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Businesses The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

Game Companies Face Hard Economic Choices 511

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that the proliferation of free or low-cost games on the Web and for phones limits how high the major game publishers can set prices, so makers are sometimes unable to charge enough to cover the cost of producing titles. The cost of making a game for the previous generation of machines was about $10 million, not including marketing. The cost of a game for the latest consoles is over twice that — $25 million is typical, and it can be much more. Reggie Fils-Aime, chief marketing officer for Nintendo of America, says publishers of games for its Wii console need to sell one million units of a game to turn a profit, but the majority of games, analysts said, sell no more than 150,000 copies. Developers would like to raise prices to cover development costs, but Mike McGarvey, former chief executive of Eidos and now an executive with OnLive, says that consumers have been looking at console games and saying, 'This is too expensive and there are too many choices.' Since makers cannot charge enough or sell enough games to cover the cost of producing most titles, video game makers have to hope for a blockbuster. 'The model as it exists is dying,' says McGarvey." As we discussed recently, OnLive is trying to change that by moving a big portion of the hardware requirements to the cloud. Of course, many doubt that such a task can be accomplished in a way that doesn't severely degrade gameplay, but it now appears that Sony is working on something similar as well.
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Game Companies Face Hard Economic Choices

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  • by theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:40AM (#27398649) Homepage Journal

    am i missing something, or is the answer to this 'crisis' painfully obvious to everyone?

    stop making these huge, expensive games.
    go back to making small, experimental fun games.

    it seems so simple.

    every game should be a new experience, or at least bring something new to the table. adding a few more polygons, and some better shading algorithms does not make a game more fun.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:03AM (#27398759)

      stop making these huge, expensive games.
      go back to making small, experimental fun games.

      it seems so simple.

      I agree, you'd think that with the new controller and the lower graphical capabilities, game devs would have thought "well, all we can do with this is make something new and innovative, rather than doing the same thing we did last year with prettier graphics. Spend less money, but put a little more thought into it."

      Most instead went with the tactic of "Lets put out games we already made for older systems with only the control scheme changed.

      When we run out of old games, we'll just

      1. slap something together in 2 hours that will hardly be playable
      2. come up with a silly title like 'ninjabread man' []
      3. ??? maybe hope that enough people will accidentally buy our game instead of another game that...
      4. Profit"

      It's not like there's a shortage of good ideas for games on the wii, I honestly don't know why game makers are so resistant to new ideas when their current strategies aren't working.

      • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@gmail.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:28AM (#27398873)

        I agree, you'd think that with the new controller and the lower graphical capabilities, game devs would have thought "well, all we can do with this is make something new and innovative, rather than doing the same thing we did last year with prettier graphics. Spend less money, but put a little more thought into it."

        I'm sure any dev with half a braincell did.

        The people making the decision, however...

        • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:40AM (#27400109) Journal

          It's he same dilemma that faces Hollywood.

          Yes they could develop small well-written movies, but they want to reach every idiot in the world, so they dumb-down the plot and boost-up the special defects. The game business has evolved into that same deadend. (sigh). Gaming was so much better in the 1980s when the graphics were primitive, therefore it forced programmers to focus on the fun. We got all kinds of off-the-wall ideas. Same with Hollywood, where you will find better movies in the "experimental" era of the 1920s and 30s.

        • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @10:25AM (#27401729) Journal

          Well, as a fan of the FPS genre how about this: how about we turn down the bling and turn up the fun? Hell, I was just playing Riddick:EFBB and thought to myself "you know, we really don't need graphics any better for this style of game. The characters and environments look good and are immersive, and yet it still runs good on older hardware." yet we still see games going for the uber bling, that automatically cuts a good chunk of the machines out there right out of your customer base, while most importantly not adding a damned thing to your game.

          Let's face it: Deus Ex? FUN. Serious Sam? fun. SoF I&II? fun. These new games are heavyweights on the bling and flyweights on the fun. The AI is crap, the controls usually suck, they are buggy, you get stuck on crap you shouldn't get stuck on, where is the fun? I would be happy to take 2003 era graphics for a no retarded AI, maybe add some Deus Ex "I get to decide how I want to play this" action or some SoF GHOUL "shoot the gun out of the guys hand" or some Red Faction "if I have a fricking rocket launcher I can make my OWN doors, dammit!" but instead we get pisspoor AI, lousy collision detection, cover that either doesn't work when it should or works like an invisible shield,etc. A lot of the new "A list" titles frankly stink. The last 2 I was able to enjoy was FEAR and Bioshock, and while they worked good, they were both still able to play fine on my 5 year old PC. The others like Far Cry 2? Just not fun IMHO.

