Trip Hawkins Criticizes Nintendo and Apple
Fans of Nintendo and Apple swear the company can do no wrong. Ask Trip Hawkins, co-founder of EA and current CEO of Digital Chocolate, and you'll hear a much different story. Hawkins spoke at GDC during a rant session for social platforms, and gave a ten minute speech on the changes the download space needs to make to stay successful.
“We used to have a free and open games business, and then Nintendo came along and introduced a thing called a license agreement,” he said. “There's a whole lot of companies these days that have basically copied that model.”
Hawkins says that the license agreement has made it prohibitively difficult for developers to enter into a market that isn't growing as fast as you'd think. “It might be okay if the markets are really growing. There are, for example, a lot of Android devices being sold, but how about revenue on the platform, how much is that growing? Not very much.”
Hawkins cites a crowded market as a trouble spot for revenue. While a company like Apple may generate a billion dollars in revenue for developers, they also have hundreds of thousands of apps.
“You take a billion dollars, you divide it by a quarter million you get ... $4000 dollars each. Do you see the problem with that? That doesn't even pay for a really good Foosball table!”
While some developers score big with smash hit games in the download space, most are failures. Hawkins compares the system to American Idol: “That's the whole point of the show—to make fun of all the people who think they're going to win. These people think that they're going to win American Idol, billions of people think that they can win.”
“I know it's really attractive—wow, these platforms completely crushed it so you don't have to deal with the retailers, you don't have to deal with these tyrannical publishers. But basically these supply chains are pretty messed up. They're not working for a lot of people.”
Hawkins may have a point. While I don't have the numbers to show for it, the success vs. failure of downloadable products compared to retail is an extreme divide. With so much at stake for developers, app stores in their current state may not be a realistic place for businesses to bank their money. As the large game developers continue to dive heardfirst into the download and mobile pool, a change may need to happen sooner rather than later.