Open source can juice the video game market

What shocks video game mavens is something we have known here for some time. Opening old code leads to new interest.

Video games, as a market, have always made the Mac look open. Closed platforms are the rule. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is considered a mandate.

But the good times are no longer rolling. Sales plunged in April, for both hardware and software.

There is a second trend. Gamers continue to get older, more reflective. My own son is 18, has played all his life, but now finds himself drawn to "ancient" games, games made in the 20th century. He has even messed around a bit with scripting.

Could open source be the answer? The Humble Indie Bundle, having hit its financial target with the strange idea that people should pay for games what they want, is fulfilling its promise to release the code, under the GPL. (Here's the code repository.)

(One of the games being released is Penumbra: Overture (above, right) along with its HPL Engine.

What shocks video game mavens is something we have known here for some time. Opening old code leads to new interest. People add tweaks, first to improve their own game play, and pretty soon you have communities dedicated, not to game play tips but to the code itself.

Writes developer Jeff Rosen:

Within hours of releasing the source code to Lugaru as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, people are already creating patches to help out! Remember how we mentioned that the Windows project wasn't working yet? 'bash' got it working within a few hours: you can check it out here. Similarly, 'King_InuYasha' and 'losinggeneration' created a CMake system and set up a Google Code page. There were other improvements, including repaired PNG files, system libraries on Linux, and dynamically linked libraries on Windows.

Energy that was previously wasted trying to break Digital Rights Management (DRM) is now going into making games better, he adds.

Isn't that the basic idea?

While I don't expect any hot new games go open source any time soon (Betty White won't be hacking her Wii Fit) the open source process can bring new life to old games, and turn veteran gamers into developers, without really costing the industry any money at all.

Just think of it as open source in action.


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