StateCraft: Update

StateCraft: Update
Gaming at the Margins, Part 2

Warren Spector | 28 Mar 2006 12:00
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Ethnicity
Sadly, there's been literally no progress, here, that I can see. The number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others among developers is pitifully low. Given the lack of role models among developers and characters to relate to among our heroes and heroines, it's no surprise we're doing such a poor job of encouraging ethnic diversity.

The Choice
We can just accept that we make games for kids and kids alone (or fool ourselves into thinking that older players will continue to want the same kinds of games they played as kids). In other words, we can allow adolescent male fantasies to dominate as they always have, focusing on skateboarding, urban thuggery, extreme sports, alien invasions, demon-killing and so on. And we can continue to make those adolescent games the way we always have - and just not worry when we burn out people. We can continue to assume women and non-Caucasians just don't count.

Or, we can engage in active outreach to a broader range of developers. We can engage in equally active outreach by making games that are about things older, non-male gamers might actually care about.

The Outcome(s)
Current growth projections and expanding demographics be damned - we're doomed if we continue to focus on our younger male players and on simplistic representations of more adult conflicts (see the deluge of so-called "realistic" wargames in recent years). OK, perhaps not "doomed," literally, but doomed to continued (young) male domination of our industry and of the sales charts.

But we can make a different choice: If we have all these old fart developers lurking about, and we believe the gaming audience is getting older, maybe we could try trusting ourselves and make games we actually want to play.

Maybe we can try listening to the women we work with for a change. If women are playing MMOGs, maybe those of us in the non-MMOG space should be looking a little harder at why they're playing those games and apply those lessons in our work.

Maybe we can ponder the possibilities for new game concepts and styles, and the sales potential in trying to reach the non-Anglo, non-North American audience.

Social/Solitary Activity

The Situation
Unless you've been sleeping under a rock the last decade you know MMOGs have burst on the scene. They no longer loom as a real financial force in our business, they are a financial force.

Just do the math. WoW has something like 6 million subscribers, most of whom are shelling out $15 a month for the privilege of engaging in some moderately interesting social interaction and some relatively simple gameplay.

That's a nice bit of revenue generation.

Even less successful MMOGs represent great business - I mean, we're talking about $180 of revenue per player, per year. Get even 100,000 players, and you're talking $18 million per annum. A lot of people in the single player game space would be pretty happy about that. In fact, I know several people who made the leap from single player to "boutique" MMOGs and they're doing quite well - by not competing either with the big, boxed single player games or with the big MMOG players. Their "narrowcast" MMOGs attract 10,000 people or so, generating enough subscription revenue to keep a team of five people nicely employed.

As a guy who isn't in the MMOG space, I have to tell you, it's awfully tempting to try to find a way to tap into that kind of revenue stream.

The Choice
Well, for starters, I wish more people in this business would recognize that there is a choice. With each passing year, I hear more and more people saying, "Online is the future of gaming" or, "MMOGs are it - single player gaming is dead."

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