Couple of days ago Gamasutra published quite an interesting article by Alex St. John, founder and CEO of WildTangent. In the article (called “Vista Casts a Pall on PC Gaming”), he describes serious problems which Vista will present to independent game developers (and casual game developers in general).
Two main problem areas outlined by Alex are program installation and parental control.
Installation. According to Alex, the enhanced security system of Vista might require users to enter administrative login and password every time they try to download and install game. This might sharply reduce the number of installs (and, therefore, purchases), since people might just get tired and frustrated by all the hoops they have to jump through in order to just try out a game, and, therefore, try less games.
Parental Control. It turns out that Vista has something called Game Explorer – some place where the games are being registered, which allows parents to define the allowed ESRB rating level for the games the kids are allowed to play, and which blocks the attempts to start the registered games from outside of Game Explorer. The problem here – again, according to Alex – is that since ESRB grading process is expensive, most small and indie developers cannot afford it, therefore making their games “Not Rated”. Since from the protection standpoint all “Not Rated” material is not safe, most parents will probably block it, thus locking out all small developers.
I didn’t install Vista yet (and not going to, until the time when I would have no other choice!), so I cannot validate Alex’s statements. But, assuming he is right, this might indeed have very unpleasant consequences for game developers. I have no doubt that it will be possible to turn off all these extra-protecting features, or to circumvent them. The problem, however, is that target audience for most casual games are not technical-savvy people, who will, most probably, have Vista running with default settings.
Interesting fact is that the parental control system does not apply to web games. So, if the downloadable games might lose in popularity – the web games might gain, and that, in turn, might lead to some quite interesting market shifts.
Technorati tags: Vista, games, casual games, game development