A Feed for Games
My friend and business partner Nathan Solomon recently mused about the possibility of "a feed for games". The idea at its essence is to try to combine the open, viral, dispersed nature of something like RSS and harness it to utterly change the way people discover, download, play, and (sometimes) pay for games.
Games Online are Web 1.0
At the moment, people who offer games online are stuck, in essence, with Web 1.0; they put up software on a site somewhere, maybe host it on places like Download.com or try to make deals with the Oberons and RealArcades and Kongregates and Direct2Drives or Big Fishes of the world. As a result, the only way gamers can find interesting new games today is by browsing and searching widely on the Internet, and the only way developers can reach a large number of users is by sacrificing a huge portion of their revenues to websites with large traffic volumes.
This Sucks. There Has To Be Something Better
That sucks -- both for gamers, who have to work hard to find cool games, and for developers, who have to work hard to find an audience. And you know what? There are only two kinds of people who actually care about games: the people who play them, and the people who create them. Everyone else just gets in the way. Why are we rewarding the people who get in the way instead of the people who care?
Is there a way to harness Web 2.0 technologies to make things better, and easier, and cooler, and more interesting for gamers and developers alike?
Harnessing the Power of Web 2.0
What if there were a way for people to link to games that's more meaningful than a simple link to a download or Flash game site? What if sharing affiliate revenues was automagic, instead of requiring separate registrations at different corporate sites? What if it were possible to build mashups and applications on top of the way games are shared? What if there were a better way to harness the Internet's virality to spread the word about games? What if it were utterly open, so everyone from a garage developer to EA could us it? What if it allowed casual developers to break free from the current business model, where they sacrifice 80% of revenues to the distribution channel, by sharing a much smaller percentage with others who link to them? What if indie developers could use it to reach something more than a tiny audience?
"You may call me a dreamer..." So let's dream together. Let's try to think of what "Web 2.0 for games" would look like -- and then think of what kind of technology we'd need to make it happen. And not worry, at this point, about how to make it happen; if we can envision a buildable technology, we can worry about how to fund its development later.
What Does It Look Like?
How do we create a technology that lets developers find an audience more easily; that lets gamers find games they like more easily; that provides incentives to spread the word about good games; that's a win-win for everybody -- everybody who actually cares about games, anyway?
Nathan's term, "a feed for games" presumes that it looks like RSS -- but maybe it looks more like Twitter, or YouTube, or something else entirely.
The Future's So Bright, You Gotta Wear Shades
Here's my idea of the future:
- Gamers say, "This is the best and easiest way to find PC games I like."
- Indie developers put up their games, viral distribution and linkage brings them to people's attention, if they strike a nerve they can become major hits.
- The Pogos and Yahoo Games of the world say to Oberon, "Why do we need you, we can simply build on this open solution, and earn at least as much money as you pass on to us."
- Casual game publishers tell the portals "No we won't pay you 80%, because you simply cannibalize our sales through the open platform that makes us most of our money."
- EA and other major publishers say "Ah, Internet distribution of PC games is a solved problem, now, we simply adopt it."
What Do You Think?
That's the end game -- but of course, it has to start smaller. It has to start with simple technologies that make life better for gamers and developers alike. "RSS" stands for "Really Simple Syndication;" what we want is something like "Simple Game Syndication." It has to be easy for people to use -- and easy to build more comprehensive applications on top of.
How do we start?
What do you think?