          If game designers want to know why their expensive as hell games ain't selling, let me count the ways. Too damned high in a dead economy, too much DRM that makes the pirate version safer than the real one(as a PC repairman I have seen what SecuROM+Starforce+Safedisc installed together on one PC can do, and it ain't pretty) and spending WAY too damned many resources on graphical bling bling while spending zero on AI or fun factor. Look, I ain't expecting rocket scientists here. But when your "elite mercs" don't notice the HUGE PILE OF BODIES that once were their buds and just keep tiptoeing through the tulips? Kinda throws the suspension of disbelief. Same thing when I am staring the guy eye to eye from 30 yards of flat ground in broad daylight and he don't even have enough sense to open up on me or duck when he buddy gets dropped.

          So if you ask me why games ain't selling like they used to I would say it is a combo of high price+lack of fun. In this economy I ain't buying a game that the reviews say "looks good, but game play sucks" for $50+, and sadly that is pretty much copypasta from most of the new games I've seen reviewed lately. Maybe when it ends up in the bargain bin like the Sof:Payback I got for $5. But in this economy we just ain't spending $50 for bling bling that is about as much fun as the DMV.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I'm a fan of strategy games rather than FPS (I'm too slow and nervous to handle mobs jumping out of the woodwork at me), and I still play Pharaoh/Cleopatra (even Caesar II on occasion). The graphics are SVGA at best, but for a bird's eye view of a city, who needs more? The gameplay continues to fascinate after a decade.

            The Civilization series is much the same, though Civ IV certainly has lots of "teh shiny"--but they also added some interesting extra factors (religion, better diplomacy) and cleaned up some

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) *

        The Wii market isn't actually as big as it appears. In reality, it's quite possibly smaller than the 360 and PS3 markets.

        Nintendo did a great job of selling the Wii to non-gamers. They've got a huge installed base out there now and should, in theory, have the kind of market dominance that the PS2 enjoyed last time around. But they don't.

        See, the flip side of selling consoles to non-gamers is that they are... well... non-gamers. If you look at the weekly games sales charts, the only Wii games that really mak

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

          The NPD numbers showed pretty good sales on cross platform titles for the Wii, significantly outperforming the PS3 and about even with the 360 despite usually getting inferior versions. Yes, the Wii doesn't sell twice as many as the 360 as a pure core console would do with the userbase differences but it's also inaccurate to act like nothing ever sells on the Wii. A part of that is that obviously since the expanded market only came on board when they were given new kinds of games they're not going to buy th

          • Thanks for the link.

            For quite some time I was alone who had only very little time to play games and consequently my game library (mainly DS now, many PC games, some Wii ones too) was generally made of games which I can pick play for 15-30 minutes, save progress and move on to home chores/whatever. (e.g. try to find console game which can match 15s load time of Doom3 (that's from double click on desktop's icon to actual game play) and 5s (at any moment of game!) needed to save progress and quit game.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by yanos ( 633109 )
          I'm not sure you are right. Sure, you won't find games for non-gamers on the monthly top ten, but that's just because of the more traditional market reaction to new releases. You got quite a lot of people that "can't wait" for your game to come out. Then it's released, those guys rush to the store and buy the game. Good sales the first week or two, then it's stalling to an halt. The casual market is different. You can have a game that sell averagely, but chances are that it would sell that way for months. B
        • No Validity (Score:3, Informative)

          by Millennium ( 2451 )

          It's amazing how someone can say so much and yet get so much wrong.

          The Wii market isn't actually as big as it appears. In reality, it's quite possibly smaller than the 360 and PS3 markets.

          Wrong. Your desperate fanboy mewlings fail to take into account any semblance of reality, as I will explain below.

          Nintendo did a great job of selling the Wii to non-gamers. They've got a huge installed base out there now and should, in theory, have the kind of market dominance that the PS2 enjoyed last time around.

          Actually, they shouldn't. Neither their installed base nor their market share is the same as the PS2's at any point in its lifetime. While the 360 and PS3 continue to founder and fail, they have managed to keep enough of the marketshare that the Wii doesn't even have 50%, while the PS2 had well over 65% of the market by the end.


    • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:31AM (#27398891)

      I am not a expert on the process of game development, but it is possible that what you propose would actually be *more* expensive. If the games companies can reuse their research, graphics libraries and game engine software and use it to produce a multitude of similar games that presumably saves money. If they have to re-design, re-draw and re-engineer every title they produce I would think that would be the more expensive option.

      How many sequels to the final fantasy series have their been now?

      • by jimicus ( 737525 )

        If they produce every title with graphics, sound effects and music taking full advantage of the console you're probably right.

        Looking at it, the problem seems to be that games studios have set themselves an impossible task - make every game look and sound better than the last. But games have reached a point where achieving this is becoming ever more expensive and the economics are such that producing a console title for mainstream sale which doesn't look like complete arse next to all the others in the sho

    • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:43AM (#27398945)

      It's the Hollywood blockbuster syndrome. Everyone spends a ton of money on big name titles, and the majority of them lose money or barely break even. A tiny number actually do make money, so people keep trying.

      • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:59AM (#27399041) Homepage
        I thought it was more along the lines of:
        1) Woo venture capitalists for funding for a huge, AAA game. Talk lots about the AAA games that make money.
        2) Pay yourself and your friends sh*tloads of money because you're awesomesauce producers working on producing a AAA game.
        3a) Spend all your venture capital on (2), and on flying yourself and friends around the world to industry expos.
        3b) Set crazy deadlines because only 1/3 of your capital is going towards the actual development of the game.
        4) Step back, let the company fold, and leave with your 3 years' worth of executive salary. Blame everyone else for the game's failure.

        I'm still trying to figure out whether 3a or 4 is the '???'.
    • That's assuming those small games would make a profit.
      Do you have any backup that such small games would sell well enough to turn a profit. (Other than "I like small fun games, so they must sell well !")

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes. No more Fable, Fallout, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil. Who needs big, epic games you can dive into for dozens of hours. Tower defense, world of goo and dwarf fortress should be enough for everybody.
      • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:17AM (#27399449)
        You know, ChronoTrigger on the SNES had a budget probably 1% of Final Fantasy 12, and yet has just (or more) as epic story and gameplay that you can lose yourself into for many dozens of hours. Gameplay and quality storelines don't require massive budgets for CGI, and inexpensive games don't need to be simple fluff.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CronoCloud ( 590650 )

          I just thought of something. In 1995, Chrono Trigger was the pinnacle of 2D RPG technology. It had a HUGE team working on it. It wasn't some kind of garage game but was meant to be a technological and graphical tour de force for the SNES in the same way FFXII was to the PS2.

    • by junglee_iitk ( 651040 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:32AM (#27399213)

      What I don't understand is capitalism!

      When 25 Million dollar games are not turning profits, then either:
      1) Pay less to developers and artists
      2) Make less expensive games

      To me, (1) makes most sense. Isn't that how capitalism supposed to work?

    • And didn't Valve already show that one solution was to charge less for games []?

    • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xest ( 935314 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:37AM (#27399555)

      If you are going to make a huge expensive game, make it worth buying.

      The problem is this, there's a lot of games out there with massive budgets that are simply crap.

      I'm not really sure the complaint in the article is exactly. They seem to be effectively complaining that the market doesn't reward games that have had a massive budget but are still crap? Well isn't that just the way business is? if you spend a fortune developing something that no one wants then you fail?

      There's a reason we've always had certain studios come back time and time again with new releases - id Software, Blizzard, Square Enix etc. It's because they produce good games people want, even if they do spend a fortune developing them.

      I don't see how it's a crisis that market forces affect the games industry like they affect everyone else exactly? What are they saying? That we should have to be more open to funding shite we don't actually want?

      Expanding on your point - the key is to make games fun and that people want, whether it's a high budget or low budget production. What consumers wont tolerate are games that aren't fun even if companies have spent $25 million on them - that's their problem. Huge, expensive games are still perfectly valid and I'd certainly be sad if we didn't get anymore Call of Dutys, Gears of Wars, Half-Lifes and that sort of thing, but they still require the fun factor than smaller games require too.

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:38AM (#27399565) Journal

      Well, there is one problem there: everybody also competes with older games at bargain bin prices.

      There was a time when that was a lot less of a problem, since Doom II looked like crap compared to Quake (and games based on the Quake engine), and then when you had Quake II games the old Quake I started to look like crap by comparison. Nowadays improvements are a lot more incremental. I've even played some ~10 year old games recently and while you can tell a difference, they're not exactly visually offensive either.

      Gameplay has also been OK for quite a while now. It's been a long time since we had too little RAM for anything too complex, so you can go quite a bit back in time with your gaming before you run into problems.

      Basically what I'm saying is this:

      A) I could buy a new cutesy mini-game for casual players for 20 bucks or so. Like, say, Build-A-Lot, which I actually bought recently. Except it feels like there's a whole game missing around it. The complexity and difficulty are about right for one of the dozens of minigames in a $60 RPG, so I don't think I got much of a bargain with it.

      B) I could get Fallout I, Fallout II _and_ Fallout Tactics on a DVD for around the same price. Seriously.

      C) I could get a 1 to 3 year old game for the same price. E.g., The Sims 2 costs about that much by now, and it's actually a better value for casual gamers. (Though if you're a l33t FPS-er, you might not necessarily like it.) E.g., Settlers 6 is actually almost half that by now. E.g., Warcraft III including the expansion pack is also about 20 bucks by now. Slightly more money gets you Civ IV with all expansion packs. Etc.

      So I think there's a finite niche for simple cutesy games.

