DigitalTrends’ Scott Steinberg is trying his best to be provocative today, releasing the first part of a video documentary entitled “Video Games Are Dead.”
Of course, they’re not. The online video is a clip reel of talking heads — analysts Michael Pachter and Jesse Divnich, Epic President Mike Capps, Wired GameLife editor Chris Kohler, among others — jockeying for the best sound bite on why video games could be, but mostly aren’t, headed for disaster.
It’s familiar ground to industry watchers. There’s too much risk and not enough innovation, the interviewees say; publishers got too ambitious, but they’re still making money; developers aren’t getting paid properly, but that’s changing; the dedicated gaming console will be replaced by cloud gaming, or gaming through cable, or it won’t be replaced at all.
What the documentary leaves us with is a lot of ideas, but no big picture. I have a feeling Steinberg and his crew will try to tie it all together as the documentary continues, but I’ll take a stab at it now:
Video games will stick around even if the industry crumbles. By sheer coincidence, I got a press release today from Nielsen Games stating that console gaming increased by 21 percent in June, compared to June 2008, even as sales figures took a historic dive. For this entire year, it seems gaming is bigger than ever.
But we are starting to see a shift. The time is quickly approaching when development costs escalate beyond viability. This was foretold by veterans like Greg Costikyan, whose four year-old essay “Death to the Games Industry, Long Live Games” inspired my headline. That’s why every console maker is shooting for the 10-year cycle, backed by new peripherals with games that are cheap to make and fun to play. In this economy, there’s not too much room for blockbusters to thrive.
This isn’t a gloomy scenario, though. It’s actually a good thing, because we’re seeing a resurgence of smaller-scale downloadable games that are just as enjoyable as their big, boxed counterparts, with less overhead. Shadow Complex, a downloadable Xbox 360 game due out next week, is being marketed as such.
The future of the games industry is too sprawling a topic to cover with sound bites (or with a short-form blog post, for that matter), but am I worried that my favorite pastime will die? No.