Will Wright reminisces on E3, and looks forward towards the future of gaming

Will WrightWill Wright is skipping E3 this year, but his legacy will be felt at the Electronic Arts booth where his development company, Maxis, is showcasing SimCity and new games starring The Sims. The creator of some of the most successful simulation games in history has been busy exploring new gaming and entertainment opportunities of late, with Wright’s upcoming title, HiveMind. With that “real world” game concept still in development, Wright recollects on E3 and discusses some of the trends he finds interesting in the evolving game industry in this exclusive interview.

What are your memories of E3?

E3 was a place where you go to lose your voice because I was always giving demos and in loud halls. It’s tricky because there are so many of these different shows today, but E3 has kind of come up and down and I think it’s back on the upswing in a sense. Although it’s very different in an interesting way, as the whole game industry is becoming a little more diverse in a healthy way.

The Sims WeddingHow have you seen E3 evolve?

With the release schedules, people are now looking at doing smaller games in the app market or social market that you can do from start to finish and at least get on the market within a year, as opposed to hyping this giant AAA game year after year after year before it’s released. Because of that I think there’s a bit more surprise and a bit more return happening at a show like E3.

This year will (presumably) mark the release of the Wii U. What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s new console?

Nintendo is one of these companies that half the time they show me these things and I just scratch my head and I say what were they thinking, and then half of those times it turns out to be brilliant. I think the Wii U is one of those things. Maybe I just don’t quite get it. It could very well be one of these things when I get my hands on it and start playing with it I’ll get it and say, “Wow, that is so cool.” I felt the exact same way about the DS. I thought why would I want one of those, then about six months later I proceeded to buy one and spend way too much of my time playing my DS every single day.

What impact do you feel the next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft will have on this evolving game industry once they launch?

I don’t think people are going to be seeing consoles so much as entertainment devices. The way that they’re positioning these things is pretty much in that direction. You don’t want to buy this to play games, you want to buy this to stream movies, browse the Internet, do central networking. In some ways they are better positioned for that than Internet-enabled TVs just because the concept of interactivity and interface are hallmarks of all these consoles. The console industry is evolving to become part of the electronic entertainment industry as the battle continues to go and on for control of the living room.

We’ve already seen Microsoft offer the $99 Xbox 360 with a two-year Xbox Live subscription–

Yeah. Everybody wants to own their own closed ecosystem. That’s what Apple has been brilliant at, getting hooked into iTunes. Once you’re hooked, it’s so easy to stay there and not switch to something else. I don’t think that quite happens in the living room yet. There are some good contenders. I spent a lot of money on Amazon through my TiVo and on Apple, Sony and Microsoft. That’s the big battle.

Sim CityHow is that changing gamers’ perceptions?

People are getting less and less concerned with specific hardware. I think hardware platforms are becoming something that’s an impediment to players from the software point of view. From a game point if somebody’s in their game, they want to be able to play it anywhere, anytime, from any device that they happen to have in their pocket. That’s what’s going on today.

One of the big games at E3 is the new SimCity. What’s it like to see that game continue on?

I think it’s great as long as I don’t have to work on it. I’m really glad that there are dedicated people. I know the guys working on it and it’s a great crew and I think they’re doing a great job with it. It’s actually kind of surreal. It’s like when you have a kid who grows up and then you hear from that kid every few weeks or so and there’s this pride of having raised the kid, but you’re glad you’re not having to change his diapers anymore.

I guess The Sims is similar for you with that franchise continuing to flourish?

Exactly. I have a certain half-life for a game that’s maybe about 10 years where I can keep my mind immersed in a product. And after 10 years I’m just totally done with it mentally. The Sims is a good example of a game that’s quite amenable to being accessible to players across all devices, not only because of the style of gameplay but just the nature of the audience and the bawdiness of it.

The SimsWhat do you think of the Kickstarter phenomenon that we’ve seen of late?

I think it’s pretty cool. There’s a certain novelty to it that now with so many people trying it that maybe they’re over-inflating its potential impact. In some sense it does democratize the idea of investing in properties and it brings market economics down to a democratic level. There used to be these thresholds necessary to go in and pitch something to a big publisher, who then applied all these filters on whether they could invest money in it or not. Kickstarter can make this more Darwinian and occur at a lower scale. You’re probably not going to Kickstart developing the next stealth bomber, but for a fairly reasonable social game idea or something of that that scale that’s entirely possible.

What impact will the larger number of games on Kickstarter have on this opportunity?

It’s also Darwinian in the sense that there are only going to be so many people that will actually sit there and put money into games. They’re going to be looking at all their potential options before they put money in. As there’s more competition, the pitch that you have to give is going to get higher and higher. But that’s not bad. It is yet another avenue. This is one of the reasons I think the game industry is in a healthier place because we have a lot of different options for designers and developers to get their ideas out there.

Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Product Review

Sony’s Z9G paints a bright, beautiful future for 8K TVs

The Sony Z9G 85-inch 8K TV is majestic to behold. No doubt, this TV is a looker, and you’ll know what we mean when you see it. Does this TV make sense, though? Should you buy it? We have the answers.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

Anthem Act 1 features and content delayed, including Cataclysm world event

The features and events from Act 1 in the Anthem road map are taking a backseat as the developers work on the game's direction while bluntly stating that the online shooter is a long way from being the game they want it to be.
Gaming

15 Nintendo Switch games you should play in handheld mode

The Nintendo Switch's handheld mode is more than a convenient way to play games -- it's also the preferable way for some titles. Here are 15 Nintendo Switch games you should play in handheld mode.
Product Review

Something's rotten in Days Gone, and it's not the zombies

Days Gone’s predictable story is littered with repetitive missions, shoddy stealth and gunplay, and needless survival mechanics. It’s riddled with performance issues, like janky animations and consistent framerate drops.
Gaming

These are all the games we want to see from Square Enix at E3 2019

Square Enix will once again hold its own press conference for E3 2019. These are the games we want the company to show during the event, including the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Gaming

Days Gone will receive free post-launch DLC starting in June

Days Gone launches this week and the developers are already setting the stage for post-launch content. Starting in June with the Survivor mode, Bend Studio will begin releasing weekly free updates that include various challenges.
Computing

These gaming monitors will transport you to another dimension

What are the best gaming monitors you can buy right now? We select five that are all priced under $900 packing premium technologies like G-SYNC and FreeSync, high resolutions, and fast refresh rates.
Gaming

Jump on your hog and use our guide to fast traveling in Days Gone

Days Gone has a large open world set in the Pacific Northwest, with the main means of travel being Deacon's motorcycle. Fast travel exists, but it's not as simple as it is in some other open world games. Here's what you need to know.
Gaming

Tips and tricks for beginners entering the postapocalypse in Days Gone

Days Gone has finally arrived on PS4 after multiple days. After more than 35 hours spent in the post-apocalyptic vision of the Pacific Northwest, we've learned a lot. Here are ten tips and tricks to help you get started.
Gaming

How to raise your trust and earn a good reputation with camps in Days Gone

Days Gone stars a drifter named Deacon St. John in the post-apocalypse. Since he's somewhat of a lone wolf, the people he comes across are leery of him. That's where the Trust system comes into play. Here's what you need to know about it.
Computing

Corsair’s Ironclaw, Glaive gaming mice are tuned for performance and comfort

Corsair is adding wireless capabilities to its Ironclaw gaming mouse this year, while the Glaive RGB Pro has been updated for maximum comfort with thoughtful ergonomics. Both mice feature accurate tracking and durable buttons.