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Josh Sawyer at GDC Europe 2011


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Josh said that Dragonheart proves that you can successfully execute BG2 or IWD2's combat on an iPad, not that Dragonheart > BG2 or MotB.

Yes, you *can*, just as you could play Deus Ex on the PS2. That doesn't mean it's the best platform for it. I have no thing against porting to more platforms, but I think it's strange to discount the PC when it has been home to so many similar games.

 

Why use the iPad for something like BG2? Among other things, 1) it is somewhat risky to develop an oldschool RPG these days, so it's a good idea to minimize risk by not spending as much on art as you would on a PC or console game

There are plenty of successful PC games that don't rely on high production values. All games published by Paradox Interactive for instance and many other games from Europe and Russia. They're not low-budget indie games either, they have pretty nice graphics.

 

2) people are more willing to buy niche games with less fancy 3D (or even *gasp* 2D) art on iPad than they are on PC, 3) people frequently already use their iPads for reading (either the internet or actual books) so I believe that gamers may be more accepting of a text and dialog heavy game than they would on other platforms.

Why is that exactly? Full voice-acting has been possible to do in games since the 90's, so how come people only started demanding it in PC games since 2008? Or could it be that publishers want multiplatform RPG's can be marketed as cinematic experiences and no one really has any idea how a well-done, medium budget game

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Josh said that Dragonheart proves that you can successfully execute BG2 or IWD2's combat on an iPad, not that Dragonheart > BG2 or MotB.

Yes, you *can*, just as you could play Deus Ex on the PS2. That doesn't mean it's the best platform for it. I have no thing against porting to more platforms, but I think it's strange to discount the PC when it has been home to so many similar games.

 

This sentence makes no sense whatsoever to me. Why are you comparing a general gameplay system to an actual for PC developed game? Thats not the same thing. Not, at all.

 

So, doesn't your last. There are plenty of indie/artsy games on the Ipad. Why would it have to appeal to everyone that owns an IPAD? Hidden Apple policy?

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This sentence makes no sense whatsoever to me. Why are you comparing a general gameplay system to an actual for PC developed game? Thats not the same thing. Not, at all.

I have no problem believing that any gameplay system can be ported to the iPad. After all, I own one and have played everything from RTS games to shooters on it. I just don't agree that it would be the best platform for a game like BG2/NWN2. I'd have nothing against ports existing, but I'd rather play such a game on the PC.

 

So, doesn't your last. There are plenty of indie/artsy games on the Ipad. Why would it have to appeal to everyone that owns an IPAD? Hidden Apple policy?

I never mentioned indie/artsy games. Paradox almost exclusively makes $30 PC games, none of them are indie/artsy and there's certainly nothing like them on iPad for $2. The most recent PC games similar to BG2 (DA:O, Drakensang, MotB/SoZ) were also neither indie nor artsy.

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So, doesn't your last. There are plenty of indie/artsy games on the Ipad. Why would it have to appeal to everyone that owns an IPAD? Hidden Apple policy?

I never mentioned indie/artsy games. Paradox almost exclusively makes $30 PC games, none of them are indie/artsy and there's certainly nothing like them on iPad for $2. The most recent PC games similar to BG2 (DA:O, Drakensang, MotB/SoZ) were also neither indie nor artsy.

 

No, but you mentioned that 2$ Ipad Games somehow HAVE to appeal (or appear to appeal) to everyone which just isn't the case.

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Josh said that Dragonheart proves that you can successfully execute BG2 or IWD2's combat on an iPad, not that Dragonheart > BG2 or MotB.

Yes, you *can*, just as you could play Deus Ex on the PS2. That doesn't mean it's the best platform for it. I have no thing against porting to more platforms, but I think it's strange to discount the PC when it has been home to so many similar games.

 

IMO Battleheart is a much better adaptation of real-time tactical combat to a new interface than most FPSes are to consoles. Point-and-click mouse control works really, really well on touchscreens. For games where the mouse is used for more vector-based control (e.g. FPSes) touchscreens aren't quite as good - but are still a better fit than analog sticks.

