Sometimes I think I am losing it. Stuff is happening that I thought, at one time, would never happen. But, here we are, a bunch of old farts starting to discover video games. Now, understand, when I say old farts, I am referring to people in their fifth, sixth and seventh decade. One has to wonder what that will mean to the future of the gaming industry, much less to the future of civilization. Will Gramps turn into a rapist or a murderer?
But what in the world makes me think, or even believe, that these old farts will indeed get interested in the industry?
Well, for starters, I have taken note of the incredible growth in three basic areas of our world:
One: the monstrous growth of Facebook. Wander through that world anytime of day or night and you will find the most amazing things. An incredible number of those involved are not kids, they are people who seem to miss their childhoods and want to reconnect with others that helped make them whatever the heck they have become. I mean who cares what your grandkids look like, or what they did on their birthdays?But there they are, bragging about it on Facebook.
Two: monstrous growth of YouTube. It is here we get to share our lives through photos and video with about a billion others who really don’t really give a damn about our lives, but we do get to experience our moment of fame, not even 15 minutes worth, even if we look like jackasses, but what the heck.
Three: the amazing growth of the Wii (Reuters reported that 800,000 Wiis were sold over the past Thanksgiving weekend). Now, the preponderance of games sold on this system are those that are sports and exercise related. Sometime, when you want to be amused, count the number of people you know in their fifth, sixth and seventh decade who have purchased a Wii because they want to keep in shape?Huh?It is truly amusing, and even a bit amazing to imagine this world of wrinkles and belly fat attacking a tennis court on the screen. One of my friends actually blew out her elbow trying to slam one back against her opponent. Besides the elbow, the game paddle flew out of her hand and broke crashing against the television.
Many game developers truly believe the future of video games is all about casual, social games that women and grandparents like to play. Frankly, that blows my mind. And after years of trying to convince us that video games will turn us into monsters, some are claiming, “aw, we were just kidding.” Some time ago, during a keynote interview at a Microsoft-hosted event in Mt. View, CA , the so called “King of Content,” Bernie Stolar, while discussing the future of video game development, claimed that hardcore games like Grand Theft Auto will still have a place in the industry, but they will likely be relegated to a dark corner ofthe industry… now that’s a comment to give one pause.
Apparently, games now need to be FUN (as if they aren’t already) in order to be considered mainstream in the future. In addition, they need to be more gender and age directed. Either the old farts are taking over… or, it is possible, this generation grew up on video games and is in the process of changing the industry. This movement has even been given a name, it is referred to as social gaming (whatever the heck that means).Now if that doesn’t excite all the game developers out there, I don’t know what will. For one thing, if true (which I doubt by the way, but my opinion and a buck won’t buy a cup of coffee anymore) it will have expanded the market AND the demographics of the industry. According to Stolar’s remarks:
- Gaming will move away from 18-35 year old men
- Games will be increasingly attractive to females (becoming over 50% of the market)
- And the number of grandparents playing games will increase, though many will be playing their games on Facebook, which now has a gaming platform
Good grief, has the world gone mad?
Even more relevant, because Cloud computing (the monster in the shadows) reduces retail and packaging costs, it increases the lifespan of a game as well as its accessibility. So, developers, better get your heads screwed on right, Gramps and Granny are taking over; you better start to think about what will turn them on – and take my word for it, it’s more than mediocre party games and sports simulators. Those things are great, but even we elder generations like to be told a good story or experience a grand adventure now and then. Just try to make them a little less insipid and adolescent and you’ll see us flock to the Best Buy.
Frankly, as I said earlier, I doubt this will come to pass in the near term, but by gosh, it would be great if it did. For one thing it will cause people, including lawyers from Florida, to learn a great deal more about video games before blaming them for turning our kids into murderers, thieves and rapists. Sure is fun to grow old!
Pretty much on the money, my man. If you take into consideration:
* Popcap games and their monumental success with “casual” games
* Facebook and their monumental success with games that may be also casual but are in many cases social (I mean, my wife just screamed at me for spending most opf the weekend playing Dissidia and Batman AA, but she plays games on Facebook)
* Wii whose monumental success indeed managed to push the so called hardcore into a corner where they are barely visible
* iPhone and App Store that sell small, quick, simple fixes of gaming at very low prices
it is then quite obvious that the industry is coming to terms with the fact that everyone will eventually play, you just have to offer something interesting enough. And much as I love my GTA games, even I understand how it might be many times more attractive to a young, hungry developer to look at Zuma, Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies, do the math and pick the latter.
If you add to this the current flavour of the month (well, summer really) among the big ones: MOTION CONTROLLED interractive experiences (Natal and Sony’s Wand) you can bet your sweet ass that more and more development capacity even among the big publishers will be directed towards “casual” gaming, whatever that might be. Just look at EA: they now have a division (well, a department at least) that makes iPhone games at the rate of one per month. They are also making more than 50% of their income on the Wii. You can say what you want about John Riccitiello but the man is not afraid to shake things up and is sensitive towards industry trends.
Sure, I am a bit afraid that our beloved “hardcore” games will vanish due to this trend, or at least will be all but lost in the avalanche of “casual” titles – you can already tell how even the “hardcore” titles are being casualised whatwith the stuff like recharging health, idiot-proof waypointing, smart checkpoints etc. – but I hope that there will always be a niche catering to the people really devoted to gaming and not seeing it as just a quick pastime.
A part of me is very excited about all this. Being an “old-school PC gamer,” most of the casual stuff doesn’t appeal to me. But being a “gaming enthusiast” I’m always happy to see me people discover gaming. So knowing that even my game hating mom may soon be playing games with her friends on facebook is kind of a good thing.
I’m not really worried about losing the hardcore games either. Hell, I was playing these same hardcore games long before gaming became so popular, and I was able to get them because people were making them, despite the lack of mass appeal.
Even if most of the major gaming companies gave up on their big games and went to the casual market, I’m confident enough people will still want the heavy stuff, and the market will continue to exist.
After all, some of us were playing X-com and Baulders Gate long before gaming was hip, and despite the relatively small gaming market back then, people were still making those games. I think people will continue to make such games.
Then again I’ve yet to see a good modern version of X-Com…