Peter Molyneux is a true champion of games creativity, but in the world of gaming mixed messages, that means he is also quite possibly the least popular high profile developer.
As an observer of the industry for some 20 years, one of the persistent commentaries I’ve seen in recent years is the desire for a “return” of “original or creative” games. There’s a sizable portion of the gaming community that wants to see new ideas, and a move away from established franchises.
Molyneux does that. He’s an innovator that is willing to take big risks to try and push the envelope. It doesn’t always work and he’s also a guy that’s renowned for underlivering on his promises. But if you think about it, that’s how it should be. It’s difficult to break new ground creatively, and failed experiments are part of the creative process. People take those failed ideas, and refine them into better products. Or, in other words – if everyone played it safe, no one would know what does, and doesn’t work.
Molyneux’s newest idea is to charge a whopping £50,000 for a bit of DLC. I’ve already seen people call the idea “stupid.” It’s not really. It’s an experiment to test the boundaries of monetisation. Molyneux quite clearly doesn’t expect anyone to actually pay for that DLC, but if no people or a hundred people pay for it, that in itself provides him – and the broader industry a better understanding of DLC and monetisation.
A great philosopher, Michael Foucault, wrote about a concept he called the “limit.” The limit is an imaginary line that separates what people consider appropriate behaviour, and what is not. It’s a line that is difficult to understand without testing it. Molyneux is testing the limits here.
Ultimately by testing the limits we gain a better understanding of how to do things without upsetting the whole of society. It means the person testing the limit is ultimately ostracised from society – Foucault used the example of the Marquis De Sade – but that’s the life of the pioneer.
People should not assume that Molyneux is making products or decisions based on the here and now. He’s clearly thinking about the future of game development and trying to trailblaze a path for the rest to follow.
It means that some of his ideas don’t work. It means that he will at times fail. But we’ll all eventually benefit from what he’s doing. If nothing else, Molyneux is being creative, and even if we don’t personally buy into every one of his ideas, it’s worth looking for a method to the apparent madness, rather than simply dismissing him out of hand.