June 3rd, 2008
I remember back a few years ago I read an article which talked about Hollywoodisation of the video games industry. The core idea was that as game development budgets rose across all platforms the quality of games would level out and more developers would take less risks in order to survive. This would in turn force developers to create more safe bets breeding a multitude of generic, samey games. Essentially this article forcasted the death for the video game industry.
At the time it definitely sounded realistic. I mean from where we sat we all knew that the cost of development would rise and that it would change the way that the industry operates. Looking at this theory now though it’s clear to see that no such thing exists. On second thoughts its not hard to argue that games are infact less like this now than before.
Balance and What Makes Balance
The idea of Hollywoodisation is very one dimensional, it had no choice but to be that way because back then we could have never predicted how games would evolve into what they are now. With the coming of the latest generation of games we have seen new outlets open up providing users with more selection rather than the idea of the one size fits all format that we have been walking for sometime. These many new evolutions have ensured that we are currently more balanced than ever in turn lowering the burden that Hollywoodisation has on our industry. Lets look at some of these avenues that have helped out industry evolve so much in such a short amount of time.
Digital distribution in its many flavours has become standard among all home consoles offering a selection of smaller, bite sized games. This itself has reshaped the conventional gaming market providing a different marketing mix (less for less) and offering more options for the consumer. Picture this; someone can purchase a Wii and get plenty of enjoyment out of it without ever having to buy hard copy games. This was largely unheard of prior to this latest generation of games.
This variation of retailing has added weight to the other side of the see-saw, it allows people to get cheaper great games with the only discrepancy being of length and graphics. The smaller games provide a testing ground for established and small time developers to experiment with new ideas. Giving greater power to smaller developers and fueling innovation, effectively marginalizing the monopoly of larger developers.
Casual gaming has finally been realized and is now more relevant than ever within the gaming industry. Much like all of these accounted features; casual gaming creates another new market with its own individual needs and wants. The great thing about casual gaming is that it is a variation of play that can be adopted to any format and as such its presence can be felt on every console.
Considering casual gaming’s simple nature and booming user base, this style of gaming works in contrast to that of high production titles creating a much more well rounded industry.
The Wii, Playstation 2, the Portables and Mobile Phones
Hollywoodisation was grounded with the idea that all ‘next gen’ (read this gen) consoles would be made with only the technological aspects in mind. Fortunately that is not exactly the case as seen by a number of key Sony and Microsoft game titles which aren’t driven by graphical power alone (Scene it, Singstar, Echochrome etc.).
Still, even if this were the case there are still multiple avenues for games with a smaller budget such as the forever young Playstation 2, the Wii and, of course the portable consoles. Infact all of these combined make up the dominate portion of current players.
The Playstation 2’s library is still holding up remarkably well and is offering fantastic value or the consumer. The Wii works wonders in multiple ways for multiple markets. It is a similar scenario with the portables as well. The PSP and DS offer players two very different styles of play, extending my point about variety.
Mobile Phones have also come into their own with many higher end phones sporting games equivalent to that in power to the DS. Resulting in a couple of ports actually (Brothers in Arms etc.) Even though the market for mobile phone gaming is still small many big franchises are making the leap such as Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy with new installments exclusive to mobile phones.
Bundles and Packing
In the last few years we have seen game bundling evolving into new areas. Retro compilations have become more apparent, particularly with the Playstation 2, The Orange Box has revolutionized bundling of smaller games, microtransactions allow for additional content and episodic content slices full length games into smaller fractions. Each of these gaming bundles has changed the traditional mindset as to what a game must adhere to.
Traces of Hollywoodisation
Hollywoodisation while not flourishing is not dead either. We are of course seeing many high production games on all fronts, particularly on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 whose user base is more inclined for such games. We are seeing a trend where first person shooters are the new safe bets among the industry and developers are thriving on this new ‘get out of jail free’ card.
I should specify that high production is in no way limited to just these platforms there have been an abundance of high production DS, PSP and Wii games in recent years. What makes these consoles so worth mentioning is that their high production is the highest o all video game production reaching Hollywood levels of production costs.
Hollywoodisation is around, there is no doubt about that. But as long as there are alternatives such as the ones listed then Hollywoodisation will never be like to was forcast to be the end of the industry. Just look at those ideas that I’ve brainstormed, how much has gaming evolved over the last 3 years?