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Two issues: Most tools are aimed at "people who want to make games but aren't technical enough". The problem here is that all game makers assume everyone wants to make games (they don't) and they assume there is lots of talent out there (when there isn't). Second problem: All code types want to build engines. So in every game design team is *someone* who would rather build an engine than design games. And since they are the gating item, they are in control. Businesses that try to solve this problem are targeting consumers who can't use them and professionals who won't. Tough sell.
I think that there is a danger here in mixing up UPS, features, and hooks. All marketers accept that selling by using features is hard. You should use benefits. (A washing machine doesn't do 1,200 RPM and have a category A eco rating): it dries your clothes faster, saves you money and is good for the environment. Similarly with games: using USPs as a list of features is totally pointless. Turning them into a list of benefits (which might be "be scared witless", "play for hours against your friends" or whatever) is different. but also a hook (which can also be a USP) can be very powerful. A hook can be a meme, but it can also be "exploding dinosaur eggs" for a match-3 game or "Jetpack!" in an 8-bit classic. In other words, beware throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Enough cliches. Back to writing.
An interesting post. I agree with your analysis, but semantics are, as always, a challenge. Are we post-platform, or is every developer creating its own platform. Does having a portfolio where you cross-promote between them all (like Zynga does) count as a platform. The element that resonated most strongly with me is that second-rate developers used to have a modicum of protection if they were registered Sony/Microsoft developers, because not everyone had that status. In the open world we are racing towards, where people can distribute on multiple platforms without a gatekeeper's permission, those who were mediocre and *benefited* from the gatekeeper will be in trouble.)
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Dec 13, 2010