      Of course, that might not apply if you can come up with a radically new game concept that everyone just has to play. But that's a bit harder than it sounds. Designers which managed to come up with a whole new concept are very few and far in between, and even they rarely manage to repeat that. It's hardly a model for staying in business for the rest of your life, is it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msormune ( 808119 )

      Yeah, if it is so simple then why aren't small experimental games more popular?

      Here's the answer: It's not simple, it's really hard. Everyone thinks they can make a new Tetris if they just put some effort into it.

      Another problem is of course piracy: World of Goo was great, had no DRM and is pretty darn fun and experimental. It still had 90% piracy rate. Guess why? Because a 100 meg game is just too damn easy to download illegally. Not so with a full DVD release.

  • Only make good games.

    I could easily predict what titles will only sell a few hundred thousand copies just by reading design proposals.
    Where can I sign up to be paid for this cost cutting service?

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:50AM (#27398687)


      Reggie Fils-Aime, chief marketing officer for Nintendo of America, says publishers of games for its Wii console need to sell one million units of a game to turn a profit, but the majority of games, analysts said, sell no more than 150,000 copies.

      That's because the majority of wii games are shit that SHOULDN'T turn a profit. Why people aren't changing that I don't know. It seems to me that if you put out a crappy game for the wii and it sells crappy, that might tell you something.

      (Hint: put out a good game for the wii for good sales)

      • by dword ( 735428 )
        Of course they don't make profits! Those pesky pirates keep cracking their DRM and distributing the games online for free... If it wasn't for them, every single game would become a best-seller and hundreds of millions of people would buy it instantly, because all the games that cost around 25 mil must be really good! It's one of the basic principles of economics: if you want something good, you have to pay the price, so, if we put in a lot of money in a game, it's pretty clear that the more money we push in
        • Crappy shovelware games do not cost $10m to produce, therefore they only have to sell a small number to break even, I think this $10m figure is in reference to higher-production value "AAA" titles and if you follow the Hollywood model for that you want one smash hit out of four!
  • $25 million? (Score:5, Informative)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:44AM (#27398669) Journal

    It takes $25 million to take the exact same game, shine it up a bit and put a new cover on it and expect people to shell out $60 for it?

    Maybe spend some of that on coming up with something new.

    • No kidding. No wonder games with such a production budget needs to sell a million copies to break even. On the other hand, I picked up Chicken Shoot for the Wii a few months back. It's not exactly the best game out there, but I can guarantee that the production budget for that game was way less than $25 million (I'd peg it at $50k at most) and the game certainly doesn't need to sell a million copies to break even.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:50AM (#27398693)
    When I worked at Atari/Infogrames, it was all about convergence with the Hollywood business model. Everyone was running around spending money like a Hollywood mogul. Takes only a few flops (*cough* Enter The Matrix *cough*) to send your business model into the crapper.
  • Already proven model (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:53AM (#27398705) Journal

    As we discussed recently, OnLive is trying to change that by moving a big portion of the hardware requirements to the cloud. Of course, many doubt that such a task can be accomplished in a way that doesn't severely degrade gameplay, but it now appears that Sony is working on something similar as well.

    This model is already proven in the case of my Win Mobile phone []. See, IE mobile takes suck to whole new levels. There's Opera, which does much better, but is still slow as sin, even with a dual-core 400 Mhz ARM chip powering the unit. It honestly feels like Navigator 4 back on my Windows 95 Pentium 90 way back when...

    Enter Sky Fire []. They have a Linux rendering farm of (get this!) instances of the Mozilla rendering engine that pre-render websites for you, and you download the rendered result, much like Google Maps - in square sections, ajaxy-style.

    It's fast enough for me to watch YT and Hulu video meaningfully if I'm connected via a decent Wifi. Now, it's not FPS games, but if it's good enough for a video, it's probably good enough for pre-rendering and/or AI computation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by B1oodAnge1 ( 1485419 )

      I would be hesitant to equate rendering and serving web pages and running and streaming a game like Crysis or Call of Duty.

      Not to mention the terrific problem that network latency is going to be.

      I, and many other gamers like me, can easily tell the difference between the response times of wired and wireless mice, and they think that they can run my commands back to their servers fast enough?

      I frankly don't think it's possible other than maybe in the huge metropolitan areas where 100meg fiber is available.

    • by skrolle2 ( 844387 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:55AM (#27399013)

      Now, it's not FPS games, but if it's good enough for a video, it's probably good enough for pre-rendering and/or AI computation.

      No, no, no. A video stream can be efficiently encoded because you can look at multiple frames when doing your compression. For a game that is rendered in real-time, you have to encode frame by frame. OnLive claims 30fps, so each frame you wait introduces 33ms lag, which is unacceptable given that you already will have lag from the game server being remote. You have to get the total lag below 150-100ms, otherwise it's really noticeable, and discerning gamers will probably react badly to lag above 50ms. Good luck getting those rates over the internet.

