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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More On A Community Of Gamers

Curmudgeon wakes me up with this:

There's a "YouTube for games" that Microsoft is working on to develop and share XNA games, which should be out "when it's done".
-- [Kotaku]

Now combine that with this:

More than two dozen text strings hidden in iTunes 7.1 related to game management with the Apple TV have been found and reported by various sites. The strings, such as "Are you sure you want to sync games? All existing games on the Apple TV XXX will be replaced with games from this iTunes library." and "Some of the games in your iTunes library were not copied to the Apple TV XXX because they cannot be played on this Apple TV." are further confirmation of comments by PopCap VP Greg Canessa indicating that the Apple TV would indeed support games.

Rumors regarding Apple's interest in the gaming market received a kick-start in December when Prudential analyst Jesse Tortora released a research note stating that he believed Apple would have to offer some sort of console gaming device in order to compete against offerings from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.

And now allow me to quickly quote myself:

The other problem that faces Mac gaming is the lack of coherent online community to learn about new games, have developers upload games and players to try them out. iTunes is perfectly well equipped for this and is even somewhat taking the first steps by offering games for iPods. But hey, not every Mac user is an iPod user.
-- List Of Demands For 2007

What would a "YouTube for games" really mean? YouTube did for online movies what iTunes did for podcasts. A YouTube or iTunes for games would follow the same format - extremely low cost of entry and massive amounts of exposure. Quality? Not a factor. Social networking will filter the good from the bad.

At first glance I would say this is not what Microsoft is heading towards. The XNA contest is a Valve style strategy - it's embrace and extend. YouTube doesn't embrace and extend ... it merely embraces and lets everyone else sort it out. A Valve strategy is very tempting because when it works - it's highly benficial to the mother company.

When it fails, though, it doesn't leave much behind.

Games could use the same kind of broad community that podcasts and home videos currently enjoy. For one thing, it would place it in the same ballpark as other homespun forms of art and perhaps shove the notion that they're the product of the technical elite behind. These days you can make games with a wide, wide variety of technologies and the appeal of games is quickly broadening beyond just graphics and horsepower.

Course, Microsoft would use XNA. Apple probably won't even bother with a public SDK. So once again, we're steps behind the notion of a "YouTube for games". It's a great soundbite - but as long as the companies trying to host the games are also going to try and control the development and publishing of the games - it won't be true.

Fun Fact! The name iPod was proposed by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter, who (with others) was called by Apple to figure out how to introduce the new player to the public. After Chieco saw a prototype, he thought of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the phrase "Open the pod bay door, Hal!", which refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. Apple had previously registered the name "iPod" for Internet kiosks, but never put it to use. (Wikipedia)

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