Lessons from Marshall McLuhan

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I once approached one venture capitalist, who rejected the proposal of investing in SchiZotypy Games on the grounds that “market penetration would be a problem”. Perhaps he might be thinking that our upcoming flagship title Total Rendition is going to be a multiplayer title. Of course, in multiplayer-driven titles, a large playerbase is necessary.

On the other hand, Jaron Lanier pointed out in You are not a Gadget, investors no longer seem to know what they are investing. Pointing this out is not a “Green Lumber fallacy” when you realise this prompts investors to miss investment opportunities to pour resources into desperately in-demand things, like narrative-driven games.

To be sure, narrative-driven games are an entirely different thing than multiplayer titles. In the past, many titles had both a story mode and a multiplayer mode, although in practice, this resulted in two completely different games though sharing a family resemblance within the same “2-in-1” application. There is a reason why that setup is falling out of favour.

Hot and cool games

Now, I could go very deep why narrative-driven games are fundamentally different from multiplayer games, although I’m about to go deep enough.

Marshall McLuhan distinguished between hot and cool media. Basically, hot media is any type of media which requires some processing to understand, because they offer you a lot of sensory data. By contrast, cool media offers you little sensory data and require participation of the audience to be completed. A movie or a book is typically hot, whereas TV is typically cold.

Where do video games fit in? As it turns out, that completely depends whether the individual title is a narrative-driven game or not. Narrative-driven games like The Longest Journey, Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid and System Shock are hot media. Multiplayer games like Fortnite and PUBG, or gimmick-driven “indie” games, are cold media.

Why none of our titles will be the next Fortnite at all (and why this is totally fine)

Now, to be sure, hot and cold media are not neat categories and nearly everything exists on a spectrum from hot to cool.

However, narrative-driven games are in this sense considerably “hotter” than multiplayer games or “indie” titles.

As such, narrative-driven games and multiplayer games are essentially fundamentally different types of media.

Total Rendition, SchiZotypy’s upcoming narrative-driven debut, is not going to be the next Fortnite. It does not need to. Narrative-driven games address different needs than multiplayer titles. While the market for multiplayer games is oversaturated, the opposite is true for narrative-driven games.

See also

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