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Game Industry Optimistic About Surviving Economic Crisis

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the food-is-boring-buy-a-console dept.

The Almighty Buck 52

CNet is running a story about how the gaming industry is looking at the recent economic troubles. Despite their status as luxury items, games and game systems have seen strong sales numbers in recent months, and that trend is expected to continue into the holiday season. Most companies are optimistic, despite the fact that many of their stock values have been hit hard and that analysts' views are divided on whether game-related purchases will be one of the first things cut from consumers' budgets. "'I do think that the video game industry is going to do reasonably well in this time of recession because video games are a pretty damned efficient use of time,' said Bridges. 'That said, the...industry has some other problems that it has been ignoring for awhile and that are creeping up on it.' Essentially, Bridges explained, he thinks that the dominance of giant publishers like EA and their general reliance on physical, in-the-box, units, can't hold up. Instead, he said, new tools, ubiquitous broadband and hungry independent developers are going to all combine to eat away at the continued supremacy of the $60 big-name title. And that could spell big trouble for the industry."

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52 comments

A damp and steamy future. (4, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906857)

"'I do think that the video game industry is going to do reasonably well in this time of recession because video games are a pretty damned efficient use of time,' said Bridges."

Now if we could only convince our parents of this.

"Essentially, Bridges explained, he thinks that the dominance of giant publishers like EA and their general reliance on physical, in-the-box, units, can't hold up. Instead, he said, new tools, ubiquitous broadband and hungry independent developers are going to all combine to eat away at the continued supremacy of the $60 big-name title. And that could spell big trouble for the industry.""

Does Valve count as a "big name"?

Re:A damp and steamy future. (3, Insightful)

GMonkeyLouie (1372035) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906985)

Valve could do better with the whole episodic gaming thing.

Step one: shorten the time between releases of half life 2 episodes.

Step two: you don't have to package episode two with another copy of episode one.

Step three: please for the love of god keep bundling stuff with new innovative brilliant games like portal.

Re:A damp and steamy future. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907049)

Telltale uses Steam AFAIK and they went through two whole seasons on one of their series while another is at episode 4 out of 5.

Entertainment software sales (1)

MindKata (957167) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907863)

The Steam/online distribution model, does have some major cost advantages over shop sales. Making CDs/DVDs requires long lead times, from manufacturing order time, to distribution to shops and its always a gamble, as to how many of the final CDs, they will sell in shops, before they end up discounted, in the bargain baskets. So what often happens, is CD re-ordered manufacturing runs don't happen, unless its a clear sales leader.

But the biggest advantage the Game Industry has is a psychological advantage during a recession (Well advantage in the longer term, of say the next year). Its been shown in the past, that during downturns/smaller recessions, software sales are not hit as hard as most other industries. What is hit harder is hardware sales, as people hold onto what hardware they have. The theory I've heard put forward to explain what's happening, is people in bad times, use software entertainment as a bit of a release from their worries, to have a bit of fun.

The games industry tends to do ok in downturns (even though sales are still lower). (Of course, bosses use downturns as an excuse to cut staff, after games are finished and before they get new game development deals signed up with publishers, but thats another issue).

The thing is though, this is by far the biggest recession the games industry has ever had to endure. It seems currently a lot of people are effectively holding their breath (so to speak, in the past 2 months) waiting to see how things develop. So they are currently holding on to their money. Which is currently stifling the sales of most products. But as things ease off in the next few months, I would hope things would improve and software sales don't suffer to much. There is however one major problem, that in the short term, its likely to delay an improvement for software sales. Unfortunately software sales are hugely biased by seasonal sales, in the run up to Christmas. Sales after Christmas collapse for a few months. (Collapse that is for all but the biggest high profile software releases). So many companies are going to have to earn enough this Christmas, to tide them over for a few months in the new year.

This start of the recession, stifling the sales in the run up to Christmas is a big worry, as its likely to have a major impact on weaker retailers (and other companies) in the few months after Christmas.

Re:Entertainment software sales (1)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25917501)

Way, way too long.

Well... (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907563)

Well, he's just trying to sound smart, basically.

There's this thing about the future: nobody knows it. All you can say is, basically: something will happen, but heck if I know what, when or by how much.

But that doesn't make for much of an article, and sure doesn't make one a well paid "analyst". So essentially you have to do the old trick: tell them an event (e.g., that the indies are going to eat EA's lunch) or a date, but never both. Notice how here he didn't give you a time frame of when will the indies beat EA, nor a quantitative estimate. There is no deadline when you can say, "hah, the date came and went and your prophecy didn't happen." Even in one year, or ten years or a hundred years, you could still nod through the rationale and wait for it to happen any day now.

Now pack it with a few profound sounding truisms (you can at least nod through the idea that better tools and broadband should make some kind of a difference in some way), and you too can be a pundit or analyst.

And as an example: it's been proven before that all the analysts in the world can't, for example, pick stocks better than throwing darts at a list of them. For all that handwaving and sounding smart and in the know, they don't know what will happen. But there the big broker names have the advantage of being able to pull self-fulfilling prophecies: if Merril-Lynch tells you to buy Pets.com stock, they must know something, so a lot of people do. Price goes up, yay, they were so smart. The best illustration of this was during the dot-con crash when they told people to buy stock they internally rated as crap and were selling as fast as possible. But they still influenced the market enough to make money even out of companies which were in free fall.

