orange Box
2. Nancy Drew: Legend Of The Crystal Skull
3. Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask Of The Betrayer
4. The Sims 2 Bon Voyage
5. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
6. World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade
7. World Of Warcraft
8. The Sims 2 Deluxe
9. World In Conflict
10. World Of Warcraft: Battle Chest

Yep. Nancy Drew is in #2. You can make an arguement (weak though it may be) that Nancy Drew is more popular than World of Warcraft. Obviously, this is only for this particular week, and who knows what happens if you add 6 and 7 together. But given our industry’s habit of thinking something is popular (for whatever reason) and then trying like crazy to duplicate it in 50 different ways. I half expect a rash of announcements of games similar to Nancy Drew…girl + detective = massive success! And then of course, the marketing types and execs will jump on the bandwagon with charts about how women gamers compose more than half of the market in some segments and how we all need to make more games for women…so, it HAS to have unicorns, princesses, and fairies in it! Ok, Girl Detective that is also a Princess and has to find her missing Unicorn in the Fairy Kingdom! It will be a hit! Now, all we need is someone on the team that used to work for Blizzard and we can get $50M to make the game. Its almost guarenteed to be a hit! After all, Nancy Drew is more popular than World of Warcraft.

Sigh.

Moving on…

I’ve been procrastinating on ranting about THIS for a while now. It just stuns me. EA Exec wants a “one console future”. It’s called a PC, DUH.

I’m not going to get all ranty over why I think consoles are a waste of time, or how the industry has screwed itself, stunted its own growth, and missed out on many opportunities because of the console or the propaganda about the PC being a dead platform. I should though.

Anyway, there is a lot of meat in this article to chew on. I sincerely doubt that there will be one generic platform in the future…the differences between a PC, a box in the living room, handhelds, and mobile phones is just too dramatic. I mean, geeze, PC vs Mobile alone. Even if the OS and everything else was the same, there is nothing that could ever be so generic that you only have to make the game once. Just the difference in screen sizes makes this anything but feasible.

“It will take some time, but Florin is convinced that the industry will eventually adopt a single platform. “I am not sure how long we will have dedicated consoles – but we could be talking up to 15 years,” he said.”

What the hell? 15 years? And why did he say “dedicated consoles” as in plural. I thought he wanted a single “do everything” dedicated console… Psht. While you are at it, we only really need one publisher, one developer, one kind of car, one political party, and one health care plan. Who needs variety?

“Moreover, this kind of future would seemingly put the focus squarely on content – the real competition would come from the quality of the games themselves.”

Psht. Isn’t that the case now? Technical issues aside, developers already make games for most (if not all) the platforms. EA for example “produces games for more than 14 different gaming platforms, including consoles, portables, portable devices and PCs.” When people choose what game to buy, the important thing is the GAME. How many times have you heard someone say they were going to buy a console just so they could play a specific game? You don’t buy a game solely because it runs on one platform.

Anyway, EA should know better. Design great games and people will buy them.

Is anyone else getting tired of blowing wads of cash every few years on a new set of consoles? Personally, Id rather just pay to upgrade my PC. It’s cheaper.

Bah.

12 thoughts on “Nancy Drew more popular than WoW; EA doesn’t know what a PC is”

  1. Well seeing that in Japan 1 in every 3 persons has a DS and 3 in every 10 females have a DS, you can easily say there is a market for female gamers. Then I look at my office where there is over 30 game designers, programmers, artists… Gaming is not only for guys now. We have a crap ton of male heavy games. Why shouldn’t women be able to have games geared to them?

    Nancy Drew came out this week. It is selling, there are tons of girl gamers out there that are also the target demo for the Nancy Drew movie. Yes that is called Marketing. But you won’t see a whole line of these types of games unless well another movie comes out right away. Nancy Drew the game is a knock on to the marketing campaign for the movie and vice versa.

    The one console idea is not actually a bad idea. And no the PC doesn’t cut it. The reason behind the one console idea is to mean that everyone has the same equipment. Making a game for PC like I did when I worked at EA was a pain in the ass. Between all the different motherboard, graphic cards and sound cards, not to mention controllers, makes it very difficult to make the game work the same on two different machines. Also have to take in account the type of CPU and how it deals with data. Intel is different then AMD.

    As for buying consoles every few years, when you say few I count on average about 5 or 6 years. Not bad for $400 on the newer consoles (which for tech standards 5 years ago that $200-300 for a console is the same as todays $400).

    Upgrading PCs to run the newest games is actually more expensive then buying a console every 5 years. I know this as I upgrade my PC every year(so I can run the game at a similar frame rate as to what max performance would be… Similar to a console). I have also gone through 5 different graphics cards in the last 2 years. Not including when I used SLI. So saying that the game industry stunted its growth infact it has flourished because of consoles. Consoles are easy. They are limited in what they can do and well people don’t install virus’ into their consoles. The general populous doesn’t know how to use a keyboard, let alone know how to run an anti virus.

    I am in no way saying lets make a single closed platform for gaming. I have been against it since the idea was released to the internet. But I do understand why that idea has come up and it isn’t just EA saying it.

  2. Thats a failure of the operating system software then, not the hardware. The OS should abstract the hardware from applications which then talk to the OS in a standard way. Any time you need to know the manufacturer of a component the OS has failed.