 

There are plenty of successful PC games that don't rely on high production values. All games published by Paradox Interactive for instance and many other games from Europe and Russia. They're not low-budget indie games either, they have pretty nice graphics.

 

There are a lot of great PC games from Europe and Russia, agreed. There are also successful PC games that don't rely on high production values. However, I think that the large market of iPad users and the lack of competition and market pressure from huge AAA PC games makes it an even better platform for certain genres of games.

 

Also, the European PC games which are not low-budget indie games generally don't have as hardcore or old-school mechanics as newer games. The Witcher 2, for instance, has awesome presentation values but also clearly does not have old-school combat mechanics.

 

Why is that exactly? Full voice-acting has been possible to do in games since the 90's, so how come people only started demanding it in PC games since 2008? Or could it be that publishers want multiplatform RPG's can be marketed as cinematic experiences and no one really has any idea how a well-done, medium budget game
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So, doesn't your last. There are plenty of indie/artsy games on the Ipad. Why would it have to appeal to everyone that owns an IPAD? Hidden Apple policy?

I never mentioned indie/artsy games. Paradox almost exclusively makes $30 PC games, none of them are indie/artsy and there's certainly nothing like them on iPad for $2. The most recent PC games similar to BG2 (DA:O, Drakensang, MotB/SoZ) were also neither indie nor artsy.

 

No, but you mentioned that 2$ Ipad Games somehow HAVE to appeal (or appear to appeal) to everyone which just isn't the case.

 

Well, it's true in the sense that in order to break even or make the same amount of profit at a given budget, a 2$ game needs to sell many times the number of units of a 10$ game :thumbsup: It doesn't need to appeal to everyone, but a lower-priced game should probably appeal to more people than a casual game.

 

Also: http://2dboy.com/2011/02/08/ipad-launch/

 

The reality seems to be that you can end up selling a *lot* more on iPad, which allows you to spend more on the game, which means better games/more content overall. So in the end the main reason I'd want to make niche games on iPad is that we could make them better than we could PC only games.

 

Which isn't to say it's not worth it to make a PC version too. It's certainly not hard to port from iPad to Mac, and Mac->PC is generally easier than PC->Mac, depending on the tech used and whether or not you plan to do it up front.

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Thanks for the candid answers Nathaniel. Also, I apologize if I came off as a bit hostile.

 

There are a lot of great PC games from Europe and Russia, agreed. There are also successful PC games that don't rely on high production values. However, I think that the large market of iPad users and the lack of competition and market pressure from huge AAA PC games makes it an even better platform for certain genres of games.

I think we have a difference in opinion in that I think a game like MotB would stand out as radically different to the current "AAA" RPG's, much like the niche games from Paradox, while you think that it would compete for gamers looking to play something like Skyrim/Mass Effect 3.

 

Also, the European PC games which are not low-budget indie games generally don't have as hardcore or old-school mechanics as newer games. The Witcher 2, for instance, has awesome presentation values but also clearly does not have old-school combat mechanics.

Most European games are neither indies nor have The Witcher 2's production values. Those are two extremes. I was refering to games like Risen, King Arthur, King's Bounty, Men of War, Death to Spies, Disciples III.

 

MotB as modestly profitable but by no means made the kind of money that would get a publisher excited. It was also not a medium budget game, it was an expansion pack. When we were working on MotB we already had a complete core game to build on top of.

Did Atari have lower RoI expectations in 2008, or how else was MotB considered exceeding sales projections? Why would they want to make something with a poor projected RoI?

I don't have financial information on King's Bounty - I assume they made money from it because they are making sequels - but they are also competing in a genre (turn-based strategy) with next to no AAA huge budget games they need to compete against. RPGs, even RPGs with turn-based combat, still have to compete with the AAA, cinematic, multiplatform RPGs out there and it's much harder to stand out in that environment.

