Both companies should be more open, says Mark Kern.
Sony and Microsoft are closing themselves off from key changes in the games industry, or so believes Mark Kern, the former lead developer of World of Warcraft.
Kern, who's now CEO at Firefall developer Red 5 Studios, believes that both companies are using out-dated business models, and that this is having a negative effect on developers. More specifically, Kern says that the high price tag of games is making it harder for studios to innovate.
"In order to stand out from the crowd you have to spend as much on marketing as you did developing it," said Kern, speaking to Eurogamer. "This is not a sustainable model. Teams have gotten to have to be larger and larger and larger to justify the $60 up-front model.
"It's killing innovation because no one can take those risks anymore or try something new with those kinds of numbers. I think that's bad for gamers and I think that's cripplingly bad for developers. And to be honest, I don't see Sony or Microsoft embracing the openness of the changes that are happening in the gaming industry right now."
Kern also believes that Sony and Microsoft should relax their strict controls on the way games are distributed, as this will make it easier to build large communities around new releases.
"Sony's not had a great track record with open models. They tried to compete with iTunes back in the day and they're heavy on DRM, which I think is a big, huge negative for our industry, and I don't think that DLC models of sort of unlocking content as you go is a way that gamers want to play.
"The reason we have no innovation left on consoles is because you have to spend so much money to make your game appeal to widest possible audience on that platform which is a closed platform, so that's a limited number of users, right? Versus a PC with a free or open distribution model you can build a community around your game."
As a result of this closed approach, the platform holders are shutting themselves off from developers and projects that are genuinely breaking new ground – like Minecraft, for example.
"Can you imagine pitching that to Sony?," Kern asked. "'It's going to look all 8-bit. And it's going to have these cubes.... you bang on these cubes and you get something out of it and you combine it and you can make another cube.' They'll say you're insane. That thing would have never been greenlighted on a Sony or Microsoft platform."
Given his stance, it's no surprise to find that Kern is a keen supporter of OUYA – the $99 Android console currently seeking funds on Kickstarter.
"For the price of the Kickstarter why not try it? Yeah, they may fail. Some people are saying 'oh, it's vaporware.' But I want to get behind people that want to challenge the status quo, who want to try something different.
"So I contributed personally at a level I was comfortable at and then my company contributed to at a level to get a dev kit and hopefully we'll see that and maybe we won't, but it's a risk that we take and it's for something better."