But in the game industry they just don't have this kind of influence. Just because pundit X and analyst Y say that indies must overtake EA due to better tools and broadband, it doesn't mean that anyone will go and write those better tools overnight.

So we're back to that thing about the future: they have no flipping clue. But they sound smart, people read the article, and they get advertising revenue for it.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25914973)

Bravo. Nice to see that some people have a clue. Kudos.

indie indie indie! (1)

LunarCrisis (966179) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906917)

Instead, he said, new tools, ubiquitous broadband and hungry independent developers are going to all combine to eat away at the continued supremacy of the $60 big-name title.

Cool, I hope to be one of those hungry indie developers. =)

Re:indie indie indie! (2, Funny)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907517)

Cool, I hope to be one of those hungry indie developers. =)

Cool ! I've been waiting years for the console version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

It will survive, sure, but how good are the games? (2, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906933)

Not every game is a Half-Life 2 or Bioshock. As the economy constricts cashflow from these companies, we just have to hope they still have the willingness to spend a little extra time and money making a great game.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (2, Interesting)

GMonkeyLouie (1372035) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906961)

Not a concern to me, as I think that the industry will be made better if games have to spend less time in the tube.

Constricted cash flow for industry giants and consumers --> more small, short projects and smaller (but more) purchases made by consumers --> more room for smaller independent developers to compete and more room for innovation in the market.

As a man who came into video games in the era of adventure games with shitty graphics that survived on intuitive interfaces and a good sense of humor, I don't really mind if they can't spend an extra two months making sure the light effects on the water are just perfect.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

Sparton (1358159) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907039)

Not a concern to me, as I think that the industry will be made better if games have to spend less time in the tube.

I don't think I can agree with you. See, what constricted cash flow more likely does is scare a lot of developers that if they do innovation, there's a high chance of bombing it and not having a hope in gaining back what they spent, but if you go for low-risk, tried-and-true, you're guaranteed to get something to get you by.

That said, I am a game designer and a gamer, and I don't know any other gamer who thinks they'll be spending less on games in the near future (MMO factor aside).

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907535)

Then again they have a completely fucked up view of low-risk which apparently involves spending most of the company's money on a single game and hoping it sells enough to make the money back.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (2, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907641)

I just hope it means they will spend more on gameplay and less on flashy graphics crap. I mean seriously, look at how many truly great games were made with the Quake 2 and 3 engines. Were they real flashy and made everyone go "ooh pretty"? Nope, but they made up for it by actually trying to make games that were FUN. I am so damned tired of FPS that look really good but play like shit because they spent every dime on the "ooh pretty" and didn't have anything left for such things as decent AI or a good story.

And after reading review after review with variations on "game looks great, but is kinda sucky" I know I am not alone. Hell I wouldn't care if they used the Quake 3 engine as long as it had a truly great story and AI that didn't come off as retarded. So please, if there are any game developers reading this, just license whichever engine you can get for the best price and spend your time making the game FUN instead of flashy. If I got to add my own .02 to the game I'd ask for the ability to disarm my opponents with a well placed shot like I do when I play SoF I&II, allow me to play it MY way like with Deus Ex, and finally throw in some unique cool weapons like NoLF I&II instead of the same machine guns and pistols that everybody else uses.

If you build it and focus on the FUN, then we will come. Pass out some early stage demos and the gamers will be happy to help you keep it on track with feedback and suggestions. And with the economy getting worse every day try to aim for the $30-40 price point. Because with money getting tight there will be fewer and fewer megahits that will be able to make money at the $60 price point. Lastly don't fall into the EA trap of spending big bucks trying to make sure you have the nastiest DRM infection of the bunch. It doesn't do jack squat to stop the pirates and royally screws and pisses off your customers when they have to jump through hoop after hoop and end up searching warez sites to find a crack for the game they paid you good money for just to get the damned thing to work. I know that after buying many a game from EA I simply won't give them a dime, even if I found their entire catalog in the bargain bin for $10. My gaming machine runs too nicely to purposely infect it with a nasty DRM Trojan like the ones that EA uses. But if you treat us fair and keep it FUN, then we will be happy to hand you our hard earned money, even if you don't have the "ooh pretty" of a Crysis.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (2, Insightful)

Psychochild (64124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25913701)

I'm an independent, professional game developer. I don't mean to attack you directly, but you're saying some things that seem logical but that the market doesn't really follow up on. I am one of the few people for whom graphics truly do not matter, and the game I run, Meridian 59 [meridian59.com] , is a game where I hoped fun would matter more than graphics.

I just hope it means they will spend more on gameplay and less on flashy graphics crap. I mean seriously, look at how many truly great games were made with the Quake 2 and 3 engines.

A lot of people say, "Graphics don't matter!" when they actually do. Many people judge a game based on graphical presentation; many people buy games based on the screenshots, for example. And, while a game's graphics may not mean much once you get into the middle of the game, they certainly do color most people's impressions at the beginning. A lot of people have a really hard time getting into a game if it's not visually stunning.

I think what a lot of people mean is that they don't buy games based on graphical advancement. The problem is that once the envelope is pushed, then expectations adjust to accommodate them. Using your examples of the Quake engines, the games based on those engines weren't necessarily pushing the envelope on graphics. But, there was a specific minimum expectations set by the engine. Most people wouldn't play a game based on the old Quake 1 engine these days, even though that engine was quite impressive for the time. In a few years, people will look at the Quake 2 engine the same way we might look at the DOOM engine now. Expectations will have changed.

