Spot On: MI6 looks ahead to 2020

Nolan Bushnell, Peter Moore, and others share notes on where the industry will be in 12 years at SF marketing summit.

by

SAN FRANCISCO--Even great games can flop, and one of the biggest reasons why is marketing. It's not enough to simply have a great product if nobody knows about it, or if the characteristics that make it great aren't made clear to the buying public.

That's why there's the MI6 Conference. Now in its third year, MI6 brings together gaming marketers throughout the industry to network, share secrets, and dole out MI6 Awards to the best and brightest in the field. This year, the launch ad campaigns for BioShock, Halo 3, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty 4 took home some of the top honors.

This year's conference capped off its stint at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Union Square with a panel discussion featuring some of the biggest names in the business. Moderated by Wedbush Morgan Securities' quotable industry analyst Michael Pachter, the panel featured Atari founder and industry pioneer Nolan Bushnell, EA Sports president Peter Moore, EA Casual president Kathy Vrabeck, Ubisoft North America president Laurent Detoc, and WildTangent CEO Alex St. John.

Is this the living room of the future?

Pachter set the semiserious tone of the session early on, playfully ribbing the panel members during the introductions. In addition to prefacing Moore's introduction with "Last and maybe least," Pachter pointed out that, "As president of Sega of America, he managed to sell the sports business to Take-Two Interactive. And he's now in the process of buying it back. At a premium."

However, he wasted little time getting to the heart of the matter, given that the first question posed to the panel was the very topic of the session: Where will gaming be in the year 2020?

Detoc answered first, emphasizing that the success of Nintendo's Wii and DS, along with products like Activision's Guitar Hero, have broadened the user base to a wealth of nontraditional gamers. He used his mother as an example, saying that the industry needs to learn how to market to her, instead of to the core gaming crowd of today. St. John interjected that the adoption of gaming among the elderly actually predates Nintendo's recent successes.

"Your grandmother learned to play casual games on Yahoo! years before Nintendo took credit for Brain Age," Detoc said. "The interesting phenomenon is that the Internet really created the grandma gamers--frankly the online casino sites did and got them used to paying for it--and Nintendo discovered that trend years later and took the credit for it."

As the junior member of the panel, Vrabeck said she doesn't normally use her mother as an example because she's only about Pachter's age. The senior analyst responded with the [delightfully] juvenile quip, "I used to date her. Can't you see the resemblance?"

After a healthy "Ooooooooooh" from the audience died down, Vrabeck went back to making her point, saying that she actually spends a lot of time considering her children rather than her parents. After all, in 12 years, the biggest gaming consumers will be the kids who are 4 to 15 years old today.

Are you ready for five more?

"At that point I reference my own children and I watch what they do," Vrabeck said. "They don't even know how to look up a word in a dictionary anymore because it's always dictionary.com. The big prank in tech class in seventh grade when you have free time is to make a fake entry on Wikipedia and see how fast it gets changed back. Those are the kinds of people who are going to be the core gamer in the years to come, and they're used to very different things."

Pachter followed up by asking Vrabeck if EA was using its Littlest Pet Shop online game aimed at young girls to condition them to be gamers--of EA games specifically--a decade or so down the road.

"We're not that diabolical at EA," Vrabeck joked.

Pachter brought up Ubisoft as one company that might have a master plan of that scope, telling Detoc that while playing through Assassin's Creed, it was obvious to him that the publisher had the next five installments of the series already planned out. Detoc knew better than to confirm Assassin's Creed 2 through 6, but he did strike his best Dr. Evil impression, silently raising an extended pinky to his smirking mouth.

Detoc said that designing a series with multiple installments in mind from the outset is something Ubisoft had done before, specifically with the revival of the Prince of Persia series. That franchise had been planned as a trilogy since Sands of Time was in development.

"Even a trilogy goes into something else," Detoc said. "As soon as it's popular, you want to make 20 of them as opposed to three, right?"