      But the video part isn't that big a problem, I could imagine they have solved that, and there's plenty of custom video compression hardware. What doesn't exist though is custom graphics hardware that can be virtualized, and you need graphics hardware for the games they announced, you absolutely cannot CPU-render it.

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:55AM (#27398711)

    It's true that the cost of game development is significant, and growing all the time. The answer isn't to flail desperately at the latest fad or wow potential customers with marketspeak, though. Here are a few suggestions:

    1) Focus on quality instead of marketing hype. If a project isn't coming together, it's better to cut your losses than to shove a piece of garbage out the door and lose the confidence of your customers.

    2) Develop your code with reuseability and extensibility in mind. Never accept quick hacks or shoddy workmanship. It never pays off in the long run. Also: quick hacks for funding milestones = long-term disaster.

    3) Don't work your employees insane hours at crunch-time. You'll just lose the best ones after the project is over. Treat them with respect, pay them decently, and give them a stake in the financial success of the company.

    4) Invest in internal tool and systems development. It's a longer-term payoff, but high-quality internal tools allow a small team to do what otherwise requires a small army to accomplish.

    5) Betting on safe and sure things is a surefire road to stagnation and failure. You can't be afraid to shake up the status-quo and innovate. There's nothing wrong with sequels per se, as fans of your first are likely expecting a second (I'm working on one now), but you can't just remake the same game and expect everyone to buy it a second time.

    Pretty boring list, huh? But I'd bet 9 out of 10 companies probably don't really follow this advice. It's sort of like advice on how to lose weight: eat healthy and exercise regularly. Stupid and simple, but it's just to tempting to take the easy road.

    The game development company I work for seems to be adhering to these principles pretty well, and is hiring developers while other companies in the area are laying employees off. We'll see if it pays off in the long run.

    • But I'd bet 9 out of 10 companies probably don't really follow this advice.

      I'm really at a loss as to why that is too. Since you actually work in the industry, could you give any educated guesses as to why specifically they don't? I mean, those all seem like issues every company runs into from time to time, but they usually seem to learn from it. Not the case with game developers. Maybe that's just flawed perception on my part and most companies of all flavors continually try to take the cheap way out?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drsquare ( 530038 )

      1) Focus on quality instead of marketing hype. If a project isn't coming together, it's better to cut your losses than to shove a piece of garbage out the door and lose the confidence of your customers.

      Shoving a piece of garbage out the door can make the money which keeps the company in business. If the money's running out and you have a choice between releasing and patching later, or closing down, then only an idiot would choose the latter option.

      3) Don't work your employees insane hours at crunch-time. Yo

  • Return to 1993 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @02:57AM (#27398719) Homepage Journal

    Best game I ever played was X-com UFO defense, circa 1993. It featured 320x240 (256 color) VGA graphics and mono sound. I don't know how many people were on the development team or what the budget was, but I'll bet it's not a lot.

    Gameplay is everything. None of the $25 million-budget modern games can touch the X-com in game quality and sheer fun IMO.

    But I guess console games today do cost tens of millions of dollars to develop... if cheap iphone games are putting the big studios out of business, I don't mind. Lots of little guys putting out lots of little games = more chances for a true gem to come out, as opposed to fewer megaexpensive titles by a handful of big companies.

    BTW X-com would probably work just fine on a iphone, which has twice the screen resolution of the original game (!)

    • Hear hear. I still play, mainly, the 90's era games. Ports of Call was great, too.

      The only games I've bought the last 15 years are (a gold license for) PoC, Half-Life, and the Space Quest Collection.

    • by benbean ( 8595 )

      Agreed. If I were in charge of one of these companies I'd work on a modern version of M.U.L.E. for all platforms. It'd work beautifully in the modern connected world, on the major consoles, on DS, PSP, iPhone. It's a very scalable idea. I'm sure there are many other examples if the gaming companies would think beyond World War II shooters and Wii shovelware.

    • I agree 100% I'll take Fallout over Fallout 3 any day.
      Bethesda probably spent more on marketing for Fallout 3 than Interplay spent making Fallout, and I'm willing to bet that people who love the franchise will still be playing Fallout long after they uninstalled and forgot about Fallout 3.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Eh, X-com was definitely fun, but Civ2 was the true life killer for me (then later, Alpha Centauri).
      • Eh, X-com was definitely fun, but Civ2 was the true life killer for me (then later, Alpha Centauri).

        Those are both among my favorites but the 90's game that got the most play time out of me was the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series from Lucasarts. I never figured out why they haven't updated that game with newer graphics and network play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Khelder ( 34398 )

      Though not my favorite game ever, I did like X-com a lot. For pure longevity in my games library, Starcraft takes the cake. Not better in every way than other games (e.g., Total Annihilation had the *best* unit control), but overall Starcraft is still my favorite RTS. If I were having a LAN party this weekend, I'd want to fire it up.