The reason why you have the "ooh, pretty!" games is because some developers are trying to sell engines. The makers of Quake, id, made a lot of their money licensing the engine to other developers. They made the original games those were based on in order to sell the engine. Crysis is the same way: FarCry or Crysis may not be particularly engaging games, but the graphical presentation moves the expectations and this in turn requires developers to license the engines from the company. It's how they make their money.

And with the economy getting worse every day try to aim for the $30-40 price point.

And, that's not going to happen. The problem is that these shifting expectations have driven up the costs of developing games. As the price to develop a game increases, the amount of money needed to recoup costs increases as well. The reason why the large publishers are talking about reducing the secondary market is because their profit margins are becoming razor thin. They need people to buy the newer games to continue to stay in business. A lot of larger companies are feeling the pinch, especially during these economic times, and they know people aren't willing to pay more and more per game.

Here's some perspective, when I started developing games professionally a little over 10 years ago, the budget for a large game was one or two million dollars. These days it can easily reach $10 million or more. The biggest issue is that games are a hit-driven industry; the big, profitable games make the money that covers the failures. Unfortunately, that only covers the publisher and often a developer will go out of business even when they have a hit game. Check out the fate of Iron Lore studios, the makers of Titan Quest: they went out of business despite having a rather popular game title and expansion.

Some thoughts from someone who works on the inside of the beast known as the game industry.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25914181)

Sorry, but the style of game you make I can't stand, nothing personal, so I can't really comment on it. The reason I mentioned the Quake 2 and Quake 3 engines was because they were surpassed in the "ooh pretty" pretty quickly yet games were selling quite well based on those engines for a long time afterwards. Why? Because they brought the FUN. Of course you aren't selling to those that go for the "ooh pretty" and base their purchases on that alone. But I have a dirty little secret nobody likes to admit. With the system reqs as high as they are today for the newest "ooh pretty" games you really need some dual or quad core dual SLI beast. And those guys tend to pirate more than they pay since they blew their wad on the dual core SLI space heater they paid way too much money for.

And the reason I named the $30-40 price point was also for a VERY important reason. I have a friend that works at Gamestop and he says they haven't moved enough at the $60 price point to worry about. They have even moved all the $50-60 games on a shelf in the very back of the store to make room for the games which ARE selling, which is the $30-40 price point. He says he can count the number of $60 titles that have sold on one hand with fingers left over. COD4, L4D, Bioshock. And that is about it. So it really doesn't matter if you spent a bazillion dollars to make your game if you sell less than 50K copies at $60 it is a flop. Whereas you sell a 5-10 million at the $40 price point and look at the difference in your bottom line. You can then sell those customers via micro transactions all kinds of extras to boost your revenue.

But the next year will tell us if I am right or you are, so I will make a prediction. Many game houses will simply disappear in mergers or outright failure as they bet the farm on a $60 price point and come out a big loser. EA will continue to burn their customers and scream "teh piratez!" while their PC sales dry up and blow away like a popcorn fart in the wind(don't believe me just look up "EA sucks" on youtube and see the masses of pissed off customers) and things will get MUCH worse for those betting on MMORPGs and "super mega" blockbusters for their income. Because simply every game as to be a mega seller or you are out of the game for good. Because folks simply ain't got the cash to spend on a bunch of $60 games and MMORPG=WoW and a little niche for those that hate WoW. Then a company that looks like it might fail will say "what the hell" and will bring out a game that while a couple of years behind the curve still looks okay and more importantly brings the FUN and is only say $39.99. The thing will be a mega hit as the game rags all talk about how much damned fun they are having and folks who don't have enough for the next $60 rehash of WW2 flock to it for something new. The few companies that survive the coming storm(which I believe in my heart will be another global depression) will jump on the bandwagon hoping to score some cash and will be surprised when it works. Because it really doesn't matter what your cost is when it comes down to it. If the only way you can survive is to charge more than your customers are willing to pay you simply will be another Tabula Rasa.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

Psychochild (64124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25914635)

Sorry, but the style of game you make I can't stand, nothing personal, so I can't really comment on it.

That's fine. As I said, it's a niche game. My point isn't, "ZOMG PLAY MY GAME!" but rather, you need to make sure you really are supporting people who make games like you want. If you see someone making an interesting independent FPS, go support that person. Just because the graphics are DOOM style and they don't have aimed shots doesn't meant they will never make a better game. But, they probably won't have the chance to make that better game if you don't support them now.

Of course you aren't selling to those that go for the "ooh pretty" and base their purchases on that alone.

Unfortunately, that group of people is what we in the game industry call the majority. We've had the ability to deliver downloadable games for a while now. My own Meridian 59 was available for download as early as 1998. Why did it take almost a decade for games to become easily downloadable through a service like Steam (ignoring piracy issues)? Because the majority of purchases are made by people who see the box at the local store. Last retail stats I've read said that approximately 20-25% of games are sold through Wal-Mart stores alone (this was pre-Steam, though). Most of these people aren't the type that go online and do heavy research on a game, they pick up what looks cool (or what had the marketing that worked).

This is one of the biggest problems with independent game developers. The majority of people who buy games do it in stores, and a small developer has very little chance to get their games into retail.

I have a friend that works at Gamestop and he says they haven't moved enough at the $60 price point to worry about. They have even moved all the $50-60 games on a shelf in the very back of the store to make room for the games which ARE selling, which is the $30-40 price point.