Detoc said publishers should have ideas for sequels when they start a new franchise, but they have to be careful not to hold back too much. It's crucial that the first game in a series be successful in order to make developing all those sequels worthwhile.

Bushnell's vision of 2020 played on some of the previously voiced ideas such as social gaming and nontraditional audiences, but it was mostly built around his current upstart project, uWink. Bushnell's goal is for uWink, a restaurant chain with playable games in every table, be the biggest gaming company in the world in 2020.

"What I want to do is create this fun environment with a group of people playing eyeball-to-eyeball," the Chuck E. Cheese founder said, "having a great time, drinking beer, eating pizza--maybe even good pizza, but not necessarily... The reality is a drunk with a credit card is a wonderful thing!"

Bushnell mentioned a Truth or Dare game currently playing on uWink tables as a particularly successful effort. He said 20 percent of the game is the actual game, and 80 percent is made up of the social interactions that it spurs. By 2010, Bushnell said people will play between 10-60 trillion game sessions a year on uWink tables, saying he'll get maybe a nickel from each one and he'll be happy.

"The math is really compelling," Bushnell said.

Like Bushnell, St. John's take on gaming in 2020 revolved around his current company. Describing WildTangent as an iTunes for games, the cocky CEO said while the rest of the panel was speculating about the future, he had actually come back from the future to share what he had learned.

St. John said the console business will be gone in 2020 as the game industry becomes a broadcast medium. He said that as games move to online community models like World of Warcraft, they displace traditional games.

"It's not that selling boxes, and plastic, and demanding $60 and telling the consumer to go to hell won't still exist as a business model," St. John joked. "That will still be viable. But I think the vast revenue and growth will all be in the broadcast business models heavily supported by advertising."

It won't be just any kind of advertising, though. The current trend of dynamic in-game advertising is just a novelty that won't catch on, St. John said. Aside from the technical difficulties associated with inserting them into games and changing them up as new sponsors come on board, St. John said they don't make as much of an impression as a simple image on a loading screen. He also said that advertisers don't like how there's nothing to click on with in-gameplay ads because the user is busy playing. He pointed to WildTangent's ad-driven revenue, saying that interstitial ads and loading-screen spots command an average of $140 per 1,000 impressions for Wild Tangent, compared with $18 for the company's interstitial efforts.

Although he technically wasn't even on the panel, Pachter couldn't resist and offered an opinion anyway.

"I don't know that I agree with any of you," Pachter said. "You all seem to agree the future is in social interaction, this social, collaborative gameplay. I think of entertainment as a solitary experience. I may go to the movies with my wife, but we don't sit there and talk about it during the film. We consume it on our own."

Discussion

52 comments
sniperboy_recon
sniperboy_recon

There isnt goin to be more assassins creed!!!!! or is there?????

harrygordon1000
harrygordon1000

Has Pachter been hiding under a rock? Cinema as a concept is pretty ancient and to even consider using that as a sign of the entertainment industries current direction... this is madness!

nintendoboy16
nintendoboy16

They said somewhere that gaming consoles will end at 2020. I'm not too worried about it. There may be better systems coming from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, we may never know. So I am glad that video games will continue, maybe even after 2020, but who knows.

GTARulez
GTARulez

I dont think they meant 6 Assassins Creed. I thought it was a triology

Dryker
Dryker

Yeah! Give the awards to the marketers of games that are great? As if they could actually gauge the impact they had on its sales. Word of mouth couldn't have had anything to do with it, could it? Maybe, just maybe, it actually being a good game had something do with great sales. I in no way should be saying this, but the awards should be going to those people who managed to sell bad games. Now that is an accomplishment. We have plenty of those to choose from.

