The Hollywoodization of gaming

The Hollywoodization of gaming

Summary: E3, the annual gaming industry conference, was in Los Angeles last week, and many celebrated the coming evolution of gaming from its core target audience (mostly young and male) to a new audience encompassing more age groups and genders. Driving this will be the power provided by the new gaming consoles, which will enable whole new levels of realism in game play.

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TOPICS: CXO
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E3, the annual gaming industry conference, was in Los Angeles last week, and many celebrated the coming evolution of gaming from its core target audience (mostly young and male) to a new audience encompassing more age groups and genders. Driving this will be the power provided by the new gaming consoles, which will enable whole new levels of realism in game play. This could open up whole new markets and turn gaming into an industry which rivals film production. Some game developers fear this "Hollywoodization" of the games industry, however, with its prohibitively high production budgets that could sideline companies with more shallow pockets.

Me, I could care less, though that might be a contrarian leftover of my 4 1/2 years living in Europe. If I had to count on my fingers the number of times I heard a European sniffily claim "Hollywood is incapable of making quality films," I'd be like some multi-tentacled monster from a 50s horror film. The statement became downright rust-colored given the enthusiasm with which those same individuals flocked to the next big budget release out of Hollywood.

People LIKE big budget productions. I don't hear many people complaining about the huge budget George Lucas spent on the final Star Wars installment. "The Incredibles" can't be done on a shoestring. Big budget films offer something people want, and that's clearly shown in the numbers of people who go to see these movies.

The same will apply to big budget video games. That $40 million game of the future might mean that smaller studios can't offer anything comparable, but that doesn't make that $40 million game any less spectacular. If people don't like those high-budget games, people won't buy them. That's unlikely, though, which is why the gaming industry is approaching the arrival of the new game consoles with some trepidation.

Industries change as they mature. Michael Dell might have started his business out of his garage, but don't believe you can do the same thing in 2005. It takes a LOT more money to enter industries with a well-developed market for a product. Gaming has reached that point, and that will involve change.

Small players can still play with the big boys. They just have to be truly innovative and offer something that big brand names, with their profit orientation and the risk aversion that can come from that, can't manage. Lower budget films come out all the time, and pull an audience by offering something different. "28 Days Later," "Shaun of the Dead," and "Blair Witch" all managed that in the film world (my choice of examples probably provides hints as to my film interests). The same will apply in gaming.

Topic: CXO

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

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  • That is probably true...

    But there is a distinction to be drawn. The market you're talking about appears mostly to be the console market. That is an entirely different animal than the PC. Independant developers are pretty rare in console and are going to be even more rare. Most developers for consoles are part of larger corporations like EA, Microsoft, or Sony. Games are going to be more expensive to produce. There is speculation that the price point for most games on the next generation will be up 10 to 15 dollars.

    PC game development doesn't have the same barriers to entry. No massively inflated developer kit prices, etc. Engine liscensing can be great for taking some of the costs out of development, as well, which appears to be more common on the PC. Though I could certainly be wrong. Plus there are cheap ways to put games out like Flash and web and so forth. The PC is pretty much the only place to make it as a small studio without major funding. Well, there is the cell phone too. It seems rediculous to me, but there is money to be made there.

    But back to your point, you're probably right to a point. Console gaming is growing closer to being 'hollywoodized.' However its been like that for a long time. It isn't that new, its only just getting more obvious. And like movies, most of it IS crap.
    Zinoron
  • What about Counter-strike?

    John,

    Remember how big of a budget game half-life was? In the end, people only bought it for counter-strike which did come out of the garage.

    Often times, creativity isn't proportional to budget. There will always be the Michael Dells of the world that will challenge the status quo and rise out of nowhere.
    george_ou