Would those $30-40 games happen to be the used section? The same used games that game publishers would like to stop? The ones that have a MUCH higher margin for the Gamestop store?

You've just given the reason why game companies are so eager to stop second-hand markets for games. It's not just greed, it's because it cuts into the funds that keep the game companies alive. And, even if publisher did manage to cut prices down that low, then the Gamestops of the world would just drop the price on used games further (in this magical world where costs are infinitely small) and still sell more used games than new games.

Whereas you sell a 5-10 million at the $40 price point and look at the difference in your bottom line.

Not if the cost per unit is greater than that $40. As the old joke goes: they're still losing money, and they're trying to make it up in volume! ;) Keep in mind that the $60 you spend for a game has to pay a lot of people: the developer who makes it, the publisher who funded it and distributes it, and the store that sells it. Also keep in mind that a lot of costs are fixed: it costs the same amount to ship a box of $40 games as it does $60 games, for example.

Many game houses will simply disappear in mergers or outright failure as they bet the farm on a $60 price point and come out a big loser.

This is a sucker bet, because it's already happening. Look at the merger between Activision and Sierra into the new "Activision Blizzard" company. This has happened around the same time that the price point of games started going toward $60. There's been problems in the industry for a while now; that's part of the reason why we have $60 games now. Game companies are worried about the state of the industry. Sadly, it's mostly the mid-sized companies that will get hurt the worst.

If the only way you can survive is to charge more than your customers are willing to pay you simply will be another Tabula Rasa.

Ultimately, you're missing the point here. Large companies like Electronic Arts have figured out they can keep the money rolling in if they just put the title "Madden" on a football game and increment the number from the previous year. EA makes a load of money on that franchise alone. The point here is that if you want to see games besides Madden sequels all those other types of games you love to hate (like the "ooh, pretty" FPSes), then you need to understand there is more to it than what customers are willing to pay. The companies that dry up and fail won't be the EAs, it will be the companies that would love to make an FPS tailored to your specific tastes. But, instead, those people will have to work on supporting the "ooh, pretty" games and the next version of Madden at EA.

Unfortunately, making an "innovative" or niche game is a huge risk. That means that there has to be a larger reward for the risk. Otherwise, you will keep getting the same old "safe" games over and over again.

Have fun,

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25916463)

I do buy the little games, and recently bought "Terra Wars:NY Invasion" even those it brings a new meaning to the word cheese. You ever sit and laugh at Chingrish? Imagine a whole game where all the dialog is in chingrish and acted by those who speak English as maybe a fourth language and probably work in the mail room. Still, it tried something different and was at the $20 sweet spot so I didn't mind taking a shot on some cheese. Which of course simply doesn't happen at the $60 price point. Most folks I know maybe by ONE a year at that price point and then simply wait for it to hit the Wally World bargain bin for the rest.

And I understand what you are saying about Wal Mart, and I think my above example works great in that context. I bought it because it had cool cover art and a low price. If it isn't something folks have heard about the cover art I think you'll find will sell more than anything. But again, doesn't work at $60. Folks just don't have it, and when they do they are taking a "safe bet" like COD4 or Bioshock, NOT an independent game.

And as for used sales? I was talking about new games, but if you want to go there that is fine. All the attempts to stop used games are going to run smack into "first sale" and I don't know if I would want to bet on SCOTUS overturning first sale for a videogame. Even if they did I think all you would do is see even LESS sales, as folks simply wouldn't be buying. Remember to have a used game SOMEBODY had to buy it new, and many console players I know take the used return price into consideration when they buy a game. I also didn't mention Madden because we all know those guys are crazy. I actually have a friend that has a deal with the Gamestop by his house to have the Madden, NCAA, and NASCAR series automatically sent for his PS3 and PSP the second they come in. They simply charge his CC and he even pays crazy money for same day shipping so it arrives on release day. Like I said crazy. But 99.999% of companies are NEVER going to see that kind of loyalty, which is why EA paid crazy money for the rights.

And finally we are NOT talking about EA or blizzardvision here, we are talking about independent game houses. I think we all agree that Blizzardvision is only going to be repackaging the SSDD, while the only reason that EA is taking a chance and putting out anything new is many of their franchises just dried up from over use. Which I think will happen with blizzardvision but they don't care thanks to WoW. Last I checked something like 60% of their revenue came from the WoW addicts which are just as nutty as the Madden heads. But if there is to be any independent game publishers out there, they are going to have to face some facts.

The facts are this: The $60 price point simply won't work. It barely works for EA and a handful of other super companies, and even then I'm betting they have more losers than winners as the economy tanks further. The MMORPG market is suicide. That market is so full and dominated by WoW that I'm betting 90% of them fold. And finally there is a "sweet spot" that exists between $20-40 that will make their games almost an impulse buy. What that sweet spot is depends on how much they bring the fun and yes, to an extent, graphics. But not in the way you think. Just like DVDs have become "good enough" that many are sticking with them over HD, I believe that graphics reached "good enough" around 2002-03 and now the system requirements have gotten so high to have the pretty that it is cutting a good chunk of the market out.

I know that I won't be buying Crysis, Far Cry 2, and many of the other new games released this year simply because the price of a decent framerate has gotten so high that I would have to throw out my barely 4 year old machine and start over. And with the exception of the "ooh pretty" games it runs like a dream and with the economy in the crapper I have more important things to spend my money on. And I know that I am not alone. It has gotten simply too crazy, especially when you end up with "ooh pretty" games that frankly are boring as hell EXCEPT for the pretty. Like you said the are engine demos, and frankly that is what they feel like.

