Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Game Explanations for Beginners

We live in exciting times. Slate, of all websites, has posted a somewhat accurate criticism of the development process of the game industry. Although I'd point out that people have been saying this for 4 years now, the article is refreshing in that they use hard data to back up the old arguments. Spending 100 million dollars to make a game that, despite being one of the top selling games in history, only produces 300 million in profit is not an acceptable profit margin.

I'm all for game developers adopting the old studio system of 2 week movies, and I along with several others have made this argument. What I find myself criticizing is the final solution of making more games like Portal. Making a brand new, fully functional and fun game design is not easy. Much better, in my opinion, to focus on expansions and DLC. The Lost and the Damned may not be Portal, but you've got a reliable pool of people who already own the game and would be up for more story. Given how many games will be releasing DLC this year, along with numerous indie games, I think we'll be seeing a bit of both models. We live in exciting times.

But enough of all this serious pants nonsense.

Here's something completely different.


NegativeZero said...

I wonder if this sort of thinking isn't behind Microsoft slowly ditching their internal development teams, moving them out to separate entities, and then retaining their services to produce new games. Bungie and Ensemble are both essentially around unchanged after leaving the Microsoft payroll and are still producing games for them (Bungie with the Halo ODST thing, and Robot Entertainment (Ensemble) have been confirmed to be doing new content for Halo Wars). There's also been rumors that the Flight Sim group (ACES) are still around in some capacity and intend to continue working on that franchise. If they spin another of their remaining studios (Lionhead, Rare, Turn10) into an independent as well then that would probably confirm the suspicion.

L.B. Jeffries said...

Fascinating to watch it evolve so quickly, isn't it? Telltale launched their first episodic game a few years ago and are now making a tidy profit both on the individual and entire season sales. At the same time indie games are demonstrating people's love for shorter titles and their willingness to have it exist only on their hard drive. Depending on how all these expansions and new episodes go for Rockstar and Microsoft, they're going to be relying on these for income more and more.

And then the whole thing will start adapting. Games will cease to be released on discs entirely. Companies will make the first four levels of a game, release them, and see if they sell before making more. As they cut down on the costs and risks, more experimenting and innovation will crop up. It's a good time to be into games.