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Game Developers Becoming Similar To Hollywood Studios? 171

CNet is running an article that looks at the growing parallels between the major movie studios and some of the most successful game publishers, which have gradually turned into the juggernauts of the industry as they've absorbed a variety of smaller developers in recent years. "If we consider Hollywood — the model to which the video game industry is always compared — it doesn't take long before we realize that it's dominated by a handful of studios that effectively control a large percentage of the industry, while the independent studios are left trying to defy the percentages and get their innovative and artistic films to the masses. Since most fail, it's the big studios that enjoy profits as the independents try to find some way to stay alive." Gamasutra has a related piece suggesting the opposite trend: "Smaller, less expensive games made by smaller, more agile teams seem like a very logical step, now that the industry structure is better able to support it, with no less than three venues on which to distribute content as a small team. These are downloadable console, direct to consumer PC downloads via Steam-like services, portals, or direct sale, and iPhone and potentially DSi downloads."
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Game Developers Becoming Similar To Hollywood Studios?

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  • don't forget.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by SwedMiro ( 1494175 ) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @06:37AM (#27103451)
    the marketing! I know I will be cursed, booed, spit on and generally carried out on a rail after being dipped in oil and feathers, but i work in marketing. The need for large entities in the business will still be there since marketing costs a lot of money. Sure you can self-publish a game but it will almost certainly drown in the flood of games that are released. A bad game with marketing will almost always outsell a good one with no marketing. The almost part will always be the luck factor.
    • by sowth ( 748135 )

      I think marketers are "cursed, booed, spit on..." because they take a bad product and make it look good. People buy said product, take it home and use it, find out it is a piece of crap, then curse, boo, spit on the marketers. :-)

      It is a bit like the shyster lawyers who take clients who don't have a real case, yet win it and bankrupt some poor innocent person. Use your powers for good, not evil.

      More on topic, I think video games have become "Hollywoodized." Most go strictly by formulas now. FPS, RTS, RP

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        At least our computers aren't locked down like the consoles (yet), so anyone has an opportunity to make their own games...

        But the TVs are locked down. The vast majority of people who play games on a monitor big enough for four people to fit around do so on a console, not a TV. Even though PCs can easily handle four gamepads through a USB hub, they don't because end users don't want to buy a separate PC for the TV room or a separate TV for the PC room. Nor are they willing to buy $50 scan converters from, say, SewellDirect.com to convert high-definition (768p RGB) signals from a PC into standard-definition (480i composite) sign

    • by Znork ( 31774 )

      marketing costs a lot of money.

      You mistake cause and effect. Marketing costs a lot of money because the large entities (try to) make it necessary.

      drown in the flood of games that are released.

      Drown in the flood of marketing by the large entities, you mean.

      A bad game with marketing will almost always outsell a good one with no marketing.

      I'm sure you're right, and that's one of the more severely damaging aspects of copyright. In a free market system with interchangeable goods there's a limit to the value of m

      • by pjt33 ( 739471 )

        Remove marketing and the only way people are going to hear about games is word of mouth. That's fine until you remove copyright as well, at which point the same people who tell you about it can also give you a free copy. Then the only way there's any profit in games is making them either heavily DRMed or thin clients dependent on a server to play.

        • by Znork ( 31774 )

          Remove marketing and the only way people are going to hear about games is word of mouth.

          I've always suspected all those gaming mags were just huge paid-for-ads...

          No, seriously, and apologies for being snide, but the games industry is one of the least dependent on word of mouth. Reviews and recommendations highly sought after by consumers. Combine it with web 2.0 and you have all the marketing channels you need, but more tailored towards people finding what people want instead of telling them what you (or a

      • Re:don't forget.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @09:51AM (#27104121) Journal

        marketing costs a lot of money.

        You mistake cause and effect. Marketing costs a lot of money because the large entities (try to) make it necessary.