  • The vapor cloud (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:04AM (#27398761) Homepage

    And how, exactly, is moving part of the compute load to the "cloud" supposed to reduce development costs?

    OnLive is amusing. The technology isn't that interesting; it's the business model. Casual games can have a "console-like experience". It also has the ultimate answer to piracy. Since the game software runs entirely in OnLive's data center, there's nothing playable the end user can copy. The OnLive client is just a video player.

    But they need an incredibly good bandwidth/latency combination to make it work. They need 5mb/s with under 20ms or so round trip delay to equal the console experience. Unless they have a data center at each cable headend, they're not going to be able to deliver that.

    Worse, all the capital costs fall on the provider. Who's going to fund this thing?

    • Re:The vapor cloud (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skrolle2 ( 844387 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:45AM (#27398957)

      Actually, the technical part of OnLive on a small scale isn't that impossible, you could imagine that if your ISP hosted some OnLive servers close to you, you'd get a pretty ok experience.

      No, the thing that makes OnLive completely ridiculous is the economy of it. They're promising the latest games, that require the best gaming-specific hardware. So how is their datacenter going to cope with 1000 people playing Crysis at the same time? Are they virtualizing the games? I could imagine that for lesser games that can be entirely CPU-rendered, but you can't use the CPU for modern games, you need a GPU. Or two. Have they found a way to virtualize that? Or do they have multiple GPUs per server? How the hell are they gonna cool it and power it? And how are they gonna afford it? How could it possibly be cheaper to buy and host and manage a server that can serve, say, 10 players at the same time, than for those 10 players to just go to a store and pick up a game console each?

      Console hardware is dirt cheap and has really good price/performance. Server hardware is very expensive, and has really bad price/performance. And on top of that, you need server hardware for the overhead of virtualizing, and you need server hardware for the video encoding.

      And then, assuming they could magically assemble this hardware for a price that is competitive with cheap consoles, they choose to do GAMES with it? I could think of dozens of other uses for hardware like this, and games is way, way down on the list.

      No, this whole thing smells fishy...

    • IM highly skepical of OnLive's ability to deliver, I cant even play PS1 titles on my PSP via remote link with my PS3 on a local network without noticeable delay.

      • Re:The vapor cloud (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:32AM (#27399535)
        Yeah, I think it's completely a pump-and-dump scheme to bilk gullible investors. Gamers get irritated if the LCD has a slow refresh rate; they aren't going to settle for the lag between client and server and back, plus frame encoding time... that's going to be over 100ms in almost every case, often over 200. That's eliminates all action games from the mix, and action games are the ones that require the high-end machines they're claiming to have or emulate.

        Plus, who is their audience? People with old and clunky pc systems, who have blazing fast internet connections? There's not a whole lot of overlap, there.
  • I have a Playstation 3 and ..

    [games are] too expensive and there are too many choices

    is about half right .. the games are definitely too expensive, most retails in the street sell the games at about £40 or higher, you can get bargains on line though, Little Big Planet is just over £10 nowadays (not to mention the only *really* good game imo for the PS3..)

    The other part, "too many choices", well, kind of. There are 100s of pretty much identical FPS games with ever so tiny tweaks to set them apart

  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <`ogre' `at' `'> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:10AM (#27398799) Homepage Journal

    Every few years the game industry goes through a big shake up. Companies die, people lose their jobs. Then it starts all over. I worked on games way back in the Sega Genesis cartridge days (yes, I'm that old). When my job disappeared I chose to get out of the game industry entirely. The pay seems ok on the surface, but you work horribly long hours, so you're actually getting ripped off. The games always suck at the beginning. The physics are experimental, the graphics are blocks and circles, the story line is just a twinkle in someone's eye. By the time the game is even half completed you are so sick of playing it you want to scream. I bet the industry hasn't changed since my days in it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wanted to write software for consoles but found the startup costs too high. I wanted to start by homebrewing some prototypes and then further developing them to get backing. I couldn't get a console SDK etc without jumping through many complicated hoops.

    So I targeted the web.

    Now I've gone ahead with non-console platforms, gotten financial backing then written those games and made very good money in the process... and had a lot of fun as I go.

    Cry me a river.

    • I wanted to do web games development but the numbers in my business plan didn't make sense over the long run (i.e., I would have to invest far more time and money than I was willing to give). I decided to write a fictionalized version of my six years in the video game industry. If William Shakespeare got rich writing tragic-comedy plays, I can do the same. ;)
  • by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:31AM (#27398893)

    I read articles like this (well the summary anyway) and I am always left wondering where the money to produce these games comes from. The companies are saying that to break even they need to sell a million copies but they are typically selling 150k so therefore they are making a huge loss on every game. How do they stay in business? The console manufacturers can't be bailing them out as they are making a loss on each piece of hardware so they need to make their money from games sales so who is paying? I can only assume that when a company gets a blockbuster it makes so much money that all these total failures (from a business point of view) are paid for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This is quite unreadable (source below for a more readable version), but the answer to your question is that the money comes from the people owning the stock, or the people willing to lend the company money. Below are the financial results for EA. I've bolded the only two quarters in the past three years where they've actually made money. I love video games, but I'd never buy the stocks. The financial results are terrible!

