Killer Platforms, Killer Apps

bing-2Bing Gordon joined KPCB after 26 years at Electronics Arts, where he was Chief Creative Officer from 1998 to 2008. Bing joined EA in 1982 and helped write the founding business plan that attracted KPCB as an initial investor, later heading EA marketing and product development for 16 years. Bing’s blog posts will focus on the gaming and social opportunities of this new platform.

I worked through the launches of several dozen meaningful game platforms since 1983, from the Atari 800 and C-64 to Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii…as well as some bumps in the road, like PC Junior, CD-I, Sega CD and Dreamcast. The iPhone 3G launch was as good as it gets. You go, iPhone!

Apple seems to have learned from history:

  • The “first party” must be the Market Maker, as spokesperson, evangelizer and brand driver. No platforms succeeded when brand owners faltered.
  • Critical mass or die. 20 Million units sold has been the minimum US audience for a meaningful game machine. Pretty good start with the 3G!
  • 3rd party software provides creative breadth and energy. I believe Apple invented 3rd party “evangelism” with Guy Kawasaki several centuries ago.
  • Best “Frenemies” Forever! When their game platform takes off, console companies have historically battled their 3rd party developers for market share and profits. Apple’s early and open support of the Dev community is a veteran move, and commendable.
  • Early is usually expensive… and lame. iPhone’s development tools have successfully reduced early development costs. But it is typically the “second generation” titles which are memorable and lasting.
  • It takes “Killer apps” to attract new customers and define a platform. The App Store is definitely killer. Now it is up to developers to invent some never-seen-before game and social experiences.

This is a spectacular new era for gamers and developers. Apple and other open platforms have unleashed a creative fervor that reminds me of the first days of computer games, with software being programmed in garages, dorm rooms and spare offices.

Let the games begin!