You're Wrong

You're Wrong
We Are Not Mainstream

Ronald Meeus | 10 Aug 2010 12:33
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Another example? What about the sales of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, last year, with the box-office success of James Cameron's Avatar. Modern Warfare 2 made a whopping $ 1 billion in sales, while Avatar grossed $2.73 billion. Divide this by the average unit price of respectively $60 and $7.95 (which is conservative, considering many saw the film in 3D), and you have 343 million people who have watched the movie, while only around 17 million people have played the game.

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One of the main reasons why movies are considered a mainstream medium is that the public has relatively inexpensive access to them. That's not the case with games. You have to buy a console or a gaming-worthy PC in order to run them, and then you have to cough up $40 to $70 for the game itself. The high unit price implies larger revenues, so there's a certain irony to the videogame industry's claims, mostly backed by total revenue numbers, that videogames have become mainstream. The industry still thrives on a small number of gamers who pay large sums of money to cultivate their hobby.

Because here's another thing that industry experts all agree on: casual gamers don't buy games. Not many, at least. They buy one game, maybe two or three, and keep playing them over and over again. Casual game publishers aim for the so-called "evergreen" effect (they can be popular years after their release and always make money), while all the hype concerns their hardcore counterparts. Casual players don't go for thrills; their games are time wasters and snack experiences. They sink into their Sims characters for hours at a time, compulsively play Tetris or Bejeweled, or step on their Wii Fit balance board. It doesn't have a purpose. They're not after posting PlayStation Trophies or their Xbox Gamerscore on their Facebook account for everyone to see. They just grab something to keep them busy when they're bored.

So what does that make core gamers? People with an expensive hobby, nothing else. Try raking up a conversation at a party about Grand Theft Auto IV and its wry commentary on the American Dream, or how much BioShock 2's finale sucked. One, maximum two, people will know what the hell you're talking about. Bring up Avatar, and you'll find much more proof of recognition. Gaming culture has little to no resonance in mainstream culture, and the very numbers that are used to claim gaming's mainstream breakthrough prove it. We're still considered freaks, who cough up hundreds of dollars annually to make digital puppets on a screen fight each other. Maybe they're right. Maybe we are freaks.

The important question is: why should we care? I like being part of something that isn't mainstream. And I never really bought that "everybody games" spiel in the first place.

Ronald Meeus is a freelance writer residing in a small town near Brussels, Belgium. He can be reached at ronald.meeus@skynet.be

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