      Earnings Per Share - Quarterly Results
      FY (03/09) FY (03/08) FY (03/07)
    • With Infogrames they got a $200 million loan from the French government, and went on a spending spree buying up smaller developers for two to four times more than they were worth before the dot com bust. The game plan was to become a U.S. media powerhouse, replant the flag in New York City, and tell the French people to screw themselves. Except the French government neutered Infogrames with the loan agreement, and Infogrames started selling everything they bought for pennies on the dollar. Last I heard t
  • by Captian Spazzz ( 1506193 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:37AM (#27398919) Homepage

    The game industry is falling into the same traps the film and music industries are.

    There are a few big name players that control 70+ % of the market share. They pump more and more money into marketing and development rather than actually making good games. They then raise the prices on a product that is inferior than what they used to put out.

    When market forces retaliate in the form of people not buying their craptastic overpriced games they then resort to adding DRM that cripples the game and the rights of the users who PURCHASED and OWN the end product which further alienates their customers resulting in a downward spiral. By the way YES I said cripple the game. I have had to download a crack for a game before not because I did not own it but because the DRM make the game unplayable on my computer.

    There's a reason I don't play many commercial games anymore. Myself, and people like me, are/were this industry's bread and butter. Piss us off and your industry collapses. That's why were the effing customers.

  • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:37AM (#27398921) Homepage

    The solution is 2D games

    The obsession with 3D pushes every cost through the roof. 2D artwork (in a lot of cases) is tons cheaper, and can be made to work on very low end machines. Good luck getting crysis to run on a laptop that didn't cost an arm and a leg, but it's very difficult to balls up a 2D game enough for it not to run on an integrated chipset.

    The crysis devs even admitted that their main problem was a game that wouldn't run on so many PCs. 2D games not only run everywhere, but they are easier to understand from a control POV to newcomers to gaming.
    They also reduce support costs a lot because if you aren't using cutting edge 3D techniques, you are less likely to get incompatibilities and inconsistencies with video card drivers and hardware.

    Of course not all genres can work in 2D, but time and time again we see 3D bump-mapped pixel-shaded shinyness applied to games where it just isn't necessary.
    Imagine World Of Goo in 3D. Would it be a better game? Of course not, it would be horrid, and would lack the charm and individual art style that makes a game like that so fresh and awesome.

    Journalists and gamers need to finally realise that 3D, and high dynamic range lighting are not what makes a game fun. They make it expensive, and they can make it more immersive, but they do not contribute automatically to making a game fun, which is what it's all about.

    • "Imagine World Of Goo in 3D. Would it be a better game? Of course not, it would be horrid, and would lack the charm and individual art style that makes a game like that so fresh and awesome."
      Actually, I think it would be pretty sweet having that extra dimension to worry about when building my huge towers. Instead of falling left or right, it could fall towards or away. 3D would really help world of goo. Please tell me katamari damacy would have been best as a 2D game. Go on. Don't blindly dismiss 3D as the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsquare ( 530038 )

      The obsession with 3D pushes every cost through the roof. 2D artwork (in a lot of cases) is tons cheaper, and can be made to work on very low end machines. Good luck getting crysis to run on a laptop that didn't cost an arm and a leg, but it's very difficult to balls up a 2D game enough for it not to run on an integrated chipset.

      It's easier and cheaper to develop 3d games. Putting a model together requires less time and skill than drawing sprites. It's also a thousand times easier to animate a 3d model than

      • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:24AM (#27399749) Homepage

        I disagree.

        To get quality art in 3D is hugely expensive, and pushes the system requirements through the roof.
        I use 3D spaceship models rendered as sprites for my next game. They are hugely high poly, yet I rendre them using 2 quads.
        You can't get the same effect in 3D without rendering at least 30,000 times as many polys. It also means the entire ship (not just the bit facing the camera) needs to be modelled and textured.

        I've worked on 3D games and 2D games. 3D gobbles up tons of CPU and GPU time and involves horrendously huge teams to get decent visual quality.

        Show me the 2D games companies that are struggling. Popcap maybe? BigFishgames? Both making millions, whilst the big 3D blockbuster publishers struggle.

  • Math (Score:4, Informative)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:44AM (#27398947) Homepage

    The cost of a game for the latest consoles is over twice that â" $25 million is typical, and it can be much more. Reggie Fils-Aime, chief marketing officer for Nintendo of America, says publishers of games for its Wii console need to sell one million units of a game to turn a profit

    Cost for the developers is $25m, need to sell 1m units at $50-$60. So, what happens with the other $25-$35? I'm assuming the licensing fees to make a console game are included in the $25m. So that leaves, physical production, logistics, and the retailer cut. Those 3 things really make up 50% of the price tag? Maybe that's something that has to be fixed. A lower price tag often has a positive influence on the number of units sold.