_Cab0ose87_
_Cab0ose87_

I am REALLY out of the loop with gaming events and conventions.. i thought this was MI6... British intelligence.. from.. James bond... lol.. oh man.

blairstheman
blairstheman

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Jaeme
Jaeme

CRAP! I call it CRAP! They are, as most of these "visionary" business panels are, full of themselves and little else. The fact that these fools missed the obvious in the very make up of the panel is telling. Noone would dream of setting up a panel called "the future of music", let alone take it seriously. As gaming penetrates deeper into society it will splinter just as rock has, film has, books have, etc. There will be a large casual gaming sector, just as there is now, but "hardcore" gaming will become a multi stage thing. Those like me who love the story of a game, and treat it more like a traditional media, and who have little interest in adversarial multiplayer will be one large chunk, while those for whom CTF or Deathmatch are the reason to game will be another. In the same way noone who call a person a "non hardcore movie goer" for choosing one type of movie over another (except maybe Uwe Boll`s "movies") "hardcore gamer" will go away as a term. For these so called "experts" to believe one type of gaming will suplant all others is like believing that no movies other than science fiction movies would be made after the success of "Star Wars" back in `77. Obvious CRAP!

nate1222
nate1222

On a similar note: I think that most people game- albeit "casuals". The success of the Wii, the continued success of the PS2 and PC games with low system requirements like WoW and Counter Strike prove it. It also proves you DON'T have to spend tons of money on development to be a successful game dev. Practicality goes a long way. And savy marketing definately helps.

starfox15
starfox15

So let me get this straight: this is a meeting for groups of people to share their marketing secrets and info on how to get people to buy their games? Is that right? People are giving each other pats on the back concerning how well they advertised their individual games to a given market? Does nobody see the perversion? Never mind.

nate1222
nate1222

I'm with grigjd3. The vast majority of the market are "casuals". I honestly don't have a problem with it. Some of my favs are casuals: Jewel Quest 2, Pac-Man, Tetris. But I still prefer UT2004, Oblivion, KotOR, TS:FP(GC) and I recently bought FALLOUT 2 from Amazon.com.

SNIPER-CAZ
SNIPER-CAZ

Like what grigjd3 said i tend to play more serious games as well, but when my girlfriend is over i catch her jumping on to my pc playing ut3, she loves the game because its so easy!

Elk
Elk

Pachter 1 Vrabeck 0

RuminaX
RuminaX

This is pointless, foreseeing where gaming will be in 2012 or 2013, alright. But no one knows what kind of creative innovations and new methods and technologies will be viable in 2020. Could many people in 1996 have an even remotely accurate prediction of the market today in 2008? Or imagine 1996 back in 1984? Most people wouldn't have imagined gaming being like this right now. Frankly, I also don't like all this talk of pure social gaming, sure I love MMO's and my competitive FPS games but are we really going to leave behind single player experiences with great storyline like MGS, Half-life, Bioshock, Portal, or Silent Hill? I don't like the sound of that. While social gaming is great and I'm a big fan of it I'd prefer a good blend of both. But again... who knows what 2020 holds...

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

I have to agree with Pachter's statement at the end here. I enjoy my social games, but I really enjoy single player games and campaigns. Sure, it's wonderful to have the option to have a friend jump in at any time for co-op, but there's something about the SP experience that just won't let me believe that it will disappear in the next 12 years. I see the social market expanding, but only because so many industry peeps are trying to move their companies in that direction. I hope that they remember the core gamers that got their companies to where they are when they start turning a cold shoulder to those customers. And I think it's funny how she says: EA is not that diobolical - directly after she said that she is watching her children and finding out how to target kids their age so that they become gamers when they get older. Completely contradicting herself and I think she looks like an ass now. Interesting read, but nothing that I wouldn't have expected.

mysterylobster
mysterylobster

""I don't know that I agree with any of you," Pachter said. "You all seem to agree the future is in social interaction, this social, collaborative gameplay. I think of entertainment as a solitary experience. I may go to the movies with my wife, but we don't sit there and talk about it during the film. We consume it on our own."" Did he even think about this before saying it? Probably not. In fact, you do share a lot with other people when you see a movie (laughter, screams), but it's a narrative, not a competitive/cooperative, form of entertainment the way video games are.

