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DavidRM

Computer Games: Horizontal or Vertical?

7 posts in this topic

In general, I think what we're seeing is a slow shift from a vertical product to a more horizontal one. Video games are much more horz than they were in the 80s; my guess is that in the future, they will be as horizontal as music CDs or VHS tapes.

But... does this shift from vert to horz product enhance or stifle creativity? That is, are we going to see more creative titles in the future, when everyone has a game machine, or are the masses going to force game developers to cater only to the lowest common denominator?

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios
www.spin-studios.com

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Actually I think a lot of games in the 80s were very horizontal. Centipede, Asteroids, Pac Man, Pong, Breakout, and others had a profound draw to people who didnt like computer-y things at all.

Currently I see the trends as "hardcore games" being totaly verticle, like the FPS and RTS genre (for the most part).

I think a "lower common demonitor" may actually round games out more. Most people like characters and story, not just bigger guns. Wouldnt hurt a lot of the games out currently.

-Geoff

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I definitely think that the current trend in games is towards the vertical, primarily due to what seems to me to be a focus right now on having the hottest looking game, relying heavily on 3D acceleration.

I think that more and more companies are trying to cater to the hardcore gamer, because they know that's a proven market. Instead, they should be looking at the titles in the industry that have been proven horizontal products, like Myst (return of Adventure games, anyone?)

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I tend to think that most games were intended to be horizontal to the entire market of computer owners. That computer owners represented a rather vertical market up until about 3-5 years ago is beside the point.

Games targetted at the "hard core gamer" and his high-end PC (that he keeps as close to the cutting edge as possible) are vertical...for about the first 3-6 months. After that, the game is no longer "the latest thing" and most "casual gamer" hardware has caught up with it. So that game becomes, more or less, horizontal in its appeal.

Even if a computer game is considered truly vertical (that is, doesn't change orientation due to changes in technology available), could it then reasonably expect to charge more? Or is it forced to charge *less* because it cannot compete with the more horizontal offerings?

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DavidRM
Samu Games

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I don't see vertical market games going cheaper in comparison with horizontal titles; if anything, they'd get more expensive.

Niche market games (like all entertainment) can always charge *more* than average, because they don't have as much competition as mainstream titles.

Charging less, however, doesn't make business sense - if you lower cost you must raise volume... and you can't really raise volume with a niche market.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios
www.spin-studios.com

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Geoff:

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Actually I think a lot of games in the 80s were very horizontal. Centipede, Asteroids, Pac Man, Pong, Breakout, and others had a profound draw to people who didnt like computer-y things at all.
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I was talking about computer games. I think the # of people playing arcade games has been pretty much constant since the 80s... but in two decades, computer games have gone from a very obscure hoddy to a very BIG horizontal industry, and I see no reason why that trend won't continue, as more and more people get wired.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios
www.spin-studios.com

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Surely, like the film and music industries that we're so often compared to, there are a multitude of games each with a different market strategy. You have your EA sport sims, especially those around world cup 98 or euro 96, that we're marketed in the horizontal direction of every footie fan in England. This dragged in very soft core games who would buy anything with a football association. The same could be said of the latest barrage of Star Wars games. Mass marketed at a gaming arena not necessarily interested in games but certainly interested in the Episode One hype.
Then there's the basic genres of game, first person shooters, real time strategy's, flight sims, driving games, management games.
Games which, mostly, have no licenses and are there (hopefully) for the niche market's the genre definers such as C&C and wolfenstein created. These are more you vertical style of games, appealling to avid, perhaps hardcore, gamers, who love a particular style and buy the best of the genre.
Like films, you have your big budget players, who pump an inordinate amount of money into a single product knowing it will sell due to it's sequal value or it's having a license attached to it. There are smaller software houses who appeal to a niche market and have the occasional hit, allowing them to expand and appeal to a more horizontal group. As well as the dying breed of bedroom coders who write games that will only appeal to the hard core gamers due to it's lack of flashy graphics and shiny packaging.
I doubt you'll find that the percentages have changed over the last ten years of horizontal to vertical games produced, merely the size of the overall market that it appeals to. Being that there is a computer or console in the houses of almost everybody I know and a playstation comes a close second to cable tv here in England, the market is expanding with Moore's law. But so are developement costs and the entry level quality (denoted by look, not gameplay) of a game.
So in general, I think the games market has it's own brands of vertical and horizontally marketed games but the market itself is shifting towards a more horizontal percentage of the population.
Taking into account that we're talking in the first world...not developing country's...but I hear they're airlifting DreamCast in Ethiopia and Bosnia...so soon we'll have a truly global market.
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Someboby brought this up en passant in another forum, but I wanted to discuss it more.

Are computer games, in general, a "horizontal" or "vertical" product? By horizontal I mean they are marketed towards the "masses." While a vertical push would be towards a particular, narrowly defined segment of said "masses."

Since computer games require a computer (or a console), they are already a segment of humanity, but I don't think that alone causes them to qualify as a vertical market. PCs and consoles are proliferating, and the game developers consider all such people their market. So this would mean that the games have to be considered horizontal.

I have more to say, but I'm not writing an article here...I'm trying to start a discussion. =)

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DavidRM
Samu Games

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