But I truly wish you luck. While I never got into that "elves and magic" kind of stuff I do think it looked like you put your heart into it. Perhaps you should try like the Koreans and go with the cheap/free client and the micro transaction model? It seems to work for them. But in any case I truly wish you luck and hope that you don't end up another EA drone. I believe the truly innovative and fresh ideas won't come from anywhere else BUT the independents. The EAs of the world are just going to try to play it safe and beat the dead horse trying to keep the $60 price point that I think will end up as dead as Dixie. Good Luck!

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907061)

Take a look at IGN's "top 100 video games of all time" list, or even read some of the endless posts on the subject here on /.
The Very best games usually have very little to do with a developer pouring buckets of money into a concept; the best games involve a good idea, and the developer managing to find a way to make the game playable.
Some games, I admit, do have to have big budgets, simply because the gameplay is tied into an expensive feature. a good example is GTA3; without decent graphics, the game would be nowhere near as fun.
Then, on the other end of the scale, you have Tetris.
In our modern era there are lots of examples of great games that simply don't require elaborate graphics to be fun or popular; none of Paradox Games cash cows required more than a integrated video card to be enjoyable until they released Europa Universalis III, and they didn't really need the fancy graphics for it.
Gal Civ I & II don't have many fancy graphics, and those that they do have aren't actually needed.
If the industry wants to put out some great selling games without spending a mint on their graphics department, all they have to do is actually get away from 1st person shooters or trying to come up with the next WOW. Develop for OpenGL graphics on computers, not consoles. Make the games easily moddable, and use stardock as an example to keep piracy down, no DRM.
Or just do the obvious thing, dig out the CLASSIC games like Masters of Magic, Day of the Tentacle, Setllers I & II, The various Wing Commanders -Heck even Kings Quest!- etc and leave the game mechanics completely alone, just hire a couple of guys to update the graphics to 1024x768 or better, release 'em, and rake in the cash.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907399)

OpenGL is apparently more of a pain to develop for than DirectX (I've never tried DirectX so I don't know).

As was pointed out to myself here on /. : consoles have a much larger market and earn way more money than releasing on PC or Mac.

In these days of consoles with built in networking and storage, you could easily make console games that allow you to use mods. That was what tipped me over the edge to becoming a console gamer. That and that I got sick fed up of MS pushing Vista so hard and decided I had to take action.

I'm now running Ubuntu as my primary OS at work and home. PC gaming doesn't really make sense to me anymore when I already have my PS3 set up in the lounge with a HDTV. Why hook up my laptop to the TV or set up a desk area just for gaming on my laptop or a new desktop machine dedicated to gaming; besides gaming on my PS3 I can watch DVDs, blu-rays, rip CDs, store all my music, pictures and video (I fitted a 320GB HD), browse the net if I need to, record TV with PlayTV.. I could live without a computer at home quite easily, if I wanted to. I just use my laptop as a bedroom media player at the moment.

Sure, it will probably soon be cheaper (if it isn't already) to build a PC that has better graphics than a PS3 for less money - though it won't have a better processor - but I'm happy with the current arrangement for now. The PS3 has more than enough CPU power to allow even more interesting physics and AI driven games to be made over the next few years, and its graphics will be good enough for me until the next generation of consoles comes out. I might reconsider PC gaming if there is decent Linux support by then, but otherwise there's no way in hell I'm going back.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908309)

OpenGL is apparently more of a pain to develop for than DirectX (I've never tried DirectX so I don't know).

OpenGL is a pita because it's quite a fragmented API due to the extension mechanism. Most games however don't use either - instead they'll use the low level API's provided for the console.

In these days of consoles with built in networking and storage, you could easily make console games that allow you to use mods.

Not that easily at all. First you need to distribute the console SDK + compilers etc. Then you've got to assume that all the people using the SDK are genuine nice people, and aren't using it to either crack the Game, or hack it for cheating. You also have to realise that even armed with that SDK, there are very few people who'd actually be able to do much with it. It's one thing knowing how to write apps in C/C++ for the PC, but that's quite different from writing code for SPE's on the PS3.

Sure, it will probably soon be cheaper (if it isn't already) to build a PC that has better graphics than a PS3 for less money - though it won't have a better processor - but I'm happy with the current arrangement for now.

highlighted the relevant sections there. A midrange geforce card for example, costs less, and has more processing power than the entire PS3....

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908591)

Well, depending on the system you use for making mods, you might not need to have any knowledge of how to code for PS3. Quake 1 at least had its own C based scripting language, making all mods for it basically cross-platform by default. With a system with as many cores as the PS3, dedicating one SPE just for interpreting scripting would mean less of a performance hit than if you only had one core like in the Quake days.

By Quake III it did use compiled DLLs though, so they were platform specific, but I think you could compile for both Windows and Linux from the same source just by changing some compiler flags. I get that the Cell processor is a completely different kettle of fish to x86, but with a good compiler wouldn't that be pretty irrelevant from the mod-maker's point of view - considering that with mods you don't have to write any system specific code for graphics and sound processing etc? You can just send everything to the game's built-in functions for that kind of thing.

You don't have to open up the entire source to make mods - so it doesn't necessarily make it any easier to crack copy protection on a game (which people seem to do quite easily without any source anyway).

You could write a proxy dll to go inbetween the main game executable and a library such as a mod to cheat for you if you have the SDK, but that would still be possible (though more awkward) without any SDK too.

