Building games differently is one of the keys to removing bottlenecks that stand in the way of success in games.
Game developers – the architectural revolution has begun.
In a recent interview for Infoseek, talking about the re-structuring of his company, the new president of Square Enix, Yosuke Matsuda, states that the games business has changed and that is driven by changes in the games industry’s prevalent business model – from a ‘price x units sold’ model, to one where development and sales are more fluid.
“Development and and sales were divided, and the game developers only needed to concentrate on their work.” he said.
“Past gaming generation changes took roughly three to five years. Nowadays, released titles are updated every day, and it only takes about three months for a situation to completely change. In order to react with such speed, it is urgent for development and sales to be unified as one.” Developers no longer have the luxury of being cloistered away from the public as they diligently work on a new project. Content must now be created on a more consistent basis, a should be accompanied by direct interaction with the audience.
Matsuda goes on to say that he is going to overhaul Square Enix as a company and reorganize it so that it can thrive in the new environment.
Overhauling an organization like Square Enix is no simple task. Matsuda identifies one of the key objectives of his program of change is to increase the responsiveness of his organization as a whole. There will be wide-spread organizational changes, changes to process and fundamentally a change in how their products are developed and delivered to their customer base and all of these changes will be done with a view to increasing responsiveness. Increasing responsiveness can also be seen as removing bottlenecks which can exist in lots of different places in your business; people bottlenecks, process bottlenecks and of course technology bottlenecks.
The way games have been architected to date – with all of the game logic sitting on the device – now represents one of the biggest sources of bottleneck. Unbelievably, few games are content managed. Even the smallest changes require updates to be distributed through stores and the app store release process is one of the biggest bottlenecks we face. In order to remove these bottlenecks, we must transfer as much of the game logic as we can to the server. The client side of the game must be focussed on doing the more CPU intensive tasks and tasks that would be significantly impacted by latency such as collision detection. A lot of the rest can be done from the server and in order to reduce release cycles, games developers must place much more of the game functionality on the server. MMO’s have always been architected this way, to facilitate multiplayer, but now there are other obvious reasons for embracing this server-oriented view, such as, speed of change.
When we show developers what’s possible some of them cannot get over it. Imagine a game that is simultaneously running on Google Play, Apple Store, Windows Store, Samsung and lets say one other … Facebook. How long should it take to put through a relatively simple change. If it takes longer to release the changes than it has taken to develop them, we know something is not right. We have bottlenecks and in order to be competitive, as Matsuda points out, we must get rid of them. If the game architecture leverages the server, then a high percentage (how high depends on the game) can be done instantly by updating some data on the backend using a game administration console. Instantly! Think about it.
Given that free-to-play is now the prevalent business model for mobile games, many of you have no doubt got a lot of experience of having to make ongoing changes to the in-game economies. Adding new goods, changing the prices, running a promotion even … these all require way too much effort. The solution is straight forward. Manage them from the back-end.
Matsuda’s observations about the changes he needs to make to his company are brave open admissions and are echoed throughout the industry. Indies take note. Your opportunity lies in being much more nimble than Square Enix currently is. You can do these things now so embrace the architectural revolution and set yourselves up correctly from the start.