I don't really see how an RPG with turn-based combat would be more similar to Skyrim than King's Bounty. Unless it's just the genre label that is the problem, in that case, why not call it a tactical squad based strategy games with RPG elements?

 

Occasionally you have a standout success there (Torchlight) but more often than not, you don't.

According to Wikipedia, 90% of all games are commercial failures. I really have trouble seeing that a new IWD-type game on PC would have any competition from similar games, considering there's literally nothing like it on the platform right now. Unless it's just the "RPG" label that differentiates games and and not the actual gameplay.

 

No publisher or developer is going to be excited to develop the kind of game that has an expected return on investment of a NWN2 or MotB. It's not a lack of interest in the games, it's a lack of interest in the relatively low sales given the cost of development.

No publisher or no publicly traded U.S. publisher?

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I've played Tactics Ogre. I liked it a lot, but I never finished it because it's a long game and LYFE SITUATIONZ and all.

 

FFT is a really good game, but I'm willing to appreciate that it's got flaws, too. The difficulty "curve" looks more like a crazy square wave and there are aspects of the JP system that encourage goofy sorts of grinding (leaving the last enemy alive while you throw rocks at each other). But overall I think it's one of the best combinations of individual character customization, party customization and tactical combat in an RPG.

Yea...I guess the problem for this kind of games is putting it to our daily lives. I wonder if there is a way to make it easier to fit them into our lives (and possible new fans' lives) without decreasing the content/lowering the difficulty. At least, the grinding part can go for sure.

 

Oh, also, if you're interested in checking out deep iPad/iPhone games, may I recommend:

 

King of Dragon Pass - http://appshopper.com/games/king-of-dragon-pass

I didn't know they had made iOS version of this one...and it seems to have attracted some niche players. :thumbsup:
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Nathaniel, I think you are underestimating Steam and overestimating the iPad App Store when it comes to sales potential for a niche RPG title.

 

Consider that Steam has 30 million active users, all of which are gamers. Meanwhile there are around 30 million iPad's total in existence, of which only a very small percentage are actually interested in using it for serious gaming.

I personally know 10 people who own iPads (including myself) and none of them use it for playing anything other than "Cut the Rope", "Fruit Ninja" or "Angry Birds"-type games.

 

A $10 game is considered extremely expensive on the App Store, while it's regarded as a great offer on Steam. Many Steam users would buy such a game just to try it out, iPad users would never buy a $10 game just to see if it was any good. In fact, just during the past year, several $10 games have topped the Steam charts (which is by revenue). Magicka and Terraria held 1st place for weeks. These are not great looking games, yet they outsold many "AAA" games by revenue.

 

Your own NWN2 has topped the Steam charts every single time is has been discounted to $10, even though the game is 5 years old. In fact, NWN2 has consistently been among the top 100 games played on Steam, even though it's only been available on that platform since December 2010. You probably can't get any numbers from Atari on the Steam sales, but I would be surprised if they aren't happy with the additional money they are making from a 5 year old game.

PC RPG's have tremendous legs, and I know the current gaming market doesn't pass on that money to the developers who can't self-publish, but it's still a strength that only that platform has. Can you imagine any iPad game still selling 5 years from now?

 

All these factors make it difficult for me to believe that a $10 iPad RPG in the style of BG2 or NWN2 would be more profitable than the same game on Steam. However, given the lack of interest in the PC market by most major U.S. publishers, I can totally believe that it's easier to get funding for an iPad game. I'd imagine that if you approach a publisher and say you want to make a PC RPG, they'd want you to make it multiplatform. And if it's going to be multiplatform well then you have to make it an action-RPG. Maybe if we can get a few more flops like "Daggerdale" and "Demon's Forge" they'll also consider other approaches.

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Also, just to be clear - I think it's a fine idea to release a BG2/IWD2-style game on multiple platforms, including the iPad. I just think that Steam is where the bulk of the sales would be - as long as the PC version doesn't feel like a poorly-ported iPad game. There's never been anything similar available for that price so it's hard to say. I guess "Dead State" will serve as a good measure when it's released.