It is a bit of extra work for the developers to make a game that is designed to work extensibly with other mods, but lots of games these days are designed with mods in mind anyway. I think the main problem would be getting Sony to agree to let 3rd parties compile their own code for the system without certain limitations (like the ones they impose on running secondary OSes). They aren't going to be making money directly from any of the thousands of mods that could/would be made, only from the base game. Mods can sell a game though, so it wouldn't be such a dumb move on their part to allow it.

Hopefully we will see more developers expand on the LittleBigPlanet concept and include built in level/object editors, scripting and creation distribution options in their console games :)

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#25911155)

"As was pointed out to myself here on /. : consoles have a much larger market and earn way more money than releasing on PC or Mac."

You realize that is a odd thing to say, right?
Sure, there are a lot of consoles out there. But Everyone has a PC or a Mac. the problem is that there is such a gigantic range of variations in the type of systems that people have.
If you design a game to play on a PC with a 16mb graphics card, and OpenGL w/out extensions, it would play on I would guess 95% of the PC's in use; If you compare this to the number of PS3 or Xbox 360 or Wii or whatever out there...
I dunno, it just seems logical to me. When you have developers doing install lock-outs when anything but XP or Vista is detected (like AOE3. would not install on Win2k, but if you copied it over from a installed XP along with the appropriate registry information it played better, of course, on win2k), or designing for DirectX10, how the fuck can they expect to move any numbers?
I agree that the PS3 is great, and it just makes sense to design games that are going to work best on a console, for a console. Having a fixed graphics ability makes it possible to maximize the graphics required for first person shooters and GTA3-like titles. But a game doesn't automatically require that level of graphics to be a good game.
And all the things you listed out that you do besides play games with your PS3? they can be done more easily with a PC, cheaper.

Re:It will survive, sure, but how good are the gam (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25912341)

Actually I think installing PlayTV on PS3 will be even easier than setting up your own system - plug in USB tuner to aerial and PS3, run the setup CD, done. I always imagined setting up a PC based PVR would be quite a bit of effort if only because you have to find a nice quiet PC, get a TV card, get MythTV or some other PVR distro or app for Windows.. the things that the PS3 doesn't do that a PC could do, is access network shares, and stream media to other devices. I'm not bothered about the streaming, but I'd like to be able to run backups to a network share.

I agree with the rest. Yes pretty much everyone has access to a computer these days, but as you point out the specs are wildly varying. It's more effort to make a game that degrades gracefully across a range of hardware than it is to be able to program for a single system, even if those systems do go out of date every few years. The PS2 is still going pretty strongly though, with new games still being made for it. It has probably been around as long as Win2K if not longer.

The fact remains that no matter how many PCs, Macs, whatever are out there, consoles are built just for games, and the console games market is huge compared to the PC games market. If it weren't for the fact that there is no console equivalent of a laptop, I think we'd see a lot of home users moving towards using their consoles for everything instead of PCs. With these day of google docs and such online services, it's pretty much already possible to do everything the average home user does each day on any device with a decent browser. Digital convergence is upon us at last - I remember plenty of talk about it a few years ago, but now we're actually getting somewhere! :P

One console vs. four PCs (0)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25912733)

Everyone has a PC or a Mac.

But not everyone has four PCs or Macs to set up a LAN. Console games let four players look at one screen. (I admit that the setup is not ideal for first-person shooters, but not all shooters are first-person, and not all games are shooters.) It would be possible to play multiplayer games on a PC and an HDTV, but PC games tend to ignore this possibility because not everyone has an HDTV, let alone an HDTV in the same room as the PC.

Re:One console vs. four PCs (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 5 years ago | (#25923371)

I just don't have a snappy comeback for that one.
There were quite a few games that came out in the early 90's designed to be played by two players on one computer, but it is a smaller screen usually, and the developers just don't do it anymore anyway.
and while most computers these days have a TV screen output, I doubt that my before mentioned 95% do; maybe more like 65%.
So, you are right on that possibly; people who participate regularly in social gaming, with more than 1 or 2 players sitting in the same house, are probably better off with a console.
Alternately, however, I would like to point one thing out: There is absolutely no reason that Rock Band, for instance, wouldn't work on a typical post-year-1999 PC.
Most PC's in that range have a TV out of some sort, have USB, and can handle Rock Band level graphics as well as a PS2 can.
As far as Xbox games: they are developed on PCs. There are no Xbox titles that would not be easy to release on PC. they just don't.
Admittedly, I'm a computer geek. I have 3 computers running in my house at most times, in addition to the consoles. But my HP DV8230 Media Center laptop stays hooked up to my 55" TV, and is a rock solid PVR, as well as being much better to play GTA:SA on than any console could think of being. My 2 kids and one of their friends were playing Solstice this afternoon on the PC's cooperatively, with my daughter Alt-Tab-ing between the game and her IM client pretty steadily. Sometime today I'll probably play a little Sim City 4, my 5 year old will play some "clifford the big red dog" and possibly some "just grandma and me" from the 90's. My GF will do one of her online classes, and lots of e-mails will fly around.
The ONLY reason that my kids will switch inputs from the HP media center to the Playstation would be to play Rock Band, and there is no REAL reason that they have to do this, the only reason is that the game developers haven't released it for PC.

With Rock Band, lack of ASIO is the problem (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25924211)

The ONLY reason that my kids will switch inputs from the HP media center to the Playstation would be to play Rock Band, and there is no REAL reason that they have to do this, the only reason is that the game developers haven't released it for PC.

