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Friday, May 20, 2005

DIY Console Games .... Why Not?

There has been much hoopla about Nintendo allowing "unsigned" code on the Revolution, only for Gizmodo to come along and just lay everyone's party to waste:

the company so afraid of piracy that they shut down emulator sites and made their game discs in the Gamecube spin backwards—has no intention of letting fledgling developers copy their own content to the Revolution and play it. They even mentioned a “new DRM system” at the conference (which was heralded by a lone boo), ensuring everyone that the only way to get content onto the Revolution was via one of their locked down channels (online downloads, and I’m presuming maybe in-store purchases).

- Nintendo Revolution Homebrew Likelihood Not Good

Well it was a fun rumor while it lasted. Now it comes time to ask ... why not?

Why not allow for a delivery system of some kind that allows for homebrewed code to run on consoles? Let's examine the two common excuses given.

Piracy: It's why previous consoles have used these arcane media formats - to make it harder for people without the authentic tools to make backups, copies, etc. And yet ... piracy still exists. This isn't an entirely insane reason to force all code to be signed, but it seems a pretty extreme ones for the potential benefits (which I'll get to in a bit).

Revenue: Most consoles lose money on hardware, make profit on software. Well, actually that's Sony's model. Nintendo makes money on both and Microsoft spends money like a drunken sailor stationed in WhoreTown. But let's stick to the point.

The rationale here goes that if Joe Black in his garage makes UberGame 3000 and sells a billion copies, Nintendo won't see any of that money. That's potential revenue loss, or untapped profit potential, or some other term an MBA could make up on the fly.

It's also a little bogus. First of all, Joe isn't going to sell a billion copies. He's most like only going to get a few discs off to his friends, and he'll probably have to pay for the beer just to get them to play it. If what a company like Nintendo wants to do is control the profit angle, they should develop a reasonable download medium a la Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade. Give the DIY set such a simple and reasonable method of selling their goods to the public and the company would be seeing more profit, not less.


Wider library of games. Independant titles are often more inventive or at the very least more niche than the hollywood movie style productions of the larger studio.

Easier to download. Finally, the console makers are realizing what Sega was trying to tell everyone years ago ... there's this thing called the Internet and it's here to stay. But I'm unlikely to wait the 3 days required to download that 10GB game that would take me 5 minutes to open off a Blu-Ray disc ... but if it takes me ten minutes to download a new four-player version of Defender with integrated party mode ... I'd do it.

Community. Take a note from the PC world, guys. Community matters. It's kept Counter-Strike online all these years and made Valve one rich puppy. Epic has embraced their mod community with a big old bear hug, and they're probably Unreal's most loyal crowd. Microsoft is caught onto this with Live and it's paid off well for them.

Untapped features. Opening the door to indie coders and developers would allow for a whole slew of imaginable features. Imagine playing a Halo 3 mod ... on your XBox 360. Imagine playing a game your friend wrote for a PSP ... on your televion via your PS3. Or why stop at games? Maybe your Nintendo DS party will have a fun IRC channel because someone loaded it up.

Point is - Sony and Microsoft at the very least are making much hay about being able to play your songs and your movies via the console. So why not your programs? Of course there are complications and questions to be answered, but the first company to embrace this is going to see the biggest rewards from it. Homebrewing consoles is already a trend despite all the measures taken to stop it ... so why not use it as an advantage instead of treating it like a crime?


Josh said...

The yaroze was a fascinating move by Sony, but there were a lot of problems with it. For one thing, at the time, Linux game dev wasn't exactly easy information to gain ... especially for off-technology like a PS2. Second, nothing built on the yaroze would run on anything but another yaroze ... and they were pretty uncommon over here. In the long run, homebrewed Dreamcast project saw a large audience than the yaroze.

What's important to Joe isn't the ability to massively sell his product, but to have a reasonable chance that his social network would be able to run it. With the yaroze, that would be slim ... but with a standard console from the big three - that would be pretty good.

Created by: X said...

There was talk of a new IPO the same time the new revolution console ships. This new company may be involved in bringing indie games to the new console. Maybe yes/No? Just a thought. As a developer myself the idea that I can make a simple fun game and have it made availible to every revolution owner is tempting...