    Oh and an Xbox is basically just a PC with a funny case.

  3. No amount of hardware abstraction is going to make a phone behave the same as a full blown PC. Anything more sophisticated than a simple text interface and you’re going to have to account for the capabilities of the hardware and therefore multiple code bases (or at least one code base with all the different possibilities in it). Actually, even text interfaces aren’t going to work the same, for instance you can make one single xml file, but you will STILL need different xslt files to display it on wap, html, etc.

    But there is another reason we’ll never have one platform: competition.

    What is one of the biggest problem with abstraction to obscene levels? Well one is performance. If I see you using all the standards that work across all platforms, but I know how to tweak my code to run faster than yours on one popular platform, I’m damn well going to do it. Why? Money. If I can make my game/software run better/faster by breaking the abstraction, on one hand I’m taking a chance, on the other hand I’m creating a product users will like better. And the end user doesn’t care that you followed the standards, they only care that my product runs faster and better.

    There are other problems, size of storage is another.

    The same goes for hardware vendors. DX9 should run the same on all cards, but it doesn’t. If one hardware vendor can add something to get ahead they sure will. If one can add more storage space they will.

    That’s the thing about standards: they are voluntary.

    Speaking of dx9, xml, all these standards, we are already more and more moving towards the idea of one “platform” – not one set of hardware but one or a few sets of abstractions. But it’s an idea bigger than just gaming. But even then, I don’t really know if there will ever be one set of abstractions, since new versions of xml, xsl, html, java, c, C# etc, are constantly coming out.

    It is a complaint that’s been around for decades. It’s getting better, but we’ll never ever get down to one, because it violates human nature and the desire to compete and progress.

  4. I’m not buying the old arguments that it is easier to develop for console because you know what the hardware is. I call “baloney”. You can make some pretty sweet games in flash or XNA without knowing crap about the user’s computer. Long gone are the days where you have to walk a user through his computer configuration for his particular sound card, and all that other stuff. Yes, I remember having to reconfigure DOS every damn time I wanted to play something too. I used to pull my hair trying to get extended memory and expanded memory set up just right.

    Anyway, the argument FOR consoles was that it was easier because you knew what the hardware was. So why do developers constantly whine about how HARD it is to develop for consoles, especially the new ones? I thought it was easier?

    I’d also argue that it is not cheaper to buy consoles than it is to upgrade your computer every 5 years as well. This may have been an issue 5-10 years ago, but not any more. PC costs keep going down, Console costs keep going up (I’m looking at you Sony).

    My comment about games for women wasn’t meant to imply that they are a waste of time or whatever, only that you don’t need to make some sappy ass game about pretty little fairies to appeal to the female demographic. They like smart, cool, interesting, engaging, and awesome games, just like the guys do…but lopping heads off of zombies to get blood gushing out really isn’t that interesting to most of them. Women like constructive gameplay and men like destructive gameplay (as a generalized rule).

  5. I’m not going to get into the consoles vs pc argument, although wouldn’t a “real gamer” mostly care about the games and not the platform they run on? (crap, hope that didn’t pull me into it)

    What i would like to point to is no matter how much i would love one standard for whatever, just look at the Blue Ray/HD-DVD fiasco. They pulled it together for the standard of DVD, but then went right back into their old ways by trying to make their own version “stand out” but only creating a mess again. Not sure if consoles would work the same ever, but it is an interesting idea to wonder how it would be to play all the games on one console. If you could get Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo to cooperate and each pitch in on harware, you could have a system that could be backwards compatible with PS2, XBox, and gamecube, how sweet would that be? ;)

  6. I have a PS2. I drag it out whenever someone brings there kids over. I use my PC every day so I don’t mind updating it every 2 years or so. I understand there is a lot of money in consoles, but they seem to be trying to price themselves right out of there market. What parent wants to drop 500$ so there kids can play video games?

  7. What parents want to pay the money so they can play games? The same parents that are buying them computers to play WoW or CS. And when it comes to the new consoles. the only one that people have difficulty with is the PS3. Xbox is as simple as writing a game for a windows based PC.

    But you not wanting the go with the argument about hardware is up to you. But the fact that we still need compliance testing on PCs for hardware means well you are wrong. The same reason why Valve wants you to take the hardware survey, the same reason why companies want your DXDiag files. Hardware really does matter when developing a game. So everyone with an xbox has an xbox and if I make the game for one 360 it will be the same on everyone elses 360 unless there is a hardware fault. It will not be the games fault.

  8. Yeah but at today’s prices those same parents can plop that $500 on a computer everyone can use for more than just games. There is a reason Wii is the best selling console.

    And that just points to why there will never be one. You can’t satisfy everyone with one.

  9. Yunk you are correct sir. Mind you $500 on a PC won’t get the quality graphics or processing power the current consoles have, except the Wii. And the Wii even though it is selling, no games are. No one is playing their Wii and when they are it is a Nintendo first party title.

  10. Your great blog is actually worth a read if anyone comes across it. Im lucky i did so because now Ive got a wide new view of this. I didnt realise this issue was so important while universal. You definitely placed it in perspective for myself, thanks for the good info.

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