BarryIreland
BarryIreland

Ubisoft said that Assassins Creed would be a trilogy!So there probably won't be an Assassins Creed 6!!

Nineball2112
Nineball2112

I think this quote kinda sums up the state of things today: It says he "joked" abou it, but unfortunately... it's true way too often.

guertt
guertt

You all wrong! The future of gaming is so bad that you can't imagine. The weather will be so ugly that contry will try to survive instead of paying for entertainement. No more fun, more food on the table... stop selling gaz car before we sink!!!

mattkorn
mattkorn

when i read the headline, "MI6 looks ahead to 2020" i thought it meant military inteligence 6 as in James Bond and spys and stuff. after reading the first paragraph i was a bit disapointed to wasn't

mattkorn
mattkorn

when i read the headline, "MI6 looks ahead to 2020" i thought it meant military inteligence 6 as in James Bond and spys and stuff. after reading the first paragraph i was a bit disapointed it wasn't Wookieassasin, both are real, MI5 is chaps who do their spy stuff just in britain, whilst mi6 does everything outside britian such as france (because france is jealous that we defeated napoleon and stopped their invasion of europe)

markharris31
markharris31

It's interesting to see where gaming figures see gaming... but we all know it's like predicting the weather, totally hit or miss. But, I suppose if you thrown enough theories out there, then when one is right you can pull the ol' "I told you so! Like back in '08. I am a GOD!" line.

markharris31
markharris31

It's interesting to see where gaming figures see gaming... but we all know it's like predicting the weather, totally hit or miss. But, I suppose if you throw enough theories out there, then when one is right you can pull the ol' "I told you so! Like back in '08. I am a GOD!" line.

ChuckNorris82
ChuckNorris82

DATADREAM THAT WOULD DEFINITELY MAKE ME WANT TO RIP MY HAIR OUT!!!! But um 1. 6 Assassins Creed would be pretty insane, and 2. UM I hope to "GOD" that future gaming doesn't look like that family in the first picture.....creepy.........

surppo
surppo

i think some of these ideas might come to pass but gaming becoming something different is false. gaming as we no it hasnt changed since pong( a joystick and buttons). the only change i can predict is genre mashing games like a mmortss being possible.

DataDream
DataDream

The scariest thing is... Advertising for load screens within a game!!! Screw that - talk about killing any immersion in the game whatsoever. Who wants to be playing Elder Scrolls VI and have a Pepsi ad to look at while an area loads. While the industry is looking to look more money from gamers - let this be a warning to them that if they do it wrong it could completely alienate the gaming masses. I don't know if I could play a game if it is the way they propose - then again it could be a good time for a restroom break in the game but that would defeat the purpose of advertising all together! :)

DataDream
DataDream

The scariest thing is... Advertising for load screens within a game!!! Screw that - talk about killing any immersion in the game whatsoever. Who wants to be playing Elder Scrolls VI and have a Pepsi ad to look at while an area loads. While the industry is looking to make more money from gamers - let this be a warning to them that if they do it wrong it could completely alienate the gaming masses. I don't know if I could play a game if it is the way they propose - then again it could be a good time for a restroom break in the game but that would defeat the purpose of advertising all together! :)

GunnBjorn
GunnBjorn

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

GunnBjorn
GunnBjorn

I do agree with NorthernRT to some extend... Really, Who'd (other than scientists, economics, religious people awaiting the end of the world and the youngsters ao) premonize that far into the future...? I'm a simple man who enjoys playing a game after a hard day's work... I do not implicate that we don't have to plan ahead, but as of yet, the year 2020 is way beyond my horizon...

