Peter Vesterbacka has been in the news recently for many things most recently being his statement that consoles were dying, making way for the mighty Smartphone. Now it seems he isn’t pleased about Microsoft’s Xbox Live content approval system because of the current inability to allow frequent updates to games. In an interview with MCV about the success of Angry Birds, Vesterbacka said: “Is that our fault? No, that’s their problem. There is no reason why, when you do digital distribution on console, you couldn’t do frequent updates. It’s just a legacy way of thinking. If the consoles want to stay relevant they have to start mimicking what’s going on around them on app stores, Smartphones and online. It’s the only way, because people expect games to stay fresh.”
However, I would argue that the reason why games like Angry Birds need a constant stream of updates is because of the type of game it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one hell of a game but fundamentally you are doing the same thing in each level with the varying factor being the layout of said level. Adding more of these over time will indeed keep everything fresh but I don’t think games that are traditionally found on consoles require the same amount of updates.
Vesterbacka added: “If you pay $59 or $69 dollars and you get no updates – but you pay 99 cents for a game in the App Store and get updates every month, then it sets the expectations higher. So the pressure is definitely on those guys.” If I pay full price for a brand new game, I don’t expect to have it updated every month. I expect the price I paid for it to cover my entertainment for either a decent amount of time or deliver me a truly memorable experience. And constant updates aren’t always a blessing. I have a good number of games and Apps on my iPhone and feel like I’m forever downloading bits and pieces – be it content or patches – for them which has resulted in me deleting more Apps rather than keeping them.
Backtracking on his previous comments, Vesterbacka withdrew his “consoles are dying” remark replacing it with how he thinks consoles and there markets are important – possibly because he’s trying to get his game onto those markets – but they’re not the fastest growing platform whereas mobiles are. Team Meat, makers of Super Meat Boy on XBLA, are well known for their contrasting opinions to that of Vesterbacka and believe, despite the numbers of Smartphones out there, such a format isn’t best suited to be the sole provider of a gaming experience: “A phone is not a generic gaming platform. It works for some games, but not everything. I cannot stress this enough. Just because something has the ability to run games that doesn’t mean every game should be made for it.” They go as far as to express a hatred to the App Store, preferring to stick with consoles and soon PC and Mac, with their updates for Super Meat Boy taking a little as a day in some cases. It clearly can work for them.
Microsoft and for that matter, Sony, do have a legacy way of thinking for their stores but Vesterbacka has to remember that those stores are very different from those found on Smartphones. The games are different (for the most part) and expectations from gamers is different. It’s just different, not necessarily wrong. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change nor do all developers for XBLA and PSN feel comfortable with the system in place but if anyone can point Rovio in the right direction, it’s Team Meat.