Now video games, as an industry, is changing and growing so rapidly, that developers struggle to not ruin the successful franchises that keep them going. Gamasutra reports: “24 percent of U.S. households spend a minimum of one dollar a month on video games” ,and “5 percent Of U.S. consumer entertainment spending goes to video games.” Joystick projects: “game industry to 65 billion by 2013” , in light of how the “industry just recently reached a value of 46.5 billion in 2009.” According to Davison, Zynga, makers of Farmville and MafiaWars, make about 1 million a day in our declining economy. This is one good reason why you should care about video games; otherwise, unless you understand what’s happening, you’ll just be some uneducated consumer or, worse, miss out on how interactive technology is about to transform America.
A current problem is that the big, AAA-title games are expensive to make. A lot of the cost comes from giving consumers a “glorified roller coaster ride” experience, as Chris Hecker once put it. More than anything, these games seem to be driven by their branding and marketing more than the less observable aspects of content. Modern Warfare 2, for instance, sold 4.7 million units within the first 24 hours of release. Not all titles are that lucky, and the risks are far more devastating for failed products than in most other industries. So, here’s what’s happening…
There is no way that independent developers can compete with the resources of the big game publishers. As a result, an emergent community around more casual and smaller games is growing. As people become more comfortable with technology and programming, there will be an increased diversity of interactive media as products of expression just like books and movies have become. In games, we currently have this amazing canvas for: music, art, interaction, and story.
Change, however, is apparent in all areas of video games, even the big titles. Davison mentions that making games for “kids” is not something to brag about anymore; rather, complex emotions, dramatic content, and compelling, immersive experiences, are in the works of being integrated while walking the balance of still giving people what they want or expect and so much more (that they didn’t know they could have). The truth is, Davison explains, game developers are getting older, they have families now, and they’re trying to produce things that matter to them. Those 25 year old male developers are now 45 years old.
So, with your rated M title, you will find gore, violence, strong language, and 5 seconds of that topless girl, but as Davison describes it, “rated M games are a lot less on violence and a lot more on emotion,” giving insight on what to expect from video games to come. I suggest that we embrace this inevitably magnificent technology, learn as much as we can about it, so we can use it appropriately.