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Red Ghost

making a title multiplatform dilutes it

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Here is a link to an interview on gamespot with Tsunekazu Ishihara (CEO of Pokemon company). http://www.gamespot.com/news/6172003.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=multimodule&tag=multimodule;picks;title;2 (Gamespot news on Nintendo DS games) This is an interesting read covering a two aspects on game programming: - impact of multiplatform development on game design. - renewing the game experience on a well known game environment. Enjoy. Ghostly yours, Red.

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This is, of course, if the platforms you're porting between are vastly different.

Porting between two similar systems (PocketPC/Palm, Mac/Linux/Windows, PS2/Dreamcast/Xbox) shouldn't cause any particular issues with the gameplay.

If you're porting from a system with a pen/wavey-wand to a system without, that will obviously compromise any unique gameplay features that depend on that. His example is that they used the unique WiFi features of the DS to provide game features that take the most advantage of the platform. Makes sense.

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From the article:
TI: Yes. When you look at multiplatform games, because they are multiplatform cater to the lowest common denominator across platforms you have to consider what is universal to all of the platforms when you're making it and therefore that limits the actual creativity.

Fixed. Correlation is not causation.

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Lets not forget that Pokemon is never going to be released on a non-nintendo platform, so they have to make non-cross-platform sounds like a good thing. Plus they have to pimp the DS version and make it sound new and unique, where really it's the same game as before but with the pokemon changed.

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Beyond the marketing hype on the uniqueness of the DS version of Pokemon, what Mr Ishihara is telling is that keeping a succesfull universe a cash cow is not as easy as it sounds.

Marketing theory divides products into four categories:
- question marks: new products where their success is not known in advance. High sellers but low return on investement.
- cash cows: successfull products which have an adequate return on investment.
- stars: incredibly successfull products with high return on investment
- dogs: products which do not sell. (low sellers with low return on investment)
The ideal lifecycle of a product is: star (first year)-> cash cow (for several years) -> dog (must ensure that it occurs as far away in the future as it is possible). Note that transitions from one category to another are never given (a star can become a dog).

Mr Ishihara here tells that his cash cow product is Pokemon. He must ensure that it remains a cash cow. Due to the nature of the game, he tries every year to procure a new gaming experience through:
- using the unique hardware features given by his hardware (DS, Gameboy, Wii, ...)
- tweaking the game rules (through adding new pokemon beasts with new abilities)
His comparison to other industries is perfectly valid since he follows basic marketing rules(see cinema industry or tabletop game industry like Games Workshop or Parker brothers for example).

Based on these marketing principles, product managers use the cash flow generated by cash cows to finance:
- Hardware research and development (new consoles and/or gadgets)
- New Software development (new games)
- Develop Question mark products into stars or cash cows (second version of games for example)
- Other business costs (product promotion, ...)
This is why Pokemon will always be released on a Nintendo based platform. Nintendo uses two cash cow universes to finance its industry (Mario and Pokemon). Whenever one of these universe turn out dog products the impact on finances will be direct.

This is why Mr Ishihara (CEO of Pokemon company) tells about his doubts and fears on multiplatform game design:
- risk of loss of the cash cow status because he would be forced to cater to the lowest common denominator across platforms.
- risk of loss of the cash cow status because of copies of the game design by competitors(which is easier if a game is multiplatform and caters for lowest common denominator).
The loss of the cash cow status will in turn lose him the finances from the Nintendo company.

Another remark of Mr Ishihara regarding the fact that he must cater for younger and older audience is also vital to keep his cash cow status. His customer base has evolved. The first product Pokemon was developped for a precise set of customers (8-10 years old). To keep producing cash cows, he has to cater for the new gamers (8-10 years old) but also take into account the aging of his first customer base (he tells that his first customers from his first product now have kids and still would like to play Pokemon). A good comparison would be the Disney films where we begam to have a double level of comprehension of dialogs and scenes since Aladin (one level for kids and one level for parents).

As such this interview is an interesting read as it procure insight on a CEO vision of his line of product management with a single distributor (Nintendo here).

Ghostly yours,

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