Twenty years of innovation: the industry verdict, part two

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To celebrate our 20th anniversary special issue, we sought out leading minds in the videogame industry to pose the question: what would you identify as the most influential game-related development of the past 20 years?

You can read part one of the series, featuring the thoughts of David Braben, Sid Meier, Keiji Inafune and more here.

Greg Kasavin, creative director, Supergiant Games

“I’d make a case for digital distribution. From Doom in 1993 to the rise of indie developers to today’s day-and-date digital launches for triple-A games, I think digital distribution has transformed gaming and made it more accessible. I guess ‘the Internet’ is an even broader way of saying the same thing, but digital distribution is a more specific way in which the Internet has directly influenced all kinds of games. As the economy sagged and large studios started shutting down, smaller studios filled the void, thanks to the viability of digital distribution – arguably leading to a sort of renaissance for smaller, more personal games. For someone like me who’s been playing games for a while, it almost feels like it’s back to the ’80s or early ’90s when an individual or group of friends could make something really fascinating. Except now those games can reach so many more people so much faster.”

Adrian Chmielarz, co-founder, The Astronauts

“The appearance of notgames. Everything else was expected: yes, games look better, play better, and are distributed in new ways (although digital distribution was my close second choice). But most games we play today are the same games we played 30 years ago. Which is great, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that, say, books or movies today are just cosmetically upgraded versions of what we have already experienced a century ago. But notgames, such as Journey or Dear Esther, have basically opened up a whole new world for us. We did not exactly think about games this way before. The philosophy that games are not just about challenge radiates on core games as well, and you can see the results in amazing experiences like The Last Of Us. I can’t wait to see where we will take this in the next few years.”

Brian Fargo, founder, Interplay and InXile

“I can’t imagine there being any greater impact to our industry than that of the Internet. It’s quite difficult to list all the ways this cyber network has affected our business from a development, distribution and consumer perspective. My early memories of its impact were with the simple shareware model, which gave consumers an opportunity to try a game before they bought it, and this concept helped smaller companies like Epic and id to flourish. Our first game that really made playing over the Internet a key selling point was Descent in the mid-’90s. After that, things really seemed to explode as gaming saw the big MMORPGs come online and further gave an opportunity for smaller devs to show off their work with browser-based games. Without the Internet we wouldn’t have Xbox Live, voice chat, cloud computing and so forth.”

Tim Willits, studio director, id Software

“From the very first game mods to the genesis of triple-A games, user-generated content has had a profound impact on our industry. From people like myself, getting their start making simple levels for their favourite games, to mod teams who had the ideas for mega-hits such as Portal, Counter-Strike and Dota, user-generated content has launched the careers of some of our brightest and best developers. These same developers are now the people who are shaping and steering the entire industry. One of the best things about user-generated content is that it is made by gamers for gamers with very little concern for monetary reward. Most mod makers do it for the pure enjoyment of creating something unique and sharing it freely.”

Christofer Sundberg, founder and CEO, Avalanche Studios

“The most obvious response is the Internet. It’s also a very boring response and I wish I could [say] something less obvious, but the Internet really changed everything. MMOGs could connect thousands of players in massive online worlds, and that really changed things for everyone. The downside of the Internet was piracy, and how it affected the ways publishers look at game development and DRM solutions – that has had a negative impact. Online experiences and connecting players is more important now than ever before. Do we really want to connect players who don’t want to be connected, even if it’s a part of the gaming experience? Is this a choice for us to make and just ask our players to accept it, or should we offer it as a choice?

“I personally don’t play games online. I want to use the Internet in a way that feels natural to our fans and, until I’ve figured that out, I’ll keep playing offline.”

Toshihiro Nagoshi, chief creative officer, Sega Corporation

“The major turning point in the game industry will surely turn out to be the rise of mobile gaming. Games started out as a way to kill time through play and then evolved into the desire to play something deeper. But the rise in mobile gaming tells us games have returned to their point of origin – of killing time through play. Since mobile phones have garnered the largest installed base of any platform around the world, this evolution continues to grow, along with that buzzword ‘social’. I think this is the biggest event of the past 20 years, and one that keeps expanding even today.”

Edge’s 20th anniversary edition is available now – you can buy a single issue or subscribe in print, or download it on iPad and through Google Play. E258 is half price (£1.99/$2.99) on iPad, iPhone and Android devices via Google Play for a limited time, until September 17.