I often claim that the UK is where future industry disrupters are. We’re a tiny nation that stands toe-to-toe with other first world countries in terms of technology, and our population density results in every industry being vastly more competitive than what you typically see in other nations.
In the games industry, I think we’ve seen this to be true for a long time. The studio that created Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption (which are arguably the biggest franchises in entertainment) are based in Scotland, and a small studio based in Guildford turned the games industry on its head a few years ago by releasing a game as big as the universe itself (No Man’s Sky).
So when we talk about game developers in the UK, there’s a long list of names that get brought up, but very rarely does anyone mention Media Molecule.
Media Molecule is the studio behind some of the most ambitious games of all time.
Their first game, LittleBigPlanet, was a 2D platformer that allowed its players to create their own levels. The players could then share their designs with other players.
Their latest release, Dreams, continues LittleBigPlanet’s ambitious idea, now allowing players to create entire games with its tools. You can create anything you can think of, and some of the games released on Dreams are as good quality as commercially released games.
For kids who are aspiring to work within the games industry, Dreams is an unprecedented opportunity. Ordinarily, they’d have to own a powerful PC and purchase the correct software just to begin their journey into game design. Dreams eliminates this barrier to entry.
Dreams is the kind of groundbreaking concept that should turn the games industry on its head, but it hasn’t.
The first issue lays with its support from Sony, who are the game’s distributor and largely accountable for the marketing of Dreams. Sony simply don’t support Media Molecule like they do their American or Japanese studios. Information about Dreams was scarce and inconsistent prior to its release, and it was advertised more like a showcase of the PS4’s hardware capabilities than for the game itself.
The other glaring issue that Dreams has is its lack of vision for the future (likely due to Sony’s continued lack of support).
Dreams is essentially a social media platform where people share their creations (including animated films, games and sculptures).
In terms of social media, the closest comparison is YouTube. YouTube features both amateur and professionally created content. The reason why YouTube successfully attracts this broad spectrum of quality is due to one very simple feature; monetisation.
Being paid for releasing content is vital for YouTube’s success, as without a financial incentive its creators would likely not stay on its platform.
Dreams currently doesn’t offer monetary compensation for its creators. The simple answer would be a “donate” button (like Twitch does) so its community can help crowdsource the projects they enjoy most, but in its 3 months of release we haven’t seen Media Molecule introduce anything that achieves this.
This would result in higher quality games being released on Dreams, and people consistently returning to see what their favourite creators have made. Independent games developers may also start using Dreams as a platform for releases, as it’s quicker and simpler than developing through traditional methods.
This is the kind of idea that Sony – Media Molecules longterm publishing partner – should be pushing for.
Dreams is the kind of concept that could reshape the entire industry, but until Sony give Media Molecule the support they deserve, it won’t happen.
It’s amazing to watch a company like Media Molecule grow and create such groundbreaking concepts, but it really begs the question of “what’s next”?