"Ignore these new formats at your peril."
That was the warning from former SCEE boss and Codemasters chairman Chris Deering today as he opened Edinburgh Interactive with a brief run-through of the ‘treacherous’ challenges the industry faces – and how moving online business models to mobile platforms will help get around them
"Recessions used to be good for us – why not this time? People are looking for value, they are staying home more, there is less drama on TV and games are more engaging than ever. So why are we struggling?" he said in a talk which touched on the key market shifts the traditional games industry faces.
"The answer is the internet. The internet makes life dynamic, exciting and personalised, with rich media on multiple screens – and where trailing a game is almost always free."
So "the economics of traditional high-end games have now become treacherous", he said.
Deering outlined the key ways the industry can engage with web-savvy users, touching on digital distribution, DLC, in-game advertising, and monitoring online userdata.
The biggest change is breaking down the way games are sold into more bite-sized chunks, he said.
"We need to develop and sell by the level – and cater for multi-screen access," he said. iPad and iPhone already feature games that are playable off one server to different devices, as do Android platforms, Deering said, "but there’s still a long way for games to go that can be played for a while on the TV and then out on the bus – and that will get better."
Ultimately, he told attendees that "you need to re-assess your platform strategy", and said it was in every publisher and developer’s interest to have a plan for iPad/iPhone, notebooks, e-book readers, and other digital distribution platforms.
He tipped Google’s rumoured Google Pad as a key driver in this area.
"There will be a lot of companies competing to make Google Pads which mean they will end up cheaper than iPads – and we all know what happened in the comparable situation with VHS vs Betamax," said the former Sony Europe chief.
"Is there an exclusivity play on these new platforms?" he asked, pointing out how these new platforms could become just as ‘traditional’ as the likes of PS3, 360 and Wii as online forces in games hit real momentum.
"All platform owners worry about exclusive content – if you talk to the platform you might get some help with the cost of your game in exchange for a period of exclusivity."