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Dawn of a New (Gaming) Day

October 27, 2010

I’ve been reading the fascinating final huzzah from the now former Microsoft vision guy, Ray Ozzie.  In it he points (diplomatically) to Microsoft failure to truly think in a networked manner and says that the company needs to think beyond the PC.  This is going to be tough for them as much of their income comes from PC-installed systems:

We’ve seen agile innovation playing out before a backdrop in which many dramatic changes have occurred across all aspects of our industry’s core infrastructure.  These myriad evolutions of our infrastructure have been predicted for years, but in the past five years so much has happened that we’ve grown already to take many of these changes for granted:  Ubiquitous internet access over wired, WiFi and 3G/4G networks; many now even take for granted that LTE and ‘whitespace’ will be broadly delivered.  We’ve seen our boxy devices based on ‘system boards’ morph into sleek elegantly-designed devices based on transformational ‘systems on a chip’.  We’ve seen bulky CRT monitors replaced by impossibly thin touch screens.  We’ve seen business processes and entire organizations transformed by the zero-friction nature of the internet; the walls between producer and consumer having now vanished.  Substantial business ecosystems have collapsed as many classic aggregation & distribution mechanisms no longer make sense.

Organizations worldwide, in every industry, are now stepping back and re-thinking the basics; questioning their most fundamental structural tenets.  Doing so is necessary for their long-term growth and survival.  And our own industry is no exception, where we must question our most fundamental assumptions about infrastructure & apps.

With this he challenges Microsoft to think beyond their fundamental assumptions;

And so at this juncture, given all that has transpired in computing and communications, it’s important that all of us do precisely what our competitors and customers will ultimately do: close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur. How would customers accomplish the kinds of things they do today? In what ways would it be better? In what ways would it be worse, or just different?

It’s worth reading the whole thing. It’s very interesting and Ray comes over as a genuine guy and a strong visionary. Pity they are letting him go. Having worked on a game for the new Windows Phone 7, I think Microsoft have started this journey, but have a long way to go. Ray also offers things for us in the games industry to learn too. Here’s my thoughts on Ray’s thoughts (if you see what I mean…);

  • Beyond the PC Console: We need to think of games experiences that go beyond the console. Currently that box of plastic under the TV is still too isolated. I think Sony had the right idea linking the PSP and PS3, but as yet it is also at the start of a journey.
  • Complexity kills games services too.  Games that are too complex are not drawing the user in (though layering the complexity so the user can pick their level of engagement is good) but this also applies to services around games; buy games, buying DLC, making User-Generated-Content and so on.  Simplicity is the key.
  • Continuous services Games; No longer will game game be a contained experience.  We need to free it – to allow it to take advantage of the systems that live beyond the console and allow the player to be part of that growing world it occupies.
  • There is more stuff that I’d like to say, but I think that will have to wait for another day, as I’ve got to feed the cats now… so I’ll end this post with a quote from Ray:

    In 1939, in New York City, there was an amazing World’s Fair.  It was called ‘the greatest show of all time’.

    In that year Americans were exhausted, having lived through a decade of depression.  Unemployment still hovered above 17%.  In Europe, the next world war was brewing.  It was an undeniably dark juncture for us all.

    And yet, this 1939 World’s Fair opened in a way that evoked broad and acute hope: the promise of a glorious future.  There were pavilions from industry & countries all across the world showing vision; showing progress:  The Futurama; The World of Tomorrow.  Icons conjuring up images of the future:  The Trylon; The Perisphere.

    The fair’s theme:  Dawn of a New Day.

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