Sunday, March 2, 2014

Naughty Dog and the reason they're so good at what they do

Developers giving us what we want, and what we need.

Recently in an interview with WIRED about the DLC for The Last of us called Left Behind by Naughty Dog, the creator Niel Druckmann said some very interesting things about development and the industry in general: 

"We’re very lucky at Naughty Dog that we get to make our own calls. No one outside of Naughty Dog tells us what to do. But I know when it comes to marketing or other aspects of the industry, those calls are sometimes very precedent-driven. So without being able to point to a game and say that can succeed on the market, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure to not do that. We’re lucky at Naughty Dog that we can ignore those recommendations, but in a lot of other studios, I’ve spoken with people in those studios and they cannot."
Seeing this quote made me think of Apple in their latest decade, and pushing a product on the American public regardless of what they voiced that they wanted. It was because they knew what the public would buy and not what they wanted that made them successful. If you read about Steve Jobs, he wasn't a people pleaser, and he didn't want his company to do that either. He was there to provide a quality product that he knew was an innovation and that lacked the complexity that comes from attempting to meet every demand of the public.

The problem with this inevitably is that you have clashing concepts and eventually have an absolute mess that ends up alienating the audience that you started with. A good example of this is the Call of Duty franchise that brought innovation and quality originally to the First Person Shooter scene. Now through the years though they've alienated the original audience and has created a new one with their consistent annual releases. This came about because the marketing team wanted to push the concepts that everyone liked about the original series and keep profits flowing.

Examples of the opposite however are Naughty Dog and their Uncharted series, the original Halo, and the upcoming release, Titanfall. These games have a clear vision that the entire development team shared, and they didn't look for popular features to implement. They took stable, and well-known ideas and built upon them to create something that was high quality, and more importantly could be mutually owned as a concept by everyone on the team.

I won't get into team dynamics and why this creates room for innovation, but it shows with the quality of game that these teams publish, and the continuing titles that they develop. Putting profits as a second priority to quality will create a product that, long-term, will overtake profitable but quickly developed games. Applying the observed rules of economics and production here can do wonders to see why some game series do wonderfully, while some lose quality in consecutive iterations.

Other News - Steam Sales

This week Steam released a statement saying that developers would now have full control over the sales on their games, instead of being controlled by Valve in their sales. I'm looking into this and the ramifications that other markets have had to find something to compare it by. Free market and the ability to lower and raise prices is a great thing, and I think it can have some great effects on sales. I'm all for companies selling their product at a lower price point if they want to make a more popular product, but I know there are some dangers in rampant price bidding as well. Hopefully this helps both the consumer get more for his money, and helps indie studios that are struggling. I want to see everyone get what they want, and hopefully this lets them have it. 

Anyway, I'm not going to be able to review a game today, and that's why I'm only writing about news that I found interesting. School, fatherhood, and work are taking a toll on my life this week and last, and I'm going to need a few days to recover. Don't worry, (I'm saying this to myself as much as my imaginary audience) I've got 40 games installed on my computer right now waiting for play-time and review, so I'll get the "3 days of..." series back up and running again soon. Nothing will stop me, believe me.

(If you had a different opinion or a new video game to suggest, leave a comment below! If you want to recieve regular updates, follow me on Twitter @SimonGolden.

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