To the editor: I really enjoyed the article "Return of the Future" by Shawn Williams. The Retro Phenomenon is often discussed in music and design, but I never thought of someone applying it to video games. After reading the article, I'm convinced that the nostalgia for older games is inevitable; the future Williams shows us is not only likely, it's just a matter of time.

Thanks for a great mag,

-Timothy St. Hilaire

To the editor: I wrote before to comment on the readability of text and background colors, thanks for improving it :) I also just finished reading "Future Imperfect" - and I thought it made some excellent points.

As an MMORPGer of five years, I'm really hoping that gaming companies do start to produce games with more focus on building than smashing things. Before it lost most of its players, Star Wars Galaxies was the best online game I've ever been a part of because it was so people-driven, and the ability to build things and run your own shop was so much fun. I've also checked out Second Life a few times, but like the article said, it's still so clunky that it seems like too much hassle to play. I'm looking forward to the day that companies like Blizzard implement the concepts and customizations found in SWG and Second Life.

I'm going to pass this one onto my friends, thanks for a great article and ezine!

-Harmony Steel

To the editor: As a response to your article "Escaping the Box" and the author's stipulation that the combination of game play style and genres would potentially help a product's sales, I would like to respond by saying that the consumers have proven over and over again that they will not purchase a game which they cannot immediately understand. Perhaps this is due (in part) to improper marketing or inadequate product presentation (i.e. box design, etc.), but I contend that if the core mechanics of the gameplay cannot be immediately grasped by the consumer, then that consumer will usually choose to seek a more "comfortable" alternative. By comfortable alternative, I mean a sequel to a game that they've played before or a game quite similar to one they've enjoyed.

Katamari Damacy succeeds because its premise is succinct and clear despite being entirely uncommon and refreshingly innovative. The consumer may not "like" the inherent gameplay that is being offered to him, but he will not be impeded by the inability to understand the game's mechanics. Simplicity in design is what will most often yield this education of the consumer, not by adding complexity or blurring the genre boundaries. This is a challenge every developer struggles with when trying to execute a truly innovative game concept, how they will be able to communicate that concept to the consumer in terms that they can relate to and understand.

The prospect of direct-to-consumer on-line sales via mail order and digital downloads provides developers with some hope for the future, but so far consumers initially seem resistant to the concept. Also, foreign markets have shown that buying gaming products on-line (with a credit card) is not their preferred method of purchase, but rather walking in and purchasing a game from their favorite "brick and mortar" retailer is favored.

If the author feels as though innovation is being thwarted (and I probably would not argue with that assertion), then he/she is certainly encouraged to support those developers who provide their products directly to the consumer. In doing so, the developer can remain profitable (by eliminating the "middlemen") while still catering to a smaller audience that is willing to take a chance on something fresh and new. As it currently stands, conventional retail distribution has a very low probability of yielding anything resembling profitability for any but the most "financially creative" developers (especially those residing in the U.S. where development costs are considerably higher).

-Anonymous Game Developer

To the editor: Thanks for answering my last letter with an entire issue! I enjoyed all your pieces on the future of gaming, but it wasn't until casual Friday that something really connected. "LifeGame 2020" was darkly prophetic and eerily believable. Allen Varney hit me in kind of the same way that Orwell did when I read 1984. And "Return of the Future" was refreshingly brilliant. Thanks again for a great read.

-Nick Coen

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