Chalk up another designer heading to the foothills of social game design. This GI Biz piece lays it all out there as to why the designer of Civ IV will be setting up shop at a Farmville near you. This is worth a read, and Soren is such a nice guy — I personally wish him nothing but success.
Here’s a big takeaway and is something we continue to talk about here at NHS. This sort of says it all:
Q: You’re the latest in a string of former EA employees to join Zynga. What do you think this says about EA and what does it say about Zynga?
Soren Johnson: The shift we’re seeing with industry talent moving towards social and mobile games illustrates the challenges of the old model. That model demands selling a $60 box product, which requires exceptionally high production values to sway the consumer. Of course, AAA production means development costs measured in the tens (or perhaps hundreds) of millions of dollars, which then requires a game to sell at least several million copies at the $60 price to be worth developing. This business model can work, but the margins are not great, and they keep getting worse as development costs increase and retail sales soften.