Mark Kern, the former World of Warcraft designer now heading up Firefall developer Red 5, is ready to suit up and attend a funeral for consoles.
“It takes billions of dollars of investment to create a console and then you have to milk it for five to seven years in order to get your money back. I think the model is broken,” Kern told Eurogamer.
The developer said that platform holders have to make bigger and bigger gambles, which means playing it safer and safer, until eventually innovation dires up and players ‘get bored and leave’.
“And you haven’t fostered any of the middle ground innovation and new ideas that you need to tap into next. So something has to change. Consoles, I believe, are dead,” he concluded.
Kern noted two symptoms of the problem: that games are increasingly divided into AAA and everything else with no middle ground, and lay-offs after failed major releases, which he feels is unsustainable.
Unfortunately, Kern doesn’t see major publishers coming around to his way of thinking any time soon.
“Even if the heads of these big organisations do get it – which is questionable to begin with – being able to turn on a dime when everybody’s salaries and bonuses are vested in the old business models is a very difficult thing to do,” he said.
“I think they’re at severe risk right now of being trumped by Apple, by Google, by Facebook. Look at indie games. Look at Riot Games and League of Legends. They have more users than World of Warcraft does. That’s crazy.
“And they don’t have a publisher. Who needs publishers any more? I certainly don’t. I couldn’t care less about them at this stage.”
Kern has no interest in bringing free-to-play MMO Firefall to consoles, either.
“Why would we? I don’t see that [platform holders] see how free-to-play can fit into their model and the fact that they’re royalty revenue share is not set up to take advantage of these types of games,” he said.
“There’s no incentive for me to be on console. I’m more interested in getting onto the Mac OS or even iOS in some form. That’s what’s more interesting to me.”
Firefall is in cascading beta, with current players regularly asked to extend invites to friends, making it quite tricky to get in; try your luck here.