In order to discuss the gaming industry, it is necessary to have a gauge on the current state of the gaming industry. In the troubled economic times our country faces, many have called the gaming industry “recession-proof”.
The economic crisis is one of the largest issues facing modern gaming, forcing all games to be published through major publishing companies and allowing less opportunity for more independent publishers to distribute their games on a major scale. Many independent publishers have to use small-scale publishing methods like XNA, which allows creators to upload games onto the XBOX Live Arcade.
Currently, Nintendo is the leading console-maker, with the Wii being one of the most sought-after Christmas gifts of the past three holiday seasons. Going into 2009, Microsoft had a commanding lead over Sony (second and third place, respectively). This was attributed to not only Microsoft’s year-long head-start on Sony but also the PS3’s high price tag.
In August of 2009, Sony made a game-changing move and dropped the PS3’s price tag to be more competitive with Microsoft’s price for the XBOX 360. While the 2009 Holiday sales figures are not finalized, many estimate that the XBOX 360 may have been outsold by both the Wii and the PS3. (It is worth noting that even with strong holiday sales numbers, the XBOX 360 will still be at second place for overall systems sold).
The handheld market is still largely under Nintendo’s control, thanks in no small part to disappointing sales for Sony’s PSP Go. Portable gaming is still a very popular field, especially in the pre-teen market. Surprisingly, there has recently been an increase in female interest in the portable market (and in the gaming industry in general).
One of the most noticeable trends in the gaming industry over the past few years is the lack of distinct, new, original IPs (Intellectual Properties). Many games that come up are simply a copy of another game, or more often than not, a follow-up to a previous best-seller. In this economic climate, this really isn’t much of a surprise.
Companies are much less likely to develop games based on untested formulae because of the inherent risk in introducing new gameplay. It’s much safer to take a guaranteed hit (like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) and develop a sequel that incorporates the positive qualities of the first game and make minor adjustments and tweaks. There are few companies taking risks and developing new IPs nowadays. A notable example is Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet.
We game in a society of sequels. Certainly, games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Metal Gear Solid 4, Resident Evil 5, and Left 4 Dead 2 are great titles, but they do not introduce gamers to new gameplay mechanisms, challenges, or ideas. Many gamers find themselves frustrated by the lack of new, distinct games to add to their catalogue of familiar faces, so to speak.
This is a small glimpse of the gaming industry at large. We are nearing the end of the current (7th) generation of gaming consoles. There is no clear idea of what the future holds for gaming. Will companies continue to rely on the same titles for good sales numbers or will we see more companies take risks after the success of independent games like LittleBigPlanet ? Will the current pyramid of console sales remain solid, or will Sony and Microsoft’s ventures into motion-controllers allow the runners-up to gain some ground on Nintendo? The questions about the current and future states of the gaming industry are infinite.
These are the questions which this writer will seek to answer.