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Masters of Doom and Deja-vu

Posted by spaceghost on August 1, 2003 at 8:46 AM PDT

Ever get that feeling? The glitch in the Matrix? The feeling of Deja-vu that is just so strong you can't shake it from the front of your brain? After finishing the new book, The Masters of Doom, the story of how John Romero and John Carmack (Surgeon John and Engine John) started id Software, defined the First Person Shooter (FPS) and changed the game industry forever, I get the feeling that history is about to repeat itself. Glitch in the Matrix.

The story of the two Johns is really about people pursuing their dreams without knowing the "rules" of the video games business. After all, how can 2-4 guys making games out of a rundown lake house take on EA, Nintendo, or Sega? No question about it, what they were doing was supposed to fail. From game development to distribution you just don't make games this way. So why were they successful?

The first thing that id Software had going for them was vision. They wanted to make games they wanted to play and believed that the fast action, first person perspective game framework would change the way people experience virtual worlds. But, at the time, the video games industry was focused on 2D fighters and platform games. That's what consumers want, not this Wolfenstein 3D stuff....

The second thing id Software did was to leverage a relatively new distribution model called "Shareware". Give the player a little bit for free and charge them for the rest. This distribution allowed id Software to become the most successful publisher in Shareware history and almost instant millionaires. By leveraging a new distribution model and following a vision for game design, id Software beat the odds and the big boys. So, will history repeat itself? Is there still room for small developers with vision in the multi billion dollar video games industry to rock the world?

I believe that the wireless market will prove to be the fertile ground for small game developers to change the system and make their mark. With the wealth of Java development tools, cheap hardware, and a brand new medium, the market is almost demanding that someone shows how revolutionary mobile gaming will be. Today, most mobile devices have become "wireless consoles" where games are just downloaded to the phone and played there, negating the handsets most important characteristic: it is a wireless device that can be connected to something else.

The possibilities that wireless game devices open up is seemingly endless. Location based interaction, multi platform connectivity, persistent world communications, game groups that change depending on your physical proximity to other gamers, character/environment maintenance, and the list goes on. And the market is wide open! There is no one clear leader in this new video game space! Anyone with a new idea, vision, and can see how a new distribution model might work could emerge as the new thought leader.

Hmmm....did you see that? Deja-vu...

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