Global Game Industry News Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Has Atari Changed Phil Harrison or Phil Harrison Changed Atari?

The unfortunate thing about my first semester teaching was that I felt as if I was never going to come up for air. The fortunate thing about that process is that it means I've been sitting on a pile of thoughts on a variety of videogame development and game industry issues that I've been following for quite a while now. Thus, the next several posts are ones which have remained, have persevered, as tabs in Firefox for nearly two months.

The first series of tabs are perhaps critically linked to the second post I'll be making, but fundamentally about different issues. In my dissertation, especially in the "MOD(ify)-ing Game Development Worlds" sections I talked about some of the critical issues facing the videogame industry. I also talk specifically about how those practices which are hurting the videogame industry are actually many of the practices which are being imported into other "industries," but most directly in other New Media industries. Those two particular chapters are titled:

  • "Game Development Practice: A Postmortem"
  • "The Game Industry Galaxy: A Postmortem"

Though I tease the Phil Harrison of 2007s Game Developers Conference and his "Game 3.0" slide from the Sony keynote, recent news reports have me wondering if he was really commited to the concept and his job at Atari has created an opportunity for him to pursue Game 3.0. The other possibility is that his experiences at Atari thus far have convinced him that Game 3.0 as the industry is currently structured will never be the lively world of Web 2.0 they wish it to be.

It was that question that got me to thinking about how perspective within the videogame industry has likely shifted how Phil Harrison thinks about what is good for the industry. Recently he's begun talking like me, which honestly is either a good sign or a really bad one for his career. Considering some of the nonconstructive criticism I've received from industry side people, I have to wonder if it was his transition to Atari that made him realize this, or if his departure from Sony had more to do with that.

At the same time, the nonconstructive words I have gotten are often not from "rank and file" developers. They tend to be people who deal regularly with industry executives and manufacturing companies. This is precisely the position that Phil Harrison is in, so I wonder greatly what has influenced this change in thinking and if suddenly it will become all the rage throughout the videogame industry? Or will this movement go just like the movement for improved QoL? What no one has really put together, or at least vocalized yet, is that the two are critically linked. - Phil Harrison: It's Time for a Change in Games Development

Atari president Phil Harrison has revealed his belief that the process of game development needs to change, in order to make it a less risky experience overall, and one that will help to promote innovative and creative ideas.
"That's pretty much the definition of why projects fail - because you don't know what you're building, you don't know how you're going to build it, you don't know who you're building it for, but you've got 60 people working on it and they've all running in different directions - that's how most games fail.

Gamasutra - Atari's Harrison: Democratizing Development is an Industry Must

Harrison compared the low-cost game creation movement to the Net Yaroze development platform for the original PlayStation, which resulted in a number of "fantastic games", per Harrison, being developed by international teams during the 1990s.

He clearly thinks that bringing amateur and indie developers into the fold with tools such as Unity addresses a real need within the games industry at large. "The comments that I was making [during my keynote] were primarily from an industry perspective."

"Managing the funnel of recruitment, training, educating, and getting the skills shortage, skills gap closed, is kind of an industry-wide problem... "

Harrison concluded: "I was primarily making that comment from an industry perspective, but from an Atari perspective... I think we would want to work with creators of all types, and that's why I'm so interested in Unity, because it does democratize development."

Gamasutra - Atari Boss Harrison at Unite 08: 'Fail Early'

Harrison's keynote, in which he noted that he 'wanted to be here' due to his enthusiasm for the tool, rather than any commercial/strategy interest, evangelized Unity as a tool that could potentially change the game industry, referring to the first time that he saw Unity running in his web browser as "a transformational moment."

Atari lite-C

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