GamesBeat: Now that you’re inside Unity you get to see some very interesting analytics about what’s being built out there. Have you seen the 200 Clash of Clans clones that are coming?
Riccitiello: Just go to any one of these conferences and someone will pull you aside and show you a thing in their coat. It’s invariably a Clash of Clans clone.
There are examples of games at the very top of the chart where they literally took somebody else’s game and polished it and improved on it in a small way. I won’t talk about what fell upon Bejeweled, for example. That level of execution is to be admired anywhere. In the execution there is art. But ultimately, it’s demoralizing to see the level of copying that’s typical in game development.
It’s the easiest path. I understand why people do it. But mobile has barely scratched the surface around opportunity. Console desperately needs reinvention. We’re playing the same games since the advent of 3D gaming in 1995 and 1996. So many of the mechanics are exactly the same. There’s some innovation. But there’s not enough. There’s too much, “I’m going to make that game, but a little bit more this way or that way.” Maybe you can have five candies connect instead of three? It doesn’t seem like enough.
GamesBeat: You came onstage at a previous GamesBeat talking about your predictions on the console war. It looks like Sony’s on top now. What’s your postmortem on the current console war?
Riccitiello: It’s one of the more distressing stories in the last several years. There was a clash of ideas that separated Sony and Microsoft in this generation. It frustrated me so much that I actually wrote an article for Kotaku about it, which is not my backyard. But it was this: They actually had very similar architecture in what they were trying to bring to the table.
Microsoft focused on the entertainment marketplace. What gamer do you know thought Kinect was very interesting for much of anything? They focused on entertainment beyond gaming – the way they positioned it, the way they talked about it. All the rules they put together, what people thought of as DRM, they described an entertainment ecosystem. It was as if Microsoft was trying to be big in the way that Apple has become big or Google has become big. It didn’t feel like gaming was big enough to justify the pent-up desire at Microsoft to have the reputation they wanted as an innovator.
Sony just said, we’re making the best fucking game platform we can. Pretty simple. Partly because they didn’t have the resources to do more, but they cared about the gamer. The metaphor might be a game of pool. Microsoft was focused on the shot after the one they needed to make, but they missed the first shot and never got to take it. Sony worried about the shot they needed to make, to win the hearts and minds of gamers. They did a better job of execution with that.
Is the broad scope of entertainment a bigger idea? Yeah, but not with an unfocused execution. A tight execution on 50 million people who matter, the people who aren’t giving up consoles—All the data pointed to it. Sony nailed it. They deserved the victory. They paid more respect to our community than the other guys.
GamesBeat: What would you hope happens next in this console generation, leading up to whatever’s going to come with Nintendo and DeNA?
Riccitiello: It’s exceptionally unlikely, given how far this has been laid out, that we’ll see a reversal on the relative success of the individual consoles, at least in my experience. Other than the Nintendo Wii going up and down a bit more quickly than we all thought. These things are usually four- and five-year patterns.
Right now, like a lot of folks, one thing that feels like the next big thing is AR and VR. I want to pick up on a point Nolan made about Microsoft’s cost problem. I want to also touch back to this scenario about the $150 billion AR market in 2020. I’d say that it’s way too early to know what experiences are going to work in AR and VR. I’ve tried as much as anybody. I’ve been involved in this stuff. I personally don’t think I’ve gotten into an experience that’s close to what these things will provide. Somebody is going to innovate. 90 percent of what I’m seeing is almost a port of something being pushed to these platforms. There’s a lot more innovation to come.
Almost all the big sexy stuff we imagine takes a PC to run, and not a PC like your laptop or even a high-end Alienware. It takes a PC that’s water-cooled in a custom case. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of money to get that processing power. To process the experiences we want, we’re talking a couple thousand dollars for the box. Unlike mobile, which took off like a rocket with a model around carrier-subsidized hardware that’s relatively expensive, this is going to follow some patterns that are more like DVD starting as a thousand-dollar box and taking years to get to that $100-$200 price point where it became a mass-market item.
This is going to be as revolutionary as we think it is, but it’s going to be slow. It’s going to require hardware that none of us own right now. All of us are picturing buying an Oculus and plugging it into our Mac laptop. You can do that, but it’s not going to get you what you want. None of these boxes are going to get you what you want. What we all envision is going to take more money and more time. I’d take that market prognostication and smooth it out over a few more years for that cost curve to come down.
GamesBeat: Mark Pincus got into a great deal of trouble when he said he was bored with games. I hope you’re not going in that direction.
Riccitiello: I’ve said many times that I’m bored with certain games. I’m bored with mimics, bored with copies. Who isn’t? Who doesn’t admire the one in a thousand that executes so well that it works fine? I’m all for that.
Question: What are you most excited about in terms of what’s coming in AR and VR?
Riccitiello: Honestly, it’s two different experiences. With VR, [Oculus CEO] Brendan Iribe coined this term about presence. What he means by that, you put the headset on and you feel like you’re someplace else. It is convincing. When you look down, you know you’re going to die if you take a step forward. That’s such a powerful experience. We’ve all had three minutes of it. The question is, what do we do with an hour or two hours of it? We don’t know the answer to that.
Then you have the exact opposite. We’ve seen data on how big AR might be. Remember the Star Wars movie where the Jedi council are all sitting around the holograms? We’re going to have that. We’re not going to have something exactly like it. We’ll all have to get over seeing everyone’s faces with glasses on them. But I hope my children move away just so I can come back as a hologram while they sit around the table. If I can do that in my lifetime, I want to. There will be some experiences that will be pretty transformational.
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