Schappert: "Social and mobile games ARE harming console biz"

Forget the recession: our depressed retail market is thanks to pressure from free apps and mobile games.

That’s according to one of the US’ most influential games execs, John Schappert, who just a year ago was a key figure at EA. He also once ran Xbox Live – but has since defected to social games giant Zynga.

In an exclusive interview with MCV, Schappert has warned it’s going to be tough” for companies who don’t adapt to changes in the market.

Traditional gaming is under a little bit of pressure,” he said. If those businesses are not ready and want to live in the traditional world, they can. It’s just there’s only going to be a few big games a year. If you’re one of those games, more power to you. If you’re not, it’s going to be tough.

Big console games take years to make. They need massive budgets and you have to hope the bet you started three years ago pays out. If it doesn’t, it’s a game changer for you. And not in a good way.

That’s a really, really tough business. Is there still a market for it? Absolutely. But look at film versus TV. What do we watch more of these days? I think the social gaming world and the mobile gaming business captured the same magic which is why we’re doing well these days.”

Social and mobile games are surprising core games firms with the amount of players they can attract. Meanwhile data from the traditional boxed market shows UK sales are down 30 per cent year-on-year, and US?sales are down 25 per cent.

Schappert is a one-time format holder boss and founded the studio that made EA’s lucrative Madden series – but now he reckons console titles target only core audiences, so casual players have no optionbut to try small, cheaperor free apps.

Traditional games have become more core,”?he said. They require an expensive console, use a controller which laymen are afraid of, and their interfaces are not always the easiest to use.

People are buying fewer games and playing them longer. A lot of players are stretched for time – they don’t have two hours, they have fifteen minutes and don’t want to spend money.

The good news is, while I think that we’re seeing traditional gaming shrink, we’re seeing gaming overall grow. To me it’s a very positive message to the overall industry. But I think some people have to change.”

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