id Software co-founder and Doom creator John Romero recently talked to GamesIndustry about the parallels of developing for the PC back in the 80s and 90s, and the rise of the indie scene that has taken place over the last several years. He said that anyone can publish a game; just look at what Mojang did with Minecraft, or what Zynga did with the original Farmville.
"Nowadays, because there are so many SDKs to create with and people can put their apps out there on a store without any real publisher intervention, everybody can publish. There's no stopping anybody. Minecraft was put up on a webpage - you can publish on the web, you can publish through app stores, there's no one stopping you," Romero said.
What developers of the 2010s need is better marketing, he said. One way he hinted at was to use the free-to-play model. Take Doom for instance. The whole first episode was provided as free "shareware." If the player didn't like the game, then only time was lost. If the player wanted more, then they could purchase a key or a full copy of the game at retail stores. He believes that the recent surge of free-to-play games is shaking up the industry "for good," just as shareware did.
"That was a really fair way to market a game," Romero said. "When we put these games out on shareware, that changed the whole industry. Before shareware there were no CD-ROMs, there were no demos at all. If you wanted to buy Ultima, Secret of Monkey Island, any of those games, you had to look really hard at that box and decide to spend 50 bucks to get it."
Earlier in the interview, he said that thanks to free-to-play and $5 games on Steam, the PC platform is "decimating" consoles just in price alone. Even more, free-to-play has supposedly killed off a hundred AAA studios. The problem with consoles is that they're not only a closed platform, but they're getting hurt by the free-to-play trend on PC and mobile.
"The problem with console is that it takes a long time for a full cycle," he said. "With PCs, it's a continually evolving platform, and one that supports backward compatibility, and you can use a controller if you want; if I want to play a game that's [made] in DOS from the '80s I can, it's not a problem. You can't do that on a console."