NorthernRT
NorthernRT

@Meier34: Oh noes! I read an article in Edge, as did many, with the interviewees saying they preferred it if student learned the true sciences, like computer science, or art, or English, then went into the gaming industry. I can't predict what's going to happen in 2020 for games. I'm waiting on Global warming.

Meier34
Meier34

Real Gaming in 2020 will be lead by company's you haven't heard of yet. Suck to be you EA. When these guys got started only hardcore loser dorks made videos games. Now games like WoW have opened the doors to a much larger group of people. Who knows if China release a WoW killer?How many Students are studying game design now?

Meier34
Meier34

Real Gaming in 2020 will be lead by company's you haven't heard of yet. Suck to be you EA. When these guys got started only hardcore loser dorks made videos games. Now games like WoW have opened the doors to a much larger group of people. Who knows if China will release a WoW killer?How many Students are studying game design now?

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

I am PC gamer - can barely see beyond this year - let alone a dozen! :(

osxgp
osxgp

Stupid EA. Their motto should be "If you can't beat them, buy them". The decline of the GTA series will begin if EA buys Rockstar. I can see it now, Madden billboards in GTA games. Oh the humanity!

osxgp
osxgp

Stupid EA. Their motto should be "If you can't beat em, buy em". The decline of the GTA series will begin if EA buys Rockstar.

osxgp
osxgp

The future of gaming will be very interesting indeed.

dead_god86
dead_god86

Wow, a lot of these ideas are really far fetched, i really can't see this uWink thing taking off at all, i hope this guy was being sarcastic when he was talking about it. of all te arcades that i know of, they have all gotten a lot smaller than they where when i was a kid, because ppl arnt going to go and spend 10 or 20 bucks on playing a few games for 20 mins at an arcade, when they can buy a game for 50-100 bucks and have a much better game, with more to do, and play it in their very own home, as much as they like. Social gaming is definately going to take off though, it already has, online and in Net cafe's, personally i don't go to Net cafes much, i have in teh past, but not for a long time, it's enjoyable to go with a few buddies, but i usually just have a couple mates round now and then for a few beers, and a few PC games. Interactive entertainment i believe will continue to evolve, and new and wonderful innovative idea will come and sometimes go, or stay, but in the end, gaming will always have an antisocial aspect to it, with many single player games out there, as well as online multiplayer games, all of which will continue to evolve together.

dandenmark2
dandenmark2

I really doubt the whole country will be playing this whole "uwink" bulls***, whether it's in 2 or 20 years. Just an opinion.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Dang James Bond came to me when I read this

Merl57
Merl57

Wow Bushnell is so dead wrong is funny. he wasn't that right when he said people would love to play games at the arcade right before nintendo came out. They seem to have an idealistic view of the future and it doesn't seem to rational to me. Consumers drive the business not the far fetched visions of corporate fat cats. There has to be a real cooperation between the people who make the games and the people who play them.

protokyoto
protokyoto

Honestly Assassin's Creed was a little repetitive and dry and shouldn't go to 5 or 6...it should end with 3 (just my opinion) but a look at the future kinda scares a lot of gamers I know because odds are by 2020 the thought of Assassin's Creed 6 will be released and we'll still be waiting for Duke Nukem Forever and Half-Life 2 Episode 3. Please let the future of gaming bring us the games we've had on our minds for years first before we get a 20 disc collection of AC.

Death_Masta187
Death_Masta187

"Nolan Bushnell, Peter Moore, and others share notes on where the industry will be in 12 years at SF marketing summit." -------------------------------------------- EA will own everything and gaming will be dead... no wait that will be in 2 years

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

Just like everyone else, I fell for the "James Bond" styled title. Shame on you Gamespot aha

is0lati0n
is0lati0n

Haha. I thought of James Bond also.

Lord_Xanatos
Lord_Xanatos

I thought that too, that's what made me read the article but its another type of MI6. But it might be interesting to know that it would be more assassin's creed and not just two.

Djmaster214
Djmaster214

i saw this and thought of james bond