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Your own NWN2 has topped the Steam charts every single time is has been discounted to $10, even though the game is 5 years old. In fact, NWN2 has consistently been among the top 100 games played on Steam, even though it's only been available on that platform since December 2010. You probably can't get any numbers from Atari on the Steam sales, but I would be surprised if they aren't happy with the additional money they are making from a 5 year old game.

 

Topping the Steam charts doesn't necessarily mean a lot in terms of revenue because sales on Steam are "spikier" than they are on the App Store. Meaning that the number of games sold per day on Steam is more highly variable than it is on the App Store. So even though you may take the #1 spot that doesn't necessarily mean very much unless its during a time period where a lot of sales are happening. On the flip side, having a #1 spot in the App Store means you are selling a very consistently large number of units, again, from the data I've seen.

 

PC RPG's have tremendous legs, and I know the current gaming market doesn't pass on that money to the developers who can't self-publish, but it's still a strength that only that platform has. Can you imagine any iPad game still selling 5 years from now?

 

I sure can. Plants vs. Zombies has maintained a high store position for a year and a half and shows no signs of slowing down.

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Well, I'm not really hearing any compelling arguments why a reasonably modern looking, medium budget, party-based RPG with tactical combat that is done in the style of BG2 or MotB wouldn't be successful on Steam.

I don't think "PC RPG fans would rather play Skyrim" is very convincing since they are incredibly different type of games. Skyrim has more in common with GTA IV than BG2 or MotB.

 

You are obviously convinced the iPad is a better fit, but there really isn't any hard evidence one way or the other. There's never been anything like BG2 on the iPad and there's never been a new, party-based RPG with tactical combat on Steam for $10.

If you include other genres, I'm convinced that Steam has been a far more profitable marketplace for deeper and more complex $10-$20 games, while the iPad is really dominated by simple, addictive games (like Plants vs. Zombies).

 

Regarding the low RoI of NWN2, you needlessly (IMO) spent a lot of money on rewriting the renderer and I doubt the buggy state of the game and the fact that it was an enormous resource hog while not looking the part did anything to help sales or review scores. The camera controls and the upfront complexity probably could have been handled a lot better aswell. Also, I'd say Steam is a far better marketplace for such a game than PC retail was in 2006, not to mention for DLC and expansions.

So I think it's a bit unfair to say, "NWN2 had poor RoI, therefore any similar game will too". Unless you're a publisher of course.

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Well, I'm not really hearing any compelling arguments why a reasonably modern looking, medium budget, party-based RPG with tactical combat that is done in the style of BG2 or MotB wouldn't be successful on Steam.

Correct me if I'm wrong but it's been tried before.

You can buy your old-school rpg games like Avadon or Eschalon on Steam.

Few people are interested.

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Correct me if I'm wrong but it's been tried before.

You can buy your old-school rpg games like Avadon or Eschalon on Steam.

Few people are interested.

I'll correct you. I've played all the IE games and NWN2/MotB/SoZ, DA:O, Drakensang. I'm not remotely interested in Avadon or Eschalon. Avadon looks far worse than even BG1 and seems simplistic and boring combatwise. The writing seems of much lower quality than anything Black Isle ever did. Eschalon seems to barely have any story and there's no party to control. And it also looks worse than BG1.

 

Though, FYI, both games are considered successes by their developers, so I'm not sure what your point is. They aren't even attempting the market which I'm talking about here. The closest thing would be the unreleased "Dead State".

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Though, FYI, both games are considered successes by their developers...

All four of them? >_<

The point is this: there is little to show that such games will sell.

You don't like the graphics/writing/combat in a single developer games? I get that.

You want it to be better? That takes resources and to pay for them you need more sales.

If you are willing to invest enough to make a game met the minimal expectations you simply better off not making it an rpg.

Small audience means that you cannot keep up with production values.

Especially when there are plenty of good quality browser games and MMOs available for free.

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All four of them? >_<

The point is this: there is little to show that such games will sell.

