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Tablets not a stepping stone to consoles for most mobile devs, says Zee-3's John Pickford

Flow moving in the other direction
Tablets not a stepping stone to consoles for most mobile devs, says Zee-3's John Pickford
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TIGA CEO Dr. Richard Wilson's suggestion that the growing popularity of tablets could help mobile devs acclimatise themselves with console development was always likely to generate comment.

First to react was Zee-3's John Pickford, who took to PocketGamer.biz's comments section to question whether any studios currently earning their crust on smartphones would view making a move on consoles as their ultimate aim.

Life for many, he suggested, is actually better on mobile.

We caught up with John to probe him further probe him on this issue, and to ask what role he thinks tablets actually do fill in this ever expanding mobile market.

Pocket Gamer: There's been a suggestion by TIGA that the success of tablets offers mobile devs a stepping stone to console development. Is this a move you think many studios would wish to make?

John Pickford: I doubt it. I think the tide is flowing in the opposite direction. I certainly don't think it's a given that consoles are somehow seen as a step up from mobile.

If you have an established hit game in the mobile space then it could make a lot of sense to look at building a console version.

The Wii U in particular might be a great destination for touch-screen game. I suspect Simon Read - developer of New Star Soccer - is currently being inundated with offers of 'help' to get his game onto consoles.

Read's iOS and Android smash New Star Soccer

The thing is, consoles are not really the best place to be developing new original titles. There are too many gatekeepers and too many financial barriers to make make it conducive environment for innovation.

When you have a situation with the developers of Fez being unable to afford to patch their game on XBLA on 360, then there's clearly a problem with that set up. We can patch for free and as often as we like on iOS for example.

In fact, updates are generally seen a positive thing with a huge percentage of players downloading every update.

What kind of opportunities do you think tablets actually open up for mobile devs, then?

The App Store gives us access to a potentially huge audience. Getting noticed is very difficult of course, but the potential is there if your game is great and gets word-of-mouth.

I'm also a big believer in the potential of touch-screen controls.

I think we are just getting started with this stuff and we will see a lot of new, interesting games built around clever use of the touch screen. Watch this space.

Some would argue that the prevailing trend is actually console devs making the move to smartphones and tablets rather than the other way around. What's your take on this?

That is clearly the case. Many of us mobile devs previously worked in the console industry.

It's the erosion of the so-called middle-tier - full price but not AAA - sector which has seen the vast majority of studios close. This has lead to many, many devs going indie and making mobile games.

This is important, not just because these people find jobs, but because that middle-tier is where much of the creativity was taking place. There's very little room for creativity/experimentation or risk in the AAA sector because there's too much at stake financially.

Zee-3's own iPhone and iPad hit Magnetic Billiards

So I think the mobile sector has become a direct replacement for middle tier of console development and thus the place where the next great games are going to emerge.

Is there a case to suggest that TIGA is losing sight of what life on the ground is for indies, talking up studios taking on console development when many find it hard to get buy on mobile?

I wouldn't say that. TIGA was set up by and for the larger established game studios.   It's not a matter of them losing sight of what indies are up to but gaining it.

With so few big studios left I suspect they're making every effort to become relevant to the emerging small teams.

Thanks to John for his time.

You can read the Pickford Bros' latest Games We Like column on PocketGamer.biz here.