        It's actually in every big media's interest to make marketing as affordable as possible, since they pour multiple billions into marketing each year. Your saying that the interests of Big Advertising can somehow outweigh the interests of Big Movie, Big Music, Big Game, Big just about anything else? Perhaps marketing costs so much because it works so well.

        drown in the flood of games that are released.

        Drown in the flood of marketing by the large entities, you mean.

        Small games can easily slip under the marketing flood. The real problem is that under the marketing flood, there's a flood of flash games, indie games, open source project games, etc, all equally vying for your attention, with no effective method of marketing or spreading via word of mouth. I think the OP meant what he said.

        A bad game with marketing will almost always outsell a good one with no marketing.

        I'm sure you're right, and that's one of the more severely damaging aspects of copyright. In a free market system with interchangeable goods there's a limit to the value of marketing; make too much and your product becomes too expensive and people buy the competition. In a monopoly system with low product fungibility the limit is simply where lost sales are not lost to competition but to unaffordability, that limit is much higher.

        There are two things wrong with that argument. Firstly, there is competition in copyright systems. You can buy (or, in some cases, get legitimately for free) other products from the competitors, but you just can't get an identical product. It just means that if you want that exact work, you have to take the distribution method with it. That's all.

        Secondly, see my sig. If you want competition of distribution models over the same artwork, then the creator is not going to get any money, assuming the free market works (which it does in most cases). Consumers will typically go for the cheapest distribution. The artist not making any money, will typically result in him finding something else to spend his time on, something that puts food on his table. He simply can't compete with file-sharers.

        You think that lack of competition is bad with copyright, you should see it without copyright.

        It's an effect that's noticable in every monopoly protected sector, from pharmaceuticals to music; more money gets spent on marketing than on the actual product.

        And what about non-monopoly protected sectors? I'm pretty sure that Coca-Cola spends considerably more on advertising than it does in production, or research into new formulas, etc. It's not a monopoly, yet it still "suffers" from the same problem. It happens with most large businesses, monopoly or not.

        Which is rather tragic, as it means we're getting less of what we, as a society, actually want, in exchange for more of what we don't want.

        Look, nothing is stopping you from searching from behind the advertising. Advertising doesn't actually make other goods harder to get, it just promotes them into the forefront of what most people will compare when they decide to make a purchase.

        I think you're blowing this all way out of proportion. There aren't mind-controlling waves emanating from advertising. If you don't look beyond advertising, it means either you're lazy, you're stupid, or you're happy enough as it is buying from whatever advertisers serve to you. If the first applies to you, it's your own damn fault. If the second applies to you, then getting rid of advertising won't help you. If the third applies to you, then you're not complaining. What's your problem?

        • by Znork ( 31774 )

          Your saying that the interests of Big Advertising can somehow outweigh

          Not at all. I'm saying advertising is very effective, but most effective when you have more and better than others who are advertising.

          Perhaps marketing costs so much because it works so well.

          It costs so much because others advertising works so well. And vice versa. It essentially becomes a self-sustaining increasing spiral.

          Firstly, there is competition in copyright systems.

          Read up on the concept of monopolistic competition. The broadest

      • A bad game with marketing will almost always outsell a good one with no marketing.

        I'm sure you're right, and that's one of the more severely damaging aspects of copyright. In a free market system with interchangeable goods there's a limit to the value of marketing; make too much and your product becomes too expensive and people buy the competition.

        Perhaps I'm missing the point you're trying to make, but if there was no copyright protection then the "free market" would result in the cheapest price being charged by duplicators who give nothing back to the creators.

        There are certainly flaws with copyright as it stands at present, and in many ways it's gone too far. However, the basic reasoning behind it is sound- ironically for the reason that many Slashdotters give when saying copying such goods isn't "theft".