The point is not relevant to this discussion. A CoD clone made by 4 people won't sell either, because most people would rather play an older game they missed.

In the case of Vogel's games, there are many older PC RPG's that I haven't played yet and would rather play than Avadon. Such as: Fallout, Arcanum, ToEE, Divine Divinity,

Divinity 2, Risen. All are more professional products and will likely be more satisfactory experiences.

 

You don't like the graphics/writing/combat in a single developer games? I get that.

You want it to be better? That takes resources and to pay for them you need more sales.

If you are willing to invest enough to make a game met the minimal expectations you simply better off not making it an rpg.

Small audience means that you cannot keep up with production values.

Especially when there are plenty of good quality browser games and MMOs available for free.

That's ridiculous. There are plenty of niche game that sell a couple of hundred thousand copies and have decent production values.

There's a market in-between Vogel's 4000 Avadon buyers and New Vegas' 5 million. For the moment, U.S. publisher seem to be ignoring that market, but many European games

successfully tap into it.

 

I also find it strange that Nathaniel thinks that a medium budget turn-based strategy is unique enough to have no "AAA" competition from other strategy games like Starcraft 2, Shogun 2 or Civilization V, but a party based CRPG with tactical combat would face competition from a 1st person open-world hack n' slash RPG.

A few other examples of lower-budget games that are successful:

Death to Spies series? Apparently possible due to low-competition from 3rd person stealth games.

King Arthur? No competition from Total War I guess.

Men of War series? No other RTS games out there I guess....

STALKER? I guess FPS isn't a crowded market.

Red Orchestra 2? Online-centric WW2 FPS really has no "AAA" competition. Oh wait....

Divinity 2 or Risen? Action-RPGs with no dialogue wheel, no competition at all there I guess.

I could go on forever.

 

I guess what annoys me is the response to the question: "Is there a market for a deeper, more tactical BG2/NWN2-type RPG with a medium-sized budget?"

Instead of "Yes, such a game could sell enough to be considered profitable by a smaller developer/publisher but Obsidian isn't interested", the response I get from Nathaniel is: "No, I think those gamers would rather play Skyrim".

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I guess what annoys me is the response to the question: "Is there a market for a deeper, more tactical BG2/NWN2-type RPG with a medium-sized budget?"

Instead of "Yes, such a game could sell enough to be considered profitable by a smaller developer/publisher but Obsidian isn't interested", the response I get from Nathaniel is: "No, I think those gamers would rather play Skyrim".

 

It seemed more like what he was saying was that the publishers would rather fund something with a potentially much higher return like Skyrim- and true, as a publisher why would you fund a game where 1 mill sales would be considered amazing when games like Skyrim would sell into the 5 million and beyond? And really wasn't the reason Troika died was because no publisher wanted to back their top down isometric crpg? So there's an example of publishers not being that interested in a genre like that in a mainstream market, hence the alternative ventures and mediums like ipad and appstore.

 

Publishers would be more interested in something like that since the appstore is a potentially much larger market (Rovio sure seems to be making it rain) and turn based combat is easier to sell to a portable audience (just look at the success of turn based games on the DS) and as long as said game was also available on PC through whatever convenient digital distribution services there were then the "old school" gamers would be happy too.

 

At least, that's what I got from JE Sawyer and Nathaniel's responses.

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It seemed more like what he was saying was that the publishers would rather fund something with a potentially much higher return like Skyrim- and true, as a publisher why would you fund a game where 1 mill sales would be considered amazing

I provided lots of examples of other games that are successful in niches where 1 million sales would be considered amazing. And as for why you would fund something other than Skyrim, well...do you think that if 10 Skyrim's were released, they would all sell 5 million copies? As for higher returns, a 1 million selling game would have the same return as a 5 million selling game if it had 1/5th of the budget. Which explains why Paradox Interactive is profitable whereas EA is not.

