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Dev TV

Gamesmaster Game Trailers died this week. I wasn’t a big follower of the site (in all honesty) but I wasn’t surprised that it folded. You Tube’s doing to the big media brands what the web did to printed mags, years ago. There’s a new wave of commentators now, without a pool of staff writers to feed, no “faces” to pay, that don’t care about adblocker, and don’t need TV quality videos fronting their E3 coverage.  They’ll just sit down in front of goat simulator and have a laugh. Take the spirit of Viz, mash it up with what made 80s magazines so good, and splat it on to your screen several times a week.

The thing that’s surprising to me is why the bigger studios aren’t taking this short cut. It’s not a coincidence that Mike Bithell and Shahid Ahmad are both fronting podcasts right now. Both can see the value of talking to the game aware audience directly. Both are staking out their patch of ground that people like Marco Arment have been plowing - successfully, it’s worth noting - for years

Shahid’s got the experience and the stories for his voice to very quickly become authoritative. As it should. For a suit, he’s been one of the best for a while. Mike’s canny enough to recognise that his success is going to be increasingly tied to his ‘brand’, especially now he’s investing in a studio. What better way to keep that bubbling away in the consciousness during those long, multi-year dev cycles than by talking on a weekly podcast? The trick will be making that of interest to the players, as well as just developers (and wanna-be developers) that already admire him. I put my money on this working out very well though. They’re already ‘on the circuit’, so to speak. 

So, why haven’t EA, or Ubisoft, or, well, anyone except Nintendo (if you count Ninty Direct, which is a bit of a stretch really) skipped all the bollocks and looked to give gamers what they clearly want and love; a bit of TV-like content, some laughs and a look behind the curtain?

I’m not a massive fan of EA’s games, but a podcast, or bi-weekly video talking to internal teams, giving insights into Fifa, or the Frostbyte team, that wasn’t pure marketing drivel? Shit, I know I’d subscribe to that. That would be interesting. There are people at that company who have been in the industry since the year dot. Who wouldn’t want to listen to some of their views?

I know they won’t though. At least not regularly. Not just yet. Marketing  couldn’t cope with the potential swears. What about the trade secrets?!!1! Someone might go off message! But it’s just a matter of time. New people will come in. Rather than spend 800k on that E3 vid, well, lets spread it out over the year. Pump some good content into Twitch. Give the QA guys some fun. Show some exploits. Fuck off Unity, look at what our Engine does! Why wouldn’t you want to apply for a job at our studio?

You can see that companies are aware of it. I watched Microsoft’s Crackdown 1 play-through with Phil Spencer, post Crackdown 3 announce, and despite a bit of tap dancing around the fact that we were screwed before we started on CD2, Phil, Peter and the gang came across as normal blokes. Playing a game! Which they are in real life, amazingly enough. Throw in some cans of beer, open the kimono a little bit more and bingo! Microsoft Games Studios suddenly come across as giving a shit. No amount of glitzy keynote bullshit can buy that.

When I was at Climax, many moons ago, it was a pretty massive company. At one point 400ish people, over 5 studios, spread across the country (and L.A.) They did a thing called Climax TV for a while, that I personally thought was brilliant. A little crew would go around the studios, look at the games being developed, pull a bearded coder in front of the camera to explain how the bespoke tools worked, embarrass the producer everyone hated, and top and tail it with company branding so it looked like a TV episode. These got shared between the studios and we all got a bit of a laugh at lunchtime, or felt envious that we were stuck in fucking Solent rather than working with the cool kids in Brighton.

I’m looking forward to that coming back. I want to know what’s happening at Sumo with Crackdown 3. What Team 17 are doing. Why the fuck the plants in Studio Gobo are upside down, and if King have a cellar full of gold coins that people jump into, Scrooge McDuck style.

Hurry the fuck up.