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Evolution of the Video Game Industry
Evolution of the Video Game Industry
While I won’t be covering the entire history of video gaming as the title suggests, I do want to bring to your attention several trends that will define the current and next generation of video games.
As the video game industry continues to outpace the movie industry, you can expect that more and more massive worldwide releases of games. The hype surrounding some of these big titles like Half-life 2, GTA: San Andreas, and Halo 2 is unlike anything I’m used to seeing. There is so much money at stake in a video game release that nowadays it’s common for a release date to be delayed while a publisher develops localized versions of their games. Each of the aforementioned games will be released simultaneously across the world. Satellite offices around the world have been working hard to translate games from their native language for sale abroad. All of this extra work ultimately translates into higher prices. You can expect games to go up in price simply because of extra money going into marketing and translation.
The latest fad for video games has been in-game advertising. While inherently distasteful, this can help to defray some of the costs incurred with mass marketing. You can expect that future games will include an increasing amount of advertisements targeted to its projected audience.
Just like a ’director’s cut’, an increasing amount of new games are released in a special ’collector’s edition’. These are usually packaged on a single DVD disc as opposed to 4-6 CDs. Additional content is usually squeezed onto the disc like ’the making of’ the game, historical background (if any), and a slew of added bonuses like T-shirts and posters. While this may excite you, consider that these collector’s editions are really just cash cows for the developer and publisher. You can expect to pay an additional $20 per game for these ’added features’. This drives the price of games into the $70-$80 range quite easily. I personally don’t like the idea. I just want the game I don’t need all that extra crap and I certainly don’t want to spend more just to support an industry that is already bloated with fat cats.
Purchasing Games via Downloads
Industry experts are excited to find out how well Half-life 2 does with its completely digital content streaming though their Steam network. Consumers can now purchase Half-life 2 before its release and download the entire game (albeit encrypted) to their hard drives. Once the game hits retail stores, users will be able to unlock the encrypted content and play immediately! That’s right: no more CDs, no more manuals, and no more serial numbers. While this seems like an attractive option it does mean several things. First, the price will inevitably be higher. Second, you will indeed have more access to bonus material like a ’collector’s edition.’ Third, you will run into trouble if you ever need to format your hard drive (because you don’t have the CDs, you’ll have to download several gigs of information again). I’m kind of on the fence on this one. I’ve looked over Steam’s policies and something about it doesn’t jive with me. I’d love to start downloading Half-life 2 right now, but I would prefer to pay for something physical like CDs and manuals. Who knows how it will work out? Just wait and see.
Pushing the limits of Reality
All right, this is getting a bit philosophical but it’s been bugging me for a while. What’s going to happen when video games are so realistic that there’s no more point in having them? The whole reason why an entire generation of video game players is so enthusiastic is because it still leaves room for the imagination. Graphics are getting so good these days there’s often nothing left for you to imagine. With games like the Sims, where you simulate life, it begs the question: why on earth anyone would want to do exactly what you can do in real life? The only company to realize this growing concern is Nintendo. With the announcement of their ’Revolution’ system for the next generation of consoles, the Japanese game developer has stated many times that the customers are no longer interested in better technology. It’s worked in the past with systems like Sony’s Playstation. But these days, customers are getting used to superb, hyper-realistic graphics. It is high time to re-examine what exactly video games should be like. Nintendo is boasting that its next system will revolutionize the way people view and play video games. Now, I have no idea what they have in the works, but I’m curious to find out.
The Rise of European Developers
Europe has often lagged behind in technology and programming. However, over the last five years a certain set of Russian, Czech, and Ukrainian programmers have been gaining ground on their American counterparts. Many quality games have come out of the old eastern-bloc countries. They often have unique features that reflect a unique emphasis on quality coding and open dialogue with their fans. As these new gaming companies learn and grow, you can expect an increasing amount of great games made outside of America and Japan.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games are here to stay. As bigger, bolder, and sometimes frightening new concepts emerge, you can expect MMORPGs to drive a lot of the PC games coming out over the next few years. The question is whether or not the economy can support expensive subscription services, and whether the broadband network can sustain the growing bandwidth demands of these games.