        Because, for most intellectual works, t

        • by Znork ( 31774 )

          Perhaps I'm missing the point you're trying to make

          Sort of. I'm objecting to the particular implementation that increases the value of marketing to the disadvantage of the incentive to the creators.

          then you're going to have to come up with a workable alternative.

          Usually I advocate the easiest option; an end-point levy on revenue similar to what's done with radio, but over all end-sales of material. Ie, put a 25-75% 'sales tax' on books, music, games, etc, and hand that money directly to creators and artists

      • (Additional; I should have replied to this above)

        It's an effect that's noticable in every monopoly protected sector, from pharmaceuticals to music; more money gets spent on marketing than on the actual product.

        Much as I dislike some of the workings of the pharmaceutical industry, most such drugs would not have been developed without some sort of patent, since they're dependent on expensive development and *more expensive* testing, approval, etc.

        One might argue that they were the wrong approach anyway; medicalising issues because that's where the money was.

        I would accept that this is true in some cases, but not all- and since you didn't mention this, I don't bel

        • by Znork ( 31774 )

          (Additional; I should have replied to this above)

          Ah, missed this :)

          Your problem is that you effectively argue for abolition of copyright and patents

          Well, no, and I should perhaps been more clear about that, but this was more regarding marketing as it pertains to monopoly protected sectors.

          I'm arguing for the abolition of the _monopoly_ aspect of copyright and patents, to be replaced with a _revenue right_ aspect for such materials.

          It's the monopoly aspect that is responsible for close to every problem with

    • Mouse Trap. (Score:2, Insightful)

      I like to point out to engineers who have the attitude that if you build a better mouse trap, the World will beat a path to your door, how will the World know about your mousetrap?

      Marketing baby!

    • marketing is accessible for small entities thanks to internet.

  • I was comparing the two more than a decade ago, and discussing it with friends who agreed. The parallels are, dare I suggest it, obvious.

  • Or does the author of the submission assume that game developer = game publisher?

  • Mark Masnick, On Staying Happy [techdirt.com]:

    Incumbent short-sighted players have been able to hinder and harm progress, but they can't keep it down completely. That culture of improvement can't be stopped entirely.

    [...] often [...] the innovators of yesterday seek to stop the innovators of tomorrow, but the march of innovation hasn't been stopped yet.

  • Wait, sorry, was I supposed to answer the headline or read the submission?

  • I don't think those two articles are really pointing out opposite trends at all. The CNet article claims the market at large is consolidating into fewer major studios, and the Gamasutra article claims new opportunities for independent studios. These conditions can exist concurrently and in fact do now exist in the movie industry. The majority of the film market is produced by major studios but film-making is still becoming increasingly attractive for independents.

    The diffence is that in the movie industry,
  • Yes, both think more of themselves than the should, the love sequels and remakes and hate innovation and thought in their stories.
  • by EWAdams ( 953502 ) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @08:22AM (#27103747) Homepage

    Hollywood can sell the same content six times (cinema, pay-per-view, pay cable, free cable, terrestrial broadcast, DVD -- not to mention airline sales, overseas licensing, etc.). Videogames only run on the machine(s) they're made for.

    Movies can continue to be shown for decades. With a tiny number of exceptions, a game is dead meat within a year.

    Movies have star power. The general public doesn't care who made the game.

    Filmmaking is very nearly turnkey if it doesn't require special effects. Every game is a unique piece of software engineering.

    A big film is 3 hours tops. A big game is 40-50 hours. That's a lot more content.

    The economics of the two are very different, and the production models can never be the same.

    • by VinylRecords ( 1292374 ) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @08:50AM (#27103867)

      Movies have star power. The general public doesn't care who made the game.

      Whoah whoah whoah...I think we all remember when John Romero was going to "make us his bitch!" with Daikatana.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daikatana#Controversy [wikipedia.org]

      Suck It Down /.

      • Whoah whoah whoah...I think we all remember when John Romero was going to "make us his bitch!" with Daikatana.

