In a speech throwing down the gauntlet, Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, said the games industry will soon supplant movies and television as the preferred mode of home consumer entertainment.
"Given a choice between the passive experience of watching TV and playing video games with the family in the living room, increasingly people are choosing games," said Lowenstein, whose trade association represents the video and computer game companies that account for 90 percent of the game industry's $6.1 billion software revenues in 1999.
"Games are emerging as the dominant form of entertainment because they are personal and immersive," Lowenstein said.
The speech, which preceded the first day's events at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, comes on the heels of another study done for the games industry by the Washington, D.C.-based Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc., which found 145 million Americans -- about 60 percent of those 6 and older -- play some form of interactive entertainment.
Many more of those are adults, Lowenstein said. "When the game industry started (28 years ago), the kids that played those games are now in their thirties and forties," he said. On average, the typical gamer today is 28 years old, and 43 percent are female.
While many of those players might be clicking away at Solitaire, the game industry still sees the numbers as a hopeful sign in its fight to dominate home entertainment. Lowenstein compared the current estimates of $6.1 billion for software sales at retail and another half-billion for online revenues with the movie industry's $7.5 billion take at the box office.
"We have not surpassed box office sales yet," Lowenstein said. "If they would stop raising prices while we lower ours, maybe it would happen sooner."
However, the numbers quoted by the trade association fail to include several other sources of revenue for the movie industry, including movie rentals and purchases of video and DVD films.
Lowenstein also dodged the violent-games bullet, suggesting that media fuss over a supposed connection between violent games and real-life violence had been played out.
"Last year, the story for the press was easy: 'Let's write about violent video games,'" he said. "This year, that's an old and overdone story."
Last year's E3 occurred weeks after the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado, which left 15 dead. The two teenage shooters had been avid players of the games "Doom" and "Quake."