Once upon a time, developers built games for just one platform. If you bought a PlayStation 2, you played TimeSplitters. If you owned a GameCube, you played Metroid Prime. And if you had a PC, you played Deus Ex and wound up here.
It’s not really like that anymore - big games typically come out on a minimum of three devices; small ones can hit double figures. But every platform has its own ecosystem - and Unity head John Riccitiello believes there’ll only be more division and exclusivity deals before that changes.
“People think that we're all going to consolidate around one platform,” said the former EA boss at Unite Europe. “It may happen one day, but the larger reality is that we’ve got platform proliferation that’s going to continue for a while.
“Developers need to be able to reach an audience, and they're going to have to aggregate that audience over multiple hardware devices. Otherwise they're just not gonna get the dollars to be able to pay for great development.”
That's tricky, reckons Riccitiello, because the industry is stacked up as a series of “vertical platforms”: the Google ecosystem, the Apple ecosystem, the Samsung ecosystem, the Microsoft ecosystem, the PlayStation ecosystem and the Valve ecosystem.
These “largely unique islands of users” don’t reflect how players buy and play their games - but developers are still forced to address each island individually through marketing. That, says Riccitiello, is “incredibly expensive and really problematic.”
“As much as Apple and Google are massively cool companies, they’re not gonna help you find content on the other guy’s platform,” he said. “So there’s really precious few advocates for the games industry, [for] the people out there that are trying to find success.
“One of the things that I predict will happen is, you will see if you’re featured in one ecosystem, the other ones won’t feature you on purpose. Exclusivity will be a requirement for featuring support.”
You’ve got a PC - we know that much. Where else do you buy and play your games?