Saturday, October 01, 2005

death to the games industry

Greg Costikyan has written an insiders critique of the games industry: Death to the Games Industry: Long Live Games

Main points (part 1)
  • Development costs have risen from $200,000 in 1992 to $5 million minimum today
  • 3D art effects have become more important (and more expensive) than good game play
  • Successful games today require the expensive 3D effects
  • Games stores have fewer titles than record or book stores, there is little scope in games production to cater for niche markets
  • Game sales are up because those who played games as teenagers and still like them are getting older - 35 yo is current demarcation point and rising
  • But the cost to produce more successful games (driven exponentially by Moores law, doubles every 18 months) is rising much faster than the expanding market (7 - 10% increase per year)
  • There are only four stable publishers in the field - EA, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo - the big guys are squeezing out the small guys
  • The big guys are conservative, reluctant to spend millions on a new innovative game
  • The Sims, an innovative game, was only published because it had Will Wright's name associated with it
  • "An industry that was once the most innovative and exciting artistic field on the planet has become a morass of drudgery and imitation" (Scratchware Manifesto)
Part 2 is here where he explains his alternative business model - Blow up the Retailer, Marketing is the Problem, Re-Engineering the Customer, The Old Farts and the Young Turks.
In comics, film, and music, there is an audience that has what you might call "the indie aesthetic." They prize individual vision over production values. They believe they are hip and cool because they like indie stuff. They like quirkiness and niche appeal. And they are passionate about the things they like.

We need to establish the same aesthetic in gaming. And while that's hard, it's also pushing at an open door - the meme exists in other media, so why not in games? In other words, some of the marketing you need to do is the conventional stuff - advertising and promotion. But the more important task is getting the meme out there.

Greg has resigned his position at Nokia, he blogged about that here

He has set up a new company, Manifesto Games, with the slogan:
"PC Gamers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your retail chains!"


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