Part of that might have to do with the fact that unlike DDR, key-sounded music games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band need really low audio latency. But low-latency audio outputs are harder to get on a PC, which is designed to mix in a Winamp that's been buffered 2 seconds ahead, than on a single-tasking console. Not every sound card has an ASIO driver.

Consoles have shared-screen multiplayer (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25912699)

Develop for OpenGL graphics on computers, not consoles.

But how many people have an HDTV (not a CRT SDTV), and how many of those have connected a PC to their HDTV? In this economic downturn, not all families can afford one PC per player, and without a large monitor such as an HDTV, it's difficult to fit four people around one monitor to play a multiplayer party-style game. (Not all shooters are first-person.) The advantage of consoles is that 1. they are guaranteed to have easy SDTV output, and 2. more of your customers think to connect a console than a PC to a large monitor.

simpler explanation (3, Interesting)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#25906963)

there's all that psychological "people want video games to make themselves happy during a recession" stuff and then there's reality. It's really quite simple: Teenagers buy most video games. Teenagers don't have investments and mortgages that tanked nor are they good at saving instead of spending. Thus, game sales are doing just fine. But of course if the marketing and finance departments at video game companies said that the boss would think they weren't working very hard.

Re:simpler explanation (1)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907017)

there's all that psychological "people want video games to make themselves happy during a recession" stuff

Exactly. In fact, most things that are designed to make people forget about their problems do very well indeed during periods of economic downturn For example, at the poker club I play at, we've been seeing a lot more people coming in to become members lately. We used to have a steady number of 20/25 players twice a week, and the past weeks, we've seen upward of 45 players coming in. What's more, they tend to drink more than usual, and we hear a lot of talks of lost jobs and winning streaks that should line up pockets, something that never happened before, when most people came in to play the tournament seriously and sober.

I have no doubt the gaming industry (real or video), as well as the booze industry, will actually benefit from the crisis.

Re:simpler explanation (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907069)

> most things that are designed to make people forget about their problems do
> very well indeed during periods of economic downturn

Not to pile on, but yup, here's still more supporting evidence of that in reference to the movie industry [seekingalpha.com] .

Re:simpler explanation (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908021)

In Korea, the sale of soju (the local hard liquor) is seen as an indicator of consumer confidence in the economy, so is treated as a leading indicator. When confidence is high, Koreans tend to buy more imported alcohol like scotch. When people feel economic pressure, the sale of soju skyrockets.

Drinking lots of grain alcohol will help you forget just about anything, including a bad economy.

Re:simpler explanation (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907083)

It's really quite simple: Teenagers buy most video games. Teenagers don't have investments and mortgages that tanked nor are they good at saving instead of spending.

Teenagers have not bought the most video games in quite a long time. In fact, the average age is 30 [archive.org] with 65% of game players over the age of 18. If the video game industry were to see a drop in buyers over the age of 18, they would suffer just as greatly as the rest of the economy.

I know the entertainment aspect may seem like too easy of an answer, but the historical data does support it.

During the beginning of the Great Depression, one of the most popular forms of entertainment was dancing. It usually only cost a few cents to get into a dance hall. Once there, the dancer could remain for most of the night. This was so economical that it led to a new form of sport: Marathon Dancing [historylink.org] .

At first this extreme form of dancing was done to achieve new records. Then the dance halls started to get in on the act, and began promoting competitions. Soon, dancers would be on the floor for months at a time, with only 15 minute breaks every hour or so. (Yes, 24x7 on the floor. They slept like wolves at best!) These long marathons gave dance halls the opportunity to encourage or stage situations worthy of a soap-opera. Fights broke out, relationships came and went, people struggled not to lose their cool over the grinding months, and even weddings were performed on the floor!

The public just ate this stuff up. They spent their nickels to visit these dance halls for entertainment. If they were hungry enough, they might even try their hand at a marathon. While the lack of sleep was a killer, dance halls regularly served 12 meals a day! Quite a difference from standing in a bread line for a meager meal.

Eventually, dance was replaced with another non-stop form of entertainment: Movies.

You know the stereotype of the Bell Boy with his flashlight leading people into the dark theater? Well, there's good reason for that. Back during the depression, the movies never stopped! For a mere nickel you could visit the movies and watch for hours before it looped back to something you had seen before. News reels, Comedies, Cartoons, Features, etc. It was a true potpourri of entertainment. And since there was no television to compete, visiting the theater was one of the best ways of keeping abreast of the latest news and entertainment.

Speaking of television, yet another form of entertainment took a bite out of the market during the Depression. Radio saw a surge in public life. From comedy, to the original soap operas, to FDR's Fireside Chats, to Late Breaking News, to Orson Wells' War of The Worlds broadcast, radio was an incredible escape from the ugliness of everyday life. And every family who could manage to scrape together enough money had one.

I won't bore you with further details, but such a trend for escapist entertainment is seen throughout modern history. The worse things get, the more we turn to outlets for escape. With television on the decline, I see absolutely no reason why consumers would not find value in Video Games. They are the newest and hottest form of escapist medium. Eventually they too will be replaced by a new medium, but for now it's reasonably safe to bet on video games during any period of strong economic downturn. :-)

Re:simpler explanation (2, Informative)

nyu2 (1263642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907459)

Another thing that will see no downswing is the illegal drug industry. Drugs also offer escapism.