 

And really wasn't the reason Troika died was because no publisher wanted to back their top down isometric crpg? So there's an example of publishers not being that interested in a genre like that in a mainstream market, hence the alternative ventures and mediums like ipad and appstore.

I'm pretty sure Troika couldn't get anyone interested because their last few games were buggy messes and because their big(ish)-budget action-RPG with full voice-acting and cool vampires sold abysmally.

 

Publishers would be more interested in something like that since the appstore is a potentially much larger market (Rovio sure seems to be making it rain) and turn based combat is easier to sell to a portable audience (just look at the success of turn based games on the DS) and as long as said game was also available on PC through whatever convenient digital distribution services there were then the "old school" gamers would be happy too.

It's pretty pointless to bring up Rovio, I hear Farmville and The Sims are pretty popular on the PC. I've seen nothing suggesting a game like BG2/NWN2 would sell well on the App Store. The tactical JRPG that are popular on the handhelds are nothing like BG2/DA:O/NWN2.

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I'm pretty sure Troika couldn't get anyone interested because their last few games were buggy messes and because their big(ish)-budget action-RPG with full voice-acting and cool vampires sold abysmally.

 

Yeah, and I'm sure the voice acting took up a large portion of the budget in question. I'm not sure if we'll ever see a project like that again. Mitsoda (who is now working on Dead State) said he did think about working on a project like Bloodlines but that the AoD tech would have to mature to the point that it wouldn't cost a million dollars to make, or whatever. As a frame of reference the VA in Bloodlines costed more than their entire Dead State seems to be.

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I'm not sure if we'll ever see a project like that again. Mitsoda (who is now working on Dead State) said he did think about working on a project like Bloodlines but that the AoD tech would have to mature to the point that it wouldn't cost a million dollars to make, or whatever. As a frame of reference the VA in Bloodlines costed more than their entire Dead State seems to be.

Mechanically, Bloodlines was a fairly straight-forward action-RPG with poorly implemented gunplay, backed by great writing and quest design. I'd imagine that with proper marketing, it could have been quite successful as a polished, multiplatform "AAA" title. In fact, Deus Ex:HR reminded me quite a bit of Bloodlines minus the good writing. I hope you're not so cynical to think that great writing would actually hurt sales :lol:

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Small observation:

 

WHY DOES NO ONE ON THIS PAGE HAVE AN AVATAR?

 

~~

 

Also, where is theslug?

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Nathaniel, I suppose you think that in 3-4 years, platforms like the iPad will also be resigned to mainstream games with "AAA" production values?

 

I beg to differ. Games that focus on strong narrative or offer unique gameplay aren't limited to existing in small windows of time on platforms with limited hardware capabilities. People read books even though they have access to movies and they watch serious dramas even in the presence of Hollywood blockbusters. And yes, people can appreciate and pay for strong and unique narratives and gameplay even if they have "Skyrim" installed on their hard drive.

 

Quite frankly, it's disappointing to see your lack of faith in gameplay and writing over visual spectacle. PS:T and Fallout 1&2 where niche titles for a niche audience and I'm sure that audience isn't any smaller today nor that it demands ultra high-res graphics. The fact that Obsidian and/or the publishers you approach aren't interested in making niche games that sells 100K copies doesn't mean there's something wrong with gamers who appreciate a PS:T more than Skyrim.

 

Your comments sound remarkably similar 2K's "Strategy games are not contemporary" and Starbreeze's "Time has moved on" comments, something I wouldn't have expected from an Obsidian dev.

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Nathaniel, I suppose you think that in 3-4 years, platforms like the iPad will also be resigned to mainstream games with "AAA" production values?

 

I beg to differ. Games that focus on strong narrative or offer unique gameplay aren't limited to existing in small windows of time on platforms with limited hardware capabilities. People read books even though they have access to movies and they watch serious dramas even in the presence of Hollywood blockbusters. And yes, people can appreciate and pay for strong and unique narratives and gameplay even if they have "Skyrim" installed on their hard drive.

 

 

You seem to be reading here an awful lot into Nathaniels comments.

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