Seven game industry debates that shaped 2012

Seven game industry debates that shaped 2012
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

December 20th 2012 at 11:53AM

We list some of the biggest stories Develop has covered this year that sparked debate and controversy

It’s been a big year for game industry news, with the sector accelerating in multiple directions at an astronomical rate.

Whether it is the rise on social gaming, new consoles on the block, the proliferation of mobile and tablet gaming or the fluctuating state of business models, it’s been a crazy, and for some, rocky ride for developers.

Below we give you a rundown of some of the biggest stories that we have covered here on Develop that have ignited discussion and debate on the state of the industry as well as just some of the biggest challenges facing developers, and also what has happened since these stories were first covered.

The rise of Kickstarter

Kickstarter burst onto the scene in February when Tim Schafer’s studio Double Fine took to the crowdfunding site and caused a stir amongst consumers and the industry. The buzz around the title, a project which we covered extensively, meant that in the first eight hours, the project was making $839 per minute, eventually raising more than $3.3 million.

The game’s runaway success awoke the industry to a new way of raising funds and finding investment, by going direct to the consumer and away from publishers. The Double Fine Kickstarter then inspired waves of other developers and games, including Obsidian’s Project Eternity, Brian Fargo's inXile Entertainment with Wasteland 2, the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift, Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen and MS Paint Adventures with Homestuck.

It’s not all been positive however. A number of titles have struggled to complete development despite receiving thousands in funds, most notably Code Hero. We covered the coding tool’s initial Kickstarter campaign, with the project bursting into life during the closing week to eventually smash its $100,000 funding target and raise more than $170,000.

Despite this, it came to light last week that the project had experienced a very troubled development process, with the funds now running dry and its developers now working on the project for free as the team desperately searches for more investment.

Although the project is said to still be underway, the case has proved as a cautionary tale of what can happen when a Kickstarter goes wrong.

Quick links:

Double Fine Kickstarter Adventure raises $250k
Double Fine kickstarter making $839 per minute
Double Fine Kickstarter finishes at $3.3m
Code Hero Kickstarter going to the wire
'Where did the money go?' ask Code Hero devs

The iOS 6 App Store 'is a disaster' for developers

Apple released the iPhone 5 in September, and with it came the latest operating system for Apple’s mobile and tablet devices, the iOS 6.

The OS however came with some significant changes to the App Store, which many indies felt diminished their chances of discoverability, leading to anger among many developers.

Some even branded the iOS 6 App Store “a disaster for developers”, as the new App Store did away with a “sort by release date” option, with tabs for games searches restricted to paid, free and top grossing. Some devs were also disappointed that users could now only view one app at a time, instead of the previous five-per-page, as well as a lack of space available to show a game’s full title and the lack of support for landscape functionality.

Other developers later also suggested that since the iOS 6 app store, their sales had plummeted.

It will be interesting to see through 2013 what steps Apple takes, if any, to appease the indie development scene and keep them on the App Store - particularly with Android becoming a major rival for the platform.

Quick links:

Apple unveils iPhone 5
The iOS 6 App Store 'is a disaster' for developers

HTML5 – A blessing or a curse?

HTML5 has been a hot topic amongst developers for some time as it looks to replace Flash as the internet browser standard platform. Despite initially being severely outmatched in terms of userbase, as shown by this infographic, HTML5 has become a serious option for many studios to work from.

That being said, earlier this year Develop did an investigation into HTML5 game development, and the feedback we received provided a mixed picture of how the industry had responded to the platform.

Many expressed their unhappiness with the difficulty in coding and what was considered as broken audio implementation at time, with changes also taking a long time to be introduced given the cross-platform nature of HTML5.

Most developers agreed on one thing though, that like it or not, HTML5 is here to stay, even if it means they are dragged kicking and screaming until its potential is fully realised.

Good job then, that this week the World Web Consortium announced that the specifications for HTML5 and Canvas 2D were now feature complete, meaning the platform was no longer a “moving target” for developers to work from.

Quick links:

Infographic: Flash vs HTML5
HTML5: A blessing or a curse?
HTML5 and Canvas 2D specs now feature complete

UK Govt makes shock tax proposal

During the UK Chancellor’s Budget speech on March 21st, George Osborne made a shock games tax breaks proposal after years of lobbying by games trade bodies UKIE, Tiga and a number of UK developers.

United, the industry expressed its shock and jubilation over the proposals, although some still called for calm while the consultation was taken out and it was decided just how big the tax relief for developers would be.

Last week that government announced the first draft of its tax relief legislation, and revealed there would be no minimum threshold and that tax relief would be set at 25 per cent.

It also revealed the video games cultural test, which we have listed here in full, which developers must pass to be eligible to claim tax relief. The test received a mixed response, as it is currently unclear if the test may exclude some game genres, although it is expected this will be cleared up in the next few months.

With time still left for changes, whatever happens, a 25 per cent tax relief is a major coup for the game industry in the UK and is finally recognition from Westminster that the development sector is an important part of British industry and culture.

Quick links:

UK Govt makes shock games tax breaks proposal
UK games tax relief: Devs' shock and jubilation
UK Gov details draft legislation for games tax relief
Revealed: The UK video games cultural test

Ouya breaks on to the scene

Tiny hackable Android console Ouya made waves when it came onto the scene as a Kickstarter project on the hunt for just $950,000 to create a new living room rival to the powerhouses of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. After 30 days, the project blitzed its goal and raised $8.5 million from 63,416 backers, making it the most funded project in crowdfunding history.

It was not without controversy however, as Develop discovered, when Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman admitted to us that the company was looking for additional funds and that it wanted to take the project to Kickstarter regardless of whether it needed the money.

Ouya later backtracked on these statements, alleging there had been a miscommunication.

Despite the controversies, 2013 will be a fascinating year for Ouya as it looks to take on the home with an "affordable" console, when it will also have to compete with the Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360 and the likely announcement of new next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Quick links:

Hackable console Ouya begins $1m Kickstarter campaign
Ouya closes Kickstarter campaign with $8.5m
Kickstarting Ouya - Was it right?
Ouya founder denies it is seeking extra funding

'Rampant' industry sexism comes to the fore

Last month Twitter erupted with women game designers speaking out on rampant sexism in the game industry through the hashtag #1reasonwhy , leading to numerous developers revealing their shocking experiences which led to some even leaving the industry for good.

The debate has continued since, with some claiming that there was no more sexism prevalent in games than in other industries, while others called for change.

In light of a clear divide in the number of men and women employed in the game industry, which is the result of a number of factors, it will be interesting to see what the picture of the development scene looks like at the end of 2013. But one thing is for sure, things will not change overnight.

Quick links:

Women devs speak out on rampant industry sexism

Japanese devs mocked: 'Your Games suck'

Fez developer Phil Fish ignited furious debate back at GDC in March after answering a question from a Japanese developer and then suggesting that games made by Japanese developers “sucked”, and expressed a string of criticisms on game design flaws from the country’s studios.

Phil Fish was subsequently criticised by a number of developers across Twitter, but his statements reignited the subject of Japan’s development sector, and whether it was still hitting the heights of yesteryear – which to many is considered the spiritual home of the modern game.

Quick links:

GDC: Japanese dev mocked 'your games suck'