I sat back and watched the Sony press conference the other night. Nearly two hours long - plenty of fluff, a bit boring, but some interesting/useful stuff in there.. If you've got the time to spare, I recommend it.
Towards the end of the press conference they summarise a lot of the games that they're hoping to release, including a section on "new and original IP only for PS3". Sounds great - maybe we'll get something thats not just another sequel.
In watching the short montage of clips, I actually thought - No, don't do that! please - no!!
Y'see, I've read a few very good articles in Develop Magazine (if you're in the UK, you should get it - it's free!) that games developers are making too many games that they want to play - games that the hardcore want to play. This isn't necessarily what the (potential) customers want to play; and at the end of the day - they pay the bills. It's not an exclusive trend, but you must be able to think of a few examples.
So, step back. I'm cringing at Sony's new and exclusive IP showcase - almost (if not all) of it was very violent, very aggressive. Lots of shooting, explosions, hack-and-slash type stuff. Admittedly, this is quite common for the games industry.
I'm cringing because they look to me like titles that will appeal to the existing players, the existing hardcore. I don't see it drawing in many new audiences and new players.
Why is this a problem?
Well, I've read a few things about the budgets required for these next generation titles. 100+ employees and anything upto US$100m to fund it's development.
Now, they can (and I've also heard speculation that they will) increase the unit price - say GBP50-GBP60 a title (from around GBP35-GBP45 last I checked). You can't push it much higher or even the hardcore will start to be pushed out of the market.
So, with a similar hardcore market and slightly inflated unit prices - yet astronomically high production costs something really doesn't add up.
As I see it, sales must also increase - you need to shift more copies in order to see the profit. If you don't see the profit then you'd better have deep pockets or you won't be making many more titles [sad]
How are they going to ship enough extra copies if they don't draw in the bigger audience?
Games are loved by a growing number of people, and it'll probably continue to grow as a popular form of entertainment. But it doesn't seem like games have really hit the mainstream yet - they're still a bit niche, a bit "uncool" in alot of some peoples mind.
Some games do tap into the mainstream (The Sims anyone?) but it is still seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
So, in conclusion... I see a possible bleak outlook for some studios - over the last few years a lot of talented teams have gone the way of the dodo mainly due to financial problems. With what I described above, I'd also be surprised if some of the bigger "super publishers" could hold out to more than a couple of "flops" for next generation titles.
I understand that what I wrote above is one of many possible outlooks, and I really hope I'm wrong - I would rather that these new consoles bring the good times along with them.