        My take on it. [coolinc.info] (I showed it to Romero, he thought it was funny.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jesperhh ( 1364637 )

      Movies have star power. The general public doesn't care who made the game.

      One word: Blizzard

      • Brad Pitt!

        This is fun! OK, now I'll name one, and you match it with another big name in the Games Industry.

        Angelina Jolie! ...

        *crickets*

        • by tepples ( 727027 )
          Want names? Nobuo Uematsu (to meet your John Williams). Shigeru Miyamoto. Masahiro Sakurai. David Crane. Gabe Newell. The entire staff of Id at one point. Activision before Bruce Davis used to feature the name of the lead on games' box art: see River Raid by Carol Shaw [mobygames.com].
    • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Saturday March 07, 2009 @09:05AM (#27103919) Homepage

      Movies have star power. The general public doesn't care who made the game.

      Most people don't care which studios make a movie either. Games have stars just the same as movies. Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Lara Croft, etc., they're all stars as well as characters that fall in from other media -- Star Wars comes to mind. Similarly they have behind-the-scenes "stars" as well, instead of well-known directors there are well-known game designers who add a cachet to their productions (Will Wright, Sid Meier, etc.).

    • Hollywood can sell the same content six times (cinema, pay-per-view, pay cable, free cable, terrestrial broadcast, DVD -- not to mention airline sales, overseas licensing, etc.). Videogames only run on the machine(s) they're made for.

      You haven't been on the online marketplaces lately huh?
      Seems like every time I show up at my buddy's house he's playing a 15 year old game on his 1 year old Wii.

      Movies can continue to be shown for decades. With a tiny number of exceptions, a game is dead meat within a year.

      Only a tiny fraction of 1% of movies are in theatre for longer than two months.
      How long has WoW been sold?

      Movies have star power. The general public doesn't care who made the game.

      Games have star power. Star voice actors, their likeness, and Spore sold mostly based on the big name of the man who made the Sims.

      Filmmaking is very nearly turnkey if it doesn't require special effects. Every game is a unique piece of software engineering.

      Reusing the same engine and concept is a videogame tradition.

      A big film is 3 hours tops. A big game is 40-50 hours. That's a lot more content.

      You haven't been looking at the bonus material, huh?

      The economics of the two are very different, and the production models can never be the same.

      T

      • You're carefully choosing what appear to be exceptions but aren't on closer examination. You're just being argumentative.

        Your buddy's 15-year-old game had to be rewritten for the Wii. The director, actors, editors, etc. have to do NOTHING to take a movie to another medium. Yeah, you can use a emulator -- but how many real people, i.e. Wal-Mart shoppers, use emulators?

        When a movie leaves a cinema, then its REAL economic life begins. When a game leaves the shops, it's done. And don't even think of comparing W

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Yosho ( 135835 )

          Your buddy's 15-year-old game had to be rewritten for the Wii. The director, actors, editors, etc. have to do NOTHING to take a movie to another medium. Yeah, you can use a emulator -- but how many real people, i.e. Wal-Mart shoppers, use emulators?

          Just thought I'd point out that, no, it wasn't rewritten. All those games on the Wii's Virtual Console are running in emulators. Do you honestly think they would go through and rewrite every single one of those games, even going so far as to reproduce the original glitches? You can also buy & download games for the original Xbox and Playstation over Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, too. If those Wal-mart shoppers have a current-gen system and have bought downloadable games, then yes, they're u

          • He didn't say what 15-year-old game he was talking about. Fine -- there are emulators on the Wii. It doesn't change the basic point that the game industry's economics and the movie industry's economics are not remotely like each other.

            When it takes as much money to make a big game as a big movie, and that game earns for the next 50 years, then they'll start to have something in common.

        • Your buddy's 15-year-old game had to be rewritten for the Wii.

          No it did not http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Console_emulator [wikipedia.org] You clearly have no clue what you're talking about.

