Last week at the The Strong museum’s eGameRevolution exhibit where his old Apple II Plus computer was added to the collection of historically important video game artifacts, John Romero, Doom creator and now Creative Director for the Games and Playable Media Masters degree program at UC Santa Cruz, was interviewed by Games Industry.
During their talk, the conversation switched to indie developers, with Romero talking about how easy it is for them to get their game published these days:
It’s so much easier now. The whole game industry was created by indies. The publishing companies like Sierra, Broderbund, etc… the games that they published were sent to them by indie developers. The big publishers of the early ’80s were indie publishers. And nowadays because there are so many SDKs to create with and people can put their apps out there on a store without any real publisher intervention, everybody can publish. There’s no stopping anybody. Minecraft was put up on a webpage – you can publish on the web, you can publish through app stores, there’s no one stopping you.
Romero then talked about his thoughts on free-to-play, revealing that he thinks it’s a good thing for the industry:
With PC you have free-to-play and Steam games for five bucks. The PC is decimating console, just through price. Free-to-play has killed a hundred AAA studios.
It’s a different form of monetization than Doom or Wolfenstein or Quake where that’s free-to-play [as shareware]. Our entire first episode was free – give us no money, play the whole thing. If you like it and want to play more, then you finally pay us. To me that felt like the ultimate fair [model]. I’m not nickel-and-diming you. I didn’t cripple the game in any design way. That was a really fair way to market a game. When we put these games out on shareware, that changed the whole industry. Before shareware there were no CD-ROMs, there were no demos at all. If you wanted to buy Ultima, Secret of Monkey Island, any of those games, you had to look really hard at that box and decide to spend 50 bucks to get it.
With developers “getting better at free-to-play design,” Romero believes it’s “going to lose its stigma at some point” and “people will settle into [the mindset] that there is a really fair way of doing it, and the other way is the dirty way.”
For the future, Romero sees PC and mobile devices taking the lead, mainly because of free-to-play and how console life-cycles last too long:
The problem with console is that it takes a long time for a full cycle. With PCs, it’s a continually evolving platform, and one that supports backward compatibility, and you can use a controller if you want; if I want to play a game that’s [made] in DOS from the ’80s I can, it’s not a problem. You can’t do that on a console. Consoles aren’t good at playing everything. With PCs if you want a faster system you can just plug in some new video cards, put faster memory in it, and you’ll always have the best machine that blows away PS4 or Xbox One.