Should Blockbuster Games Drive the Industry?

Should Blockbuster Games Drive the Industry?

With the games industry scattered in so many different directions nowadays, can we still point at one type of game as the industry’s main earner? Activision believes so. And, unsurprisingly, the company believes that the triple-A games that it tends to produce is what keeps the industry going strong.

“The biggest titles in the industry continue to generate a disproportionate percentage of the profits and revenues,” said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg during a conference call in early August. “While the hardware install base continues to grow and show strength, gamers continue to spend more and more time and money with the few must-have games. For these reasons, we feel our strategy continues to be very well aligned with the market opportunity.”

Activision is not quite as gung-ho as its rival, EA, about the mobile and social game markets. Even though the company does quite well in the digital market, most of ts offerings are expansions and add-ons for its biggest retail-based franchises, like Call of Duty. The iOS market is not Activision’s priority, nor is it set to become a big deal in Activision’s game plan given the company’s current good health.

“It is inarguable that more people than ever are choosing immersive, high production value interactive games as their entertainment medium of choice,” Hirshberg said. He added that Activision’s success in the fiscal quarter ending June 30 indicates that the company is “on the right track.”

What Hirshberg forgets, though (or at least neglects to acknowledge) is that what’s good for Activision isn’t necessarily good for the rest of the industry. That is, triple-A releases are a very important part of the industry, and always will be, but even if the market is currently driven by big-name games (an arguable point by itself), we don’t want that to be the case forever. Indies also need to breathe and grow.

One Gamasutra commenter, Christian Keichel made a good comparison between the games industry as Activision imagines it, and the decline of the music industry. “An industry relying on fewer and fewer ‘must-have’ games has to fail,” Keichel wrote. “The games industry should take a look at the music industry, which tried the same [formula] from the 1990s on: [Getting] fewer and fewer mega-Stars [to] sell more and more records. In the end, many music industry representatives thought it could work, U2, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones could generate more then 60% of all revenues. Look at the music industry now to see where it leads.”

Another commenter, Andrew Hernandez, concurred. “My biggest worry is that whole modern combat thing between EA and Activision will just bring about more of the same type of game, even though if you were to do a comparison with various titles then they all relatively look and play the same,” he wrote. “The indie scene really is the only true source of soulful game development which many gamers have flocked to in order to experience something different.

Catherine is a great example of a title that offer[s] something completely different and [is] a major hit for Atlus as opposed to a tile like Shadows of the Damned which had a shooter mechanic tied to it. The reason, at least in my opinion as to poor sales for SOTD was mainly because of this gameplay mechanic.”

The cost that goes into publishing a big-name game like Call of Duty means that publishers want a sure thing, which, in turn, means that big-name releases are no longer a popular platform for experimentation. Again, triple-A games have every right to exist, and all of us love playing a sure thing every so often, but if we relied on these games alone to drive the industry, it would stagnate and suffer.

If you’re into games, find yourself one of those Four Basic Food Group charts, scribble out the foodstuffs, and draw in some basic gaming necessities instead: Big-Name Games, Handheld/Mobile, Social, and Independent. You will be a happier person for your experimentation, and so will the industry.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. Gaming is a great avenue for music, but how easy is it to get your song or music heard or in front of the powers that be? Kids as well as a lot of adults are into the gaming platform, with Xbox,Wii and the many other sources for games, not to mention the 5 billion mobile devices, this would be AWESOME! exposure.
    Are there any governing bodies or compensation legislation in place to protect the content of musicians, or would this be a royalty-free kind of arrangement? I’m very much interested.
    Who am I? The “Silver Conductor” on facebook and:
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