More resources for prototypes

Senior producer at Sony Computer Entertainment America Santa Monica, Rusty Buchert, in an article about game pitching by Brendan Sinclair, GameSpot on Gamespot:

The biggest change [Mr. Buchert would] like to see is more resources given to developers to create functional prototypes for their game ideas.

“That’s where we’re hurting,” Buchert said. “Somebody needs the time to test out this new idea and see if it pans out without committing to a full development process and discovering halfway in that it isn’t going to work.”
Such an outcome is bad for the industry, Buchert believes, because it winds up producing bad games that don’t deliver on their early promises. This hurts gamers because it both produces a game that isn’t as good as it could have been and makes them more apprehensive about buying games in the future because they don’t want to get stung twice.

Makes sense to me. And it seems that Sony is taking a leading role in this, especially via the Playstation Network. We’ve talked with Sony people over here ourselves, and they seemed quite interested in investing in prototyping.

I can sympathize with publishers being uncomfortable with taking big risks. Developing and marketing a game can be very expensive. Greenlighting the entire project in one go, based on an idea, a design document or even a preliminary demo, would make me quite nervous as well. Taking one step at a time seems like a much more sensible approach.
Greenlighting every step of the process separately, starting with the prototype, makes the initial investment much smaller. As a result, publishers will be much more comfortable with taking risks. And they also won’t run the risk of missing out on an opportunity that they didn’t recognize in a first round. The developer, working through the process with a publisher, will also understand much better why a game is ultimately considered a good investment or not.
Developers also would get burnt a lot less frequently if the greenlighting process was more gradual. Now we are expected to be enthusiastic and passionate about our ideas from the onset. And while that’s easy from an artistic point of view, it’s quite difficult from a commercial one (since developers obviously know less about about the market than publishers do).
A tight collaboration between publisher and developer in the production of a commercial game, sounds like a good idea to me.