150,000's a Crowd • Page 2

Developers may wring their hands over visibility, but you can never have too much content.

That may sound unhealthy, but it's not - it's the very essence of a thriving creative business. The simple reality is that while people like Jaffe talk about the need for commercial titles, they are speaking only of a very limited subset of the word "commercial"; they mean the kind of titles which have already proven themselves to have strong appeal to a certain sub-section of the audience.

There are countless other types of content which will find audiences, perhaps even larger and more commercially viable audiences than anything Jaffe has in mind - but because nobody has actually taken the risk to make those games yet, nobody (including Jaffe, and every other developer in the industry) actually knows what they are yet.

In other words, commercial success does not ride simply on making games that you know to be commercially viable. To create true, ongoing success for the industry as a whole, we need a huge number of pioneers - creative, innovative people who are free to take risks and try new things, thanks to a low barrier to entry.

These pioneers spread themselves across the frontier, and most of them will be eaten by wolves or starve in the desert - but the handful who strike gold, whose ideas and innovations strike a chord with a new audience, will be the basis for the medium's continued growth.

The slightly blinkered attitude which wonders about the worth of such a wide range of content isn't unusual, nor is it unique to the games business. Witness this week's comments from the head of RIM - the firm behind the Blackberry mobile devices - who rather snarkily remarked that a device doesn't need 150,000 apps (as the iPhone's App Store offers), it just needs a handful of apps that you love.

It's a comment dumb enough to make you wonder about RIM's future with this kind of thinking at the helm. The concept that there can be a handful apps which everyone - every user, with all of their diverse and often bizarre personal preferences, desires, demands and usage scenarios - will love is ridiculous.

You need a vast library of content so that people can pick and choose their own handful of beloved apps - many of which will seem pointless, stupid or clunky to the next customer in line, who will in turn have their own handful of apps installed.

The same logic applies to television, to music, to books, to films and, of course, to games. Many of the games which David Jaffe enjoys, I would probably find mind-numbingly awful - and vice versa.

The same applies to any two consumers, and while our industry has done a reasonable job of establishing key genres and tropes which appeal to a certain, limited audience over the past thirty years, the idea that we've reached a point where we can point at one style of game and say "this, and this alone, equals commercial success!" is nonsense.

We need our pioneers. We need creative people driven simply by the love of creativity rather than by concerns over how the hell they're going to pay back their publisher advance or keep the lights on in a huge studio next month. We need people willing to go out there and make games which you, and I, and David Jaffe, find stupid, or pointless, or boring, or mind-boggling - games which established developers simply won't make, because there's no obvious audience for them.

We need those people because although in the vast majority of cases, established designers will be quite right to look at their concepts and say, "it'll never work", in a tiny, tiny minority of cases, they'll be totally wrong - and it's that tiny minority of stunning, unheard-of ideas which will keep this industry fresh and vibrant for decades to come.

For more views on the industry and to keep up to date with news relevant to the games business, read our sister website GamesIndustry.biz, where you can read this weekly editorial column as soon as it is posted.

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Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey

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