          The director, actors, editors, etc. have to do NOTHING to take a movie to another medium.

          Wrong again http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remaster [wikipedia.org]

          Do you pay to see the same movie monthly (jokes about the Friday the 13th series aside)? No, you don't.

          Cable movie channels.

          Does a movie have to be tested for months by dozens of people to make sure it works

          Yes it does: Focus groups.

          40-50 hours of bonus material with a movie? Not in any cinema I've been to. When I buy a game, that's what comes IN the game.

          The bonus material are on the DVD you buy, you imbecile.

    • All your points are wrong.

      Game publishers can also resell the same game many times. I bought some games from retail stores, some from online distribution, I got some packaged with hardware, some with magazines, I even got a few with cereal boxes!

      I regularly play games which are 5 to 25 years old. I bought several games from GoG. There are still a lot of people playing pac-man. Anyway, there is only a handful of movie which can be shown for decades.

      I don't care that much about stars in a movie. What will dra

  • Given that one of the largest studios in the industry, Activision Blizzard is owned by Vivendi Universal (one of the largest media companies on earth and, last I checked, owner of Universal Studios, one of the largest film production/distribution companies on earth)

    Also, we have Sony who seem to have their fingers in media of all sorts (including games) AND the devices to play it back on.

    EA arent a film studio (FMVs for Red Alert 3 not withstanding) but they act just like one.

    • Given that one of the largest studios in the industry, Activision Blizzard is owned by Vivendi Universal (one of the largest media companies on earth and, last I checked, owner of Universal Studios, one of the largest film production/distribution companies on earth)

      Vivendi sold an 80 percent stake in Universal Studios to General Electric's NBC in 2004 but kept Universal Music Group.

  • developers != publishers

    publishers are 9 times out of 10 owned by larger media conglomerates.

    the few who aren't, have abandoned the art.

    • developers != publishers

      Came here to say that, but in defense of their confusion: most publishers also do in-house developing.

      Still, publisher is not a synonym for developer!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the same as any other big business.

    Automotive started with 100's of small companies 1890-1910. Soon there was a handful. Then just 'Three', then a global handful. Soon to be a few again.

    Game development takes a lot of resources over an extended time to produce content. Somewhere that cash has to be available to fund those resources.

    So most games will be produced by large production houses; who will be in constant consolidation.

    (On the star-comment, look at the Lara Croft series.. reversed direction of s

    • If a lot of small developers re-use open code for most of the heavy lifting

      The geek sees everything as code.

      Rapture must first be imagined before it can be built. The "heavy lifting" has nothing to do with how to animate water.

      It has to do what role water will play in the game.

      That is why the underworld of Grim Fandango seems more real and compelling than the generic fantasy lands of the high tech shooter or RPG.

  • by burris ( 122191 )

    Game publishers are becoming just like the movie studios.... except aren't the movie studios supposed to be dinosaurs from a bygone age, their empires being slowly chipped away as they fail to adapt to the new reality of cheap distribution, mainly because they dare not slight the theaters or WalMart? Does this mean the age of epic scale games with budgets in the tens of millions is coming to a close as indie developers buck the system by distributing their own games while pirates sap the publishers remai

  • Everyone interested in indie games should sign up to computer graphics world [cgw.com] and Game Developer mag [gdmag.com]. They give away subscriptions if you're a developer. You know, basically anyone who fills out their form. Their online articles are decent too.

    One of the best features of Game Developer is the postmortem, the what went right, what went wrong. Fascinating stuff about the industry for an indie publisher or an outsider to read.

    The Indie Games [igf.com] show off some of the best out there.

    While there are some very good i

  • The main article was about business model convergence. When I go to computer graphics conference like SIGGRAPH the two technology appear to borrow more of each other's ideas. The movie animation house are leverage the cheap and ubiquitous gamer hardware, i.e. GPUs. The gamers are employing more visual and story arts in solidifying their products.

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