157: The Crystal Ball

The Crystal Ball

"'The future of gaming'? Crap! Don't you need to be an analyst to have enough balls to write about the future of the medium? Either way, I gathered myself and wrote back that I'd do it, knowing full well that ingrained into my DNA is the easily called-upon, opinionated, stubborn Irish ego that would enable me to make bold predictions about a subject dear to my heart. Without further ado, I give you the death pool."

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I thoroughly enjoyed the article. Good read, and good points. Well done, Hal.

Excellent article, I can't fault any of your hypotheses. Quite like the lay out too, after I discovered that you didn't necessarily always agree with the title, before I discovered that, I was ready to flame you for the "Digital distribution will soon kill packaged goods." title.

Stuff I disagree with:

"Games will be respected soon because gamers will grow up and become politicians."

I think it might happen, but only if games reach people differently, if they're less stuff for teenagers.
However, as an entertainment medium, it's a very hard task.
But politicians aren't afraid of showing at sports games, so who knows? Obviously, you find the old bias against games where you sit, so there's a filthy aspect to it.
It's only by making pompous barely playable art, as a branch of intervactive video pleasures and leisure of some kind, that I think the whole industry will be looked at differently.

"The anonymity of the web and online gaming in general empowers hate-mongers, bigots and delinquents."

All depends what you mean by personnality. There's the hidden one, which you can't let go in society, and the mask. So yes, it does empower hate-mongers, bigots and delinquents, because they can become what they are without as much restrictions as they face in real life.

"Gamers in the future will be even more hardcore and willing to wear the label."

People who like music may not label themselves as audiophiles, but many like to wear the label of artists and bands. This happens a lot when a form of pressure has people think they need to openly fight it.
Video games being an ugly monster and a formidable scapegoat at the same time, it's a perfect bath to have people proudly claim their gamer attitude. It won't have the same impact when, well if games become usual.
From there, gamers might wear the names of the companies which shock audiences with their products, or did so in the past, like Rockstar, id Software or Running With Scissors, to detach themselves from the crows of gamers they might even secretly despise.

"The publishing landscape won't change. Developers will be stuck as second-class citizens in forced deference to publishers."

Not to be a contrarian throughout the column, but I respectfully disagree. I think that we're heading for far more consolidation, in both the publishing and development communities. I'd go so far as to say that we'll be three major publishers less by this time next year.

Some cannibalized by bigger publishers to become stronger? The lesser they are, the stronger the survivors. They grow in power faster than they adapt their positions.
The banding of developpers is a process that barely takes off, notably because there are so many philosophies around. Where are those formidable entities devs coalesce into?
It will take some major move to get the vergence start. Devs have to be brought into a state of mind where they would not fear, nor be ashamed to adhere to a group with a "labour force" sticker on the front, because that's basically what it boils down to. Devs live or die by one game, publishers have entire catalogues at hand. They keep gaining power, therefore they remain the more apt to finance projects, thus they earn most of revenues or eat studios.

Only more faire funding projects, or governmental credits and start to slowly dent that machine.

I give you the amazing success of web email as an example. Why pay AOL every month when Google gives it to you free?

Not everybody works under the Goodle dominion that said.
It sounds like there is a contradiction between that claim and your earlier prophetized publishers' power reduction.

Nicely written article. I liked the points you made even when I did not fully agree.

I think this is one of the best articles I've read in this magazine.

It's interesting that Mr. Halpin suggest gaming publishing will enter into a "Big Three" phase. It's sort of like the TV industry in reverse.

I wonder about the content and price points. Creating massive content has been largely the realm of the more expensive games; Oblivion, GTA, many of the MMORPGs. If content is king, won't prices reflect that?

I hope that digital distribution doesn't overtake physical copy sales.

Like a lot of people, I like having something that I can hold, something I feel like I own; a game box, a CD case. Something I can show and lend to my friends; something with artwork and a manual (even if manuals these days are about as interesting as a big business handbook).

With digital distribution also comes the problem of DRM. Microsoft, well, isn't doing such a good job with it. We need much better DRM policies if digital distribution is going to take off anytime soon.

zoozilla:
I hope that digital distribution doesn't overtake physical copy sales.

Like a lot of people, I like having something that I can hold, something I feel like I own; a game box, a CD case. Something I can show and lend to my friends; something with artwork and a manual (even if manuals these days are about as interesting as a big business handbook).

