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You take games too seriously.

Chris’s N-Gage Brings All The Girls to the Yard

N-Gage

You made a few points, Chris. Some of them are even worth talking about. 

No industry experience. 

Fine by me. The people with industry experience are the game developers, who suddenly have a (supposedly) feature-rich set of APIs, for a platform that fundamentally, they understand. It’s a pretty simple computer-like environment – not a whole new world of deeply confusing chips and Emotion Engines (or whatever they’re calling the PS3 – I skipped the tech demos), but a well-documented world where they have the power to work on the projects they want to.

No portable gaming hardware experience.

Again. It’s not a portable gaming system. Neither is the Zune, which you seem to be pretty pumped about. And Sony didn’t have any portable gaming experience before the PSP, which, if you want, we could argue about how big of a trainwreck that really is. Apple has a well-made device that EVERYONE wants and EVERYONE wants to program for. The games will come.

No games unavailable on superior systems.

Yet. Don’t tell me that people won’t be pushing the iPhone in cool new directions. Accelerometers, multi-touch controls, location-based services in the OS, custom soundtracks – there’s a lot of stuff in here nobody can do anywhere else, and there’s a lot of programmers who are going to be racing to make the hit iPhone game. If there are 10 million iPhones in the wild, and if a hundredth of a percent of those people check out your game, you’re making a lot of money. Quickly. 

No buttons.

Thank god. Notice the N-Gage, above? The must unique, stunning element of the iPhone is the multi-touch and the intuitive, clever design throughout. When my mom sees an iPhone, she wants to touch it, to play with it. That’s never happened with my Nintendo DS or my BlackBerry. Let’s just assume for a minute that game developers can figure out something to do with a hyper-sensitive, super-high-res multi-touch surface.  

Something about Synergy and XNA and playing a mini-game on your Zune to buy a new skateboard in Skate.

This is worth responding to on its own. Peter Molyneux made a big stink at GDC by talking about how his new project, Fable 2, was going to integrate itself with an Xbox Live Arcade gambling title he would also design. Money earned in the gambling game would be transferred over into Fable 2. The idea is that players who want to earn money in the game should earn it through gambling, or paid quests, because there’s no logical reason a demon skeleton in a dungeon would be carrying a bag of gold. 

(Molyneux is one of those people who wants to simulate real economies and real family dynamics in his games, but still have the real point of the game to be fighting demon skeletons in a dungeon. He probably has the whole of the Silmarillion committed to memory) 

So anyway. Chris is clearly ripping that idea off and talking about Skate 2, where he will apparently have a mini-game where he… works in a skate shop? On his cell phone, until the thrilling result of scraping together enough money to buy a new deck (or trucks. or whatever you call it). Therefore, the future of gaming is that every game will not just expect you to waste precious couch-hours on it, but that if you really want to succeed, you’d better spend your subway time on level-grinding your characters? Will the money I make in the Fable 2 mini-game convert over to the Skate 2 mini-game? Will it destroy the beautifully real sensations that Peter Molyneux wants me to feel?

Come on. Do we trust game companies not to turn this into a painful gimmick? Like, say, another groundbreaking piece of synergy we all remember and love…

VMU 

The VMU. Because carrying your Sonic Adventure Chao with you everywhere really changed the way you play the game. Fable 2 has a cool idea, but it’s not going to change the games industry. Neither would a PSPhone. 

Sure. The PlayStation 3 looks like it’s going to have a great year. I can’t say anything but Little Big Planet has me excited (and I can’t say you’re doing anything but deluding yourself if you don’t think that Home is a ridiculous idea), but I can see how some people are going to get pretty pumped about it.But the thing is, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not saying that people who play casual games necessarily will go home and unplug themselves, that they won’t be logging couch-hours along with the rest of us. I think that’s going to be the case for a fairly large group of people, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

What I am saying, though, is that you can’t win new gamers – or the casual set – with something that looks and feels like a game console. That has a dozen buttons, and that doesn’t do non-game things well. Maybe Sony can pull it off – but Sony first has to learn that the most important thing is to create something intuitive and beautiful, something that people from all demographics want to use. And so far, I can’t think of that ever having been their target market.

A PSPhone would sell well. The iPhone will change portable gaming. The end. 

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this is a blog about video games by chris plante, sam ryan and chris littler.


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