Re:simpler explanation (1)

godfra (839112) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908381)

Mod parent up! Really interesting post, well done.

Numbers (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25909985)

Where exactly do they get the numbers on who's buying the games anyhow? From the credit-card companies? From the little cards or surveys that almost nobody ever files in?

And who's to say that a lot of games bought by adults aren't for teens (especially around Christmas, etc)?

The game consumer's age (1)

davlastor (1420139) | more than 5 years ago | (#25929071)

Yes, the average gamer is not a teenager any longer. He's in his thirties and getting older. Today's teenagers rather consume whatever the internet offers and thus have little time left for the feeble games.

Re:simpler explanation (1)

Yuuki Dasu (1416345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907285)

It's really quite simple: Teenagers buy most video games.

Can we get a citation on this? I'm certainly not in that category, and I doubt I'm alone on that. In fact [theaveragegamer.com] , one figure I just found says the average game player is 33, and the average game buyer is 40. Still, a recession or even depression isn't going to kill video games. It may have a minor effect on huge-budget mass-market "moneymakers" (Fifa, Madden et al), but the real gems will be successful unless we find ourselves significantly further in the toilet.

It's not the retail sales. (1)

Lissajous (989738) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907003)

Having been kicking around the industry for more years than I care to remember (approaching my third decade in it, in fact), the thing that really concerns me is not the drop in retail sales. We've seen that game sales *are* fairly buoyant in economic downturns. They fall off, sure, but not compared to other so-called luxury goods.

Nope - the thing that concerns me is that with games costing more and more to produce, the perceived value of a developer and/or publisher by the stock market can basically fall through the floor if a release makes anything less than stellar sales.

The markets will bankrupt this industry, or any other industry for that matter. Just think Trading Places on a global scale....that's what makes me lose sleep at night.

Re:It's not the retail sales. (3, Interesting)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907753)

Perhaps they should dial down the game budgets then, I'm pretty sure those new market games Nintendo is making aren't exactly costing tens of millions.

Re:It's not the retail sales. (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908343)

Nope, but even if a Wii game is projected to cost 1million, you still need to raise that capital in order to develop it. That's likely to be the biggest challenge at the moment...

Re:It's not the retail sales. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25910715)

Most established developers and publishers with a console license should be able to scrounge a million together, the ones that can't probably have even lower dev costs.

"Big trouble for the industry"? (2, Insightful)

dolphinling (720774) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907009)

"Could spell big trouble for the industry"? Perhaps you mean "could spell big trouble for companies that try to keep using outdated methods"?

Re:"Big trouble for the industry"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25907133)

Exactly. I don't see how putting pressure on EA to consider new distribution methods is big trouble for the industry...

*NEW* From Rockstar Games, Zombies of the Economic (2, Funny)

KozmoKramer (1117173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907095)

*NEW* From Rockstar Games, "Zombies of the Economic Apocalypse!"

What?? (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907165)

"Essentially, Bridges explained, he thinks that the dominance of giant publishers like EA and their general reliance on physical, in-the-box, units, can't hold up. Instead, he said, new tools, ubiquitous broadband and hungry independent developers are going to all combine to eat away at the continued supremacy of the $60 big-name title. And that could spell big trouble for the industry."

That doesn't make any sense, independent game developers are still part of the industry, so if there is simply a rebalancing of cash flow from the big companies to the indies the industry hasn't been harmed in the slightest, it's dynamic has simply changed.

EA and co. could completely die and the industry wouldn't be harmed if more games were being sold by indies at lower prices to make up the same level of profits.

Re:What?? (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#25907635)

Problem with EA going under, as I have been told, is that they are the only company that can afford to train people who are new to the industry. Since I am an avid EA-hater myself, I don't necessarily see this as a good enough reason to let them survive ;)

Re:What?? (1)

soniCron88 (870042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25910391)

EA and co. could completely die and the industry wouldn't be harmed if more games were being sold by indies at lower prices to make up the same level of profits.

While you present a true statement, the scenario is nearly impossible. It would take an unprecedented amount of development for even the largest sector of indie gaming (casual @ ~$2.2 billion) to make up the ~$16 billion the mainstream games industry accounts for.

Yes, if indies made up the difference, the amount of money would even out. (That's the definition of "making up the difference.") But that's not going to happen anytime soon. Thanks for playing!

Re:What?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25914371)

Truely, if it weren't for a couple of holdout franchises I wouldn't want to see sink into limbo, I'd be all for EA going belly-up. It'd be the salvation of originality in game design.

But they own SimCity, and I think I might weep if that never saw the light of day again.

I got myself a cozy place for the next few years (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908567)

Just 4 months ago I joined the worlds largest browser game company as an ActionScript 3 developer. They've grown from 2 employees in 2003 to 155 when I came and ~170 right now and plan to expand to approx. 300+ in 2009. The games are free, only turning of adds or buying small extra features is our source of income. Our current growth rate is insane and I expect it to gain even more due to mobile MMO-gaming in the next 2 years or so. This kinda fits the articles prediction.

LEGO is actually related there (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 5 years ago | (#25908923)

The LEGO company was founded by a Danish carpenter who changed a lot of his product mix to wooden children's toys during the Great Depression, later (post-WWII) diversifying into plastic toys.

The point is the same: (relatively) cheap entertainment will still sell.

Gaming is the Sliver Lining of Unemployment! (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#25910939)

Though unemployment also increases the temptation towards game piracy.
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