Odd how much weight gets put into symbols. To a record or video game company, that disc is literally just that, a symbol. You have precisely as much right or control of the content on it as you would if you had downloaded it. Like Santa Claus and Organic food, that value just seems self-created or a product of sub-culture.

I know there are still a ton of online speed and hard drive issues, but I personally think we'll be streaming the games from a supercomputer controlled by the console company in 5 or so years. Flash 3-D engines are already able to play the original Half-Life decently. If Moore's law keeps going at this rate, it might even be sooner than Halpin predicts. The only thing holding it back will be...us.

Mmh, games get bigger, and I don't see my internet connection inflate accordingly.
Consumption is also a lot about sudden envy, and classic retail enables that. Planning a download and waiting hours, well, this could seriously become more and more important, but it won't destroy the other system in its entirety.
Besides, you have a whole generation of people, even younger, who do like to own a physical copy of their products. When you download an illegal version, you don't really care. It's not the same when you pay for it, you like to entertain the birthday/christmas present aura.

That's why having the classic retail come to me with systems such as Amazon (just an example) makes my life easier and the joy is relatively the same.

After all, I'm also a lazy at times, and I do want to have a physical support, and I don't to bother burning my games on noname discs after I'd have been downloading them for days.

Arbre:
Mmh, games get bigger, and I don't see my internet connection inflate accordingly.
Consumption is also a lot about sudden envy, and classic retail enables that. Planning a download and waiting hours, well, this could seriously become more and more important, but it won't destroy the other system in its entirety.
Besides, you have a whole generation of people, even younger, who do like to own a physical copy of their products. When you download an illegal version, you don't really care. It's not the same when you pay for it, you like to entertain the birthday/christmas present aura.

Yeah, I definitely don't see it going away anytime soon. But I don't mean download, I mean stream. Like you turn on the T.V., pick a channel (owned by the larger entity), and pick the game. Then you start playing. Single-player, multi...the whole shebang, click of a button. Base the whole thing on a subscription and advertising model.

Then again, we have that with H.B.O. on demand, Netflix online, and people still like to pay for the DVD's. Perhaps your point will hold but it'll go the way of vinyl and people will prefer hard copy games because they "play" better?

I mostly agree with you, however :

"Games will be respected soon because gamers will grow up and become politicians."

Ahaa no. There is a difference between being a gamer and playing games. while it is LIKELY (55%) that a politician who plays/played games will exist, they will not be a gamer.

"And as for developers, they'll likely continue to coalesce into more formidable entities with more business savvy than ever."

This is being optimistic. It also requires developers to grow some balls, and say no to selling out completely. It will be slow, and in the ideal state, the publisher will merely take the finished game, and distrubute it and provide advertising.

Another way it could go is that the indie scene will dwindle due to people being not brave enough to join it, and publishers will take away more from the developers at every cycle.

I for one would like it to be the first catagory, but I'm not sure on what will happen.

I think the distinction between "gamer" and person who's played a vidoegame is very real. Also, I think that most of the gaming stigma are attached to shooters over bloody shooters. So, while old ladies may not like Madden, they don't claim it will cause street crime either.
As for politicians leaving gaming alone...I strongly doubt it. Just like drinking, porn, gambling, cursing, gun use/ownership, and other issues will continue to be devisive socially; so will games, movies, and music containing aspects of these issues be targeted politically. Really I'm fine with it. Just like I don't want Burger King to get away with selling spoiled meat, or Ford to be allowed to sell cars that explode in wrecks (despite what ones sees in every action movie), I think some periodic pressure on the gaming industry can keep the focus on more entertaining and discourage a race to make the bloodiest, goriest, more revolting games...opps too late.

Too touch on "content". I just find that Bethesda's Oblivion was an interesting case. This was what I'd consider a pretty poor game. I good sand box of tools but broken in a couple ways. Still they get the $45 dollars out of me after a couple months because I knew that user mods could make the experience play well. Bethesda's happy they sold a game. I'm happy, I did enjoy the game once it was fixed....but something still feels very wrong. Players fixing the game won't work on consoles, but with Fallout III by Bethesda coming out this fall I'm wondering if this will be a new trend. I'll still buy it, someone will still fix the problems - and maybe that's all that matters.

Interesting predictions there! I would like to se more article from industry big-wig's.

 

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