Thursday, October 11, 2007

More on the games as platform thing, I picked on Dave, now Dave's rebutting. It's all in good fun, but let's see if we can sum up.

Dave says:

Flight Simulator may possibly be the least well-monetized of all Microsoft entertainment properties, in that it sells to a cult following that goes on to spend hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars on after-market products not created by or associated with Microsoft. While commercial and volunteer after-market support is absolutely a good thing, there’s no law that says you can’t play a part in it! The entertainment industry has so much to learn about tapping niche markets…

Which I as Dave implying that (a) FS team (and yeah, we all work for MS, I get the irony here) did so out of ignorance (the "has so much to learn" bit) and/or bad decision making ( "no law that says you can't play a part").

I argued:

This third party development didn't happen unbeknownst to MS. Quite the opposite. Taking a page out of the MS playbook, the FS team deliberately opened the product to extension/enhancement by developing an SDK and making it publicly available. In doing so, they turned a game into a platform.

And Dave retorts:

I hardly need reminding that 3rd party extensions, especially of the user-generated type, can be very good for business, (snip snip snip) You just need to be smart about it.

To which I'll reply: My point exactly. And I beleive that the Flight Sim team, with 10 years in the business and the lions share of the market for flight sims, has been extremely smart about it. I would hazard a guess that they looked long and hard at this and decided for good reasons to play it out they way they did, enabling a third-party market and allowing it to thrive.

To his point about co-opting innovation, they already do that (some of the features added one version to the next were ones that used to require an add-on). To the point about helping them advertise, they already do that as well. So Dave's only idea that isn't already being implemented by the team is a digital distribution channel. A good idea perhaps, but not feasible until recent history, and certain rife with it's own set of challenges.

Dave wraps by upping my dart of 'ignorant' with a retort of 'intellectually lazy'.

I'll wrap with a "ignorant, yet again dude!". He states "I’m not content to ignore an opportunity" (implying that the FS team was and did?), when I'd assert that they didn't ignore the opportunity at all but rather made a decision about how to approach it sensibly. He then throws out three ideas about how they could capitalize on it, two of which they already do. I suppose he could have found that out on the web but perhaps was too "intellectually lazy" to do so...

Disclaimer: David and I are good friends and have a great deal of respect for one another. We have these debates via our blogs to encourage healthy discussion and to shamelessly boost our traffic. Also, neither of us have discussed any of this with the Flight Sim team, who would deem us both ignorant, lazy and probably call us other words I can't put here, for even having the debate in the first place.


Patrick said...

So its kinda like a rapper fued, except white and nerdy and money hungry.

Disclaimer: :P

I'd love to hear you guys rap about games as platforms in the sense of Whirled or Metaplace or Mockingbird, where game creation is part of the game.

Patrick said...

Scratch the money hungry part, of course rapper fueds are about drumming up sales. It just strikes me that David is trying to squeeze every last cent out of it, and you're saying the long-view value is preserved by letting 3rd parties have their own ecology. Sort of a corporate free market perspective versus central planning.

Greg said...

Hm... Well, I'll point out that it's also basically destroyed -other- flight sims, which used to be a thriving (if minor) component of the PC game market. And like other Microsoft products that achieved near-monopoly status in a particular segment (Office; IE, though thankfully no longer), this essentially choked off innovation in that particular market.