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Some random thoughts about the future of the game industry

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Some random thoughts about the future of the game industry and where it will go in the future.
The truth is, I don't know, nobody knows, but I fear that the current game industry heading towards a very large bubble, which might eventuelly burst.

There are many reasons, one is for sure, that the industry invest incredible amounts of money in top AAA games, but on the other hand it is often heard of, that many games don't break the even. We talk about normal games which are so expensive, that they need atleast 1-2 mio. sold copies to break even.

The result is logical: don't change a running system (aka cash cow), so make sequel XXIII instead and polish it like hell.

All who now think , that this is the day of indie need to consider, that we are talking about a spoiled generation of gamers. They expect to get AAA visuals,story and gameplay for free, so I fear that indies will have a very hard time too.

What about MMORPGs, the virtual grail of making endless money ? Well, how many MMORPG developers trying to archieve the sucess of WoW, but eventually herding into F2P seeing no other option to survive. The only really working concept seems to be Guild Wars, instead of counting on a subscription system, they counted on only selling the game once (+ add ons) and take the money to keep up a persistence world for some time.This resulted in a quite clever client-server architecture and a clever business model.

The game industry is still young, yet it already had a crash, maybe the bubble is ready to burst again, maybe it is even necessary, who knows.

I'm curious if the next generation of consoles will take off. Current gen games are already looking amazing, to top this you need really big budgets and the major titles will for sure be amazing, but what about the rest. If a studio can't compete with this budgets, it will need to tone down the game it develops, but toning down means that it could look although good on older hardware, or even tablets ?

Both, blizzard and valve, two really great video game studios, heading away from hi-demand hardware, smaller studios follow (e.g. torchlight) with success. There will be not many studios left over which are able to create games, which are really not feasible on the current gen consoles.

The trouble of the last console generation (to go DVD or not to go, harddisk) were tiny compared to the really complex situation now (consoles vs tablets, casual vs core, publisher vs kickstarter, F2P vs subscription, DRM vs free, retail vs digital distribution, PC vs cloud gaming).
The budget of gamers is limited, especially in time of a financal crisis, but there are just too many parties which need a lot of money to survive, therefore someone needs to fall by the wayside, hopefully not the whole game industry.

Nov 15 2012 09:22 AM
"maybe the bubble is ready to burst again, maybe it is even necessary, who knows."

This is a very interesting subject. Everytime I think about how big the insdustry has gotten, I feel like its gonna burst soon. Specially because of everything you stated. Also, the amount of good studios that close because they need millions to survive...
Nov 15 2012 09:31 AM
Interesting concepts, but I think your fear is a bit early to some degree. I doubt the industry will... fall, but we may endure some serious hardships in the coming months. The biggest issue is that AAA companies need to learn better business practice. Spending thousands of dollars on this and that to increase graphics just a bit seems pointless. Instead, we should be spending thousands on immersion and creating a new game experience for the future gamer.

I know all to well what you speak of and in most of the industry we, the developers, programmers, artists, all see the trends that you speak of and it obviously saddens most of us. This is what happens when something of value is taken for just that its core $$$ value. Something I have personally aimed for ( and i know other indie developers are doing as well ) is looking to bring back the intrinsic value of the game. You are right though, this will never be the aim of the big business because this will never be worth the $$$ to time ratio. You and me might spend 2 years or 3 on our game... to a guy in a suit who speaks only of $$$ 2 - 3 without solid income = failed investment. This is where Kickstarter and other Cloud funding locations have shined. It gives the developer such as you and me the chance to make something without worrying about a hardcore deadline from some guy in a suit who only cares about the $$$.

Lets be real though, we all want the $$$ for the work we do, just some of us dont want to sell out and make CODxxxxxxx to do it. I know where you are coming from but I think the simple answer for the industry is to realize the following:
  • New and innovative ways of gaming must be looked at
  • Aim for style, rather than realistic. WoW, Spiral Knights, Diablo 3, Torchlight I and II are all great examples of great games that work on low end requirements.
  • Hard copy releases only work for the console. PC gamers are looking for DDistro now, it is simple and easy to do
  • Stop with console ports. Half the reason high end games do so shitty on the PC market is because the developer tries to save time and money by just simply porting it to the PC. Maybe they dont care because in the end its more $$$ in their pockets... but it makes the game look bad and gives the PC a bad rep.
  • Stop trying to develop for 50 different markets. You are spreading yourselves too thin. Many games have done well at first in a singular market and once they earned some serious revenue branched out to other platforms. Minecraft is a great example of this.
I dont know, I think we have reason to be concerned for sure, but I dont think it will all be doom and gloom. Often, for us, as humans, to realize our biggest mistakes we must endure some hardship. From there we look for ingenuity and creativity to create us a new world and a new life. This is the pattern we have been doomed to repeat and it happens in all forms of our lives, including the game industry.

For now, i think it best we just keep trucking along while we can! Great post btw, and a real good way to start the morning with a philosophical topic.
Nov 15 2012 11:19 AM
Well, one thing is certain... when it does crash, "It's all the fault of pirates and used game sales!!!!!"

Certainly nobody will admit that their short-term make-as-much-money-as-possible business plans have no real long-term sustainability.
It reminds me of a Futurama quote I'll paraphrase:

Documentary Narrator: Fortunately, our most brilliant game developers came up with a cheap, last minute way to make as much money as possible. Ever since 1998, we simply raise the costs of games and find more and more ways of gouging consumers for content we were previously giving them for free.
Of course, because the development costs are still building up, it takes more and more sales to break even, at the same time as we are alienating our consumers, thus solving the problem once and for all.
Little girl: But...
Documentary Narrator: Once and for all!

Nov 16 2012 12:28 AM
Don't missunderstand me, I don't fear the future of the game industry (I'm not in the game industrie or have dire pretensions to make money from games), but I'm watching its way the last decade like many of us. I think that the current situtation is the calm for the storm, either a storm of enthusiasm or destruction, most likely both, just in different areas. I believe that the next console generation is some kind of catalyst and that the current entanglements of different topics is a huge domino playground.

more ways of gouging consumers for content we were previously giving them for free.

Lol, this reminds me of the current trend of F2P: you can grind as long as you like, but if you want to have fun, you need to pay...

Well, this trend has a real destructive nature.
Nov 16 2012 07:40 AM
About indie game developers, do you people think that the gap between the indie and the big AAA companies is getting smaller, because technology is advancing and offers simpler method to make nice graphics ?
For example, the introduction of shaders made the nightmare of the fixed-function pipeline go away, the programs became simpler and shorter. Thus a small team is able to write and maintain nice renderers.
The deferred lighting approach made the some of the postprocess effects and game code design even simpler.

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