    As for OnLive going to change things, who's going to pay for OnLive's hardware, and software licenses? Right, their subscribers. Will OnLive get more relaxed licensing terms than normal customers (i.e. don't require a license for each subscriber)? Probably, but when 1000 people want to play game X at one time you still need 1000 licenses at that time.

    • by am 2k ( 217885 )

      Cost for the developers is $25m, need to sell 1m units at $50-$60. So, what happens with the other $25-$35? I'm assuming the licensing fees to make a console game are included in the $25m. So that leaves, physical production, logistics, and the retailer cut. Those 3 things really make up 50% of the price tag?

      Yes, exactly. Of all the parties involved with selling a game, the retailer gets the biggest cut, due to the costs involved (employees, store rent, etc). It's like the last mile of Internet providers.

      Obviously, selling online only would greatly reduce the total costs.

    • by Eskarel ( 565631 )

      I'd make a guess that the developer doesn't get anywhere near that $50-$60. The retail store, the distributor, and the publisher all have to take a cut out of that 30 million dollars, and they've got expenses and have to make a profit too.

      I always wonder at these sort of articles. If most companies were confronted with a situation in which the vast majority of their products were generating massive losses, they'd look at doing something different. It's fairly clear that increasing prices won't work, so that

    • Licensing fees for the consoles could easily go up to 50% per unit. You need to sell a million copies to break even. PC titles require fewer copies to break even but that's not where money is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Perhaps thats part of the problem then. Dev houses are flocking to where the biggest reward is, which is also where the biggest risk is. PC gaming may have smaller rewards, but I know that I'd rather have a small slice of a big pie (PC gaming) than a big slice of a small pie (console X).

        I'd rather risk a loss of $100k for a potential reward of $100k than risk a loss of $35m for a potential reward of $15m.
    • by pdbaby ( 609052 )

      Probably, but when 1000 people want to play game X at one time you still need 1000 licenses at that time.

      I'd imagine you'd get a licensing agreement with the publisher to charge whatever they want for the game, then subsidise that with a small cut of the subscription revenue based on how much people play that game. That way it's a major win for publishers if their games are successful (and it's basically free money, since most people using Future Cloud Gaming Service wouldn't otherwise be able to play the g

    • Re:Math (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:47AM (#27400155)

      Cost for the developers is $25m

      Huge mistake right there.... budget breakdown is more like:

      30% various licensing fees for theme, art, and music.
      30% for marketing, tv commercials, paid for advertorials and complimentary copy in magazines and online, print ads, posters in stores, parties for the media, show expenses.
      30% for executive management bonuses, HR, finance, other non-frontline cost centers
      8% for customer service to handle all the bugs, purchasing/shipping department, technical writers, etc.
      2% for developer pay, at most.

      The percentages vary slightly from megacorp to megacorp, but not much.

      The question that will not be asked, is why the overhead approaches 99% yet provides so little impact on the final gameplay experience.

  • I mean really 25 million on a Game. We all know they don't pay the developers crap, so most of that goes to mindless marketing, parties for media types and HYPE HYPE HYPE.

    on the other hand we have guys who just downloaded the iphone SDK to see what they could do and in a couple months released a game that cost nothing but those two months of time, with no marketing, no TV ads and no parties, who are making tens of thousands per day selling games for less then $5.

  • Overproduction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noselasd ( 594905 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:58AM (#27399031)

    It's quite simple, there is a vast overproduction of games.
    People will only buy so many games, and when there's just too many games, eventually some of the producers will have to throw in the towel.

    Which is good for the ones that survives, as they have a greater chance of turning a profit again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:04AM (#27399061)

    How much money does your current generation shooter's 3D assets (Including textures) cost to produce? Let's assume it takes a week to produce a high quality 3D humanoid actor, and another month to do motion captures and animations.

    Lets break that down now: 1 month + 1 week = 25 work days, give or take. If we are not working overtime (because we are on schedule-- like that ever happens...) for 8 hours a day, which comes to 200 hours for a single employee in that time frame. If we assume that the dev crew has 3 employees assigned to this task, that is 600 work hours invested. If we tabulate this up with 'Crazy California Wages' (at least 20USD/hr), we get something around 12k to pay those 3 employees for 1.25 months, to produce and animate a quality 3D actor... (*ONE* actor)

    What happens to this 12k asset after the game is released? It finds itself in a backup queue somewhere, drawing dust, and adding to corporate overhead, because that model and it's animations are 'yesterday's news'. (But dont anyone else DARE copy it!)

    An absurdly simple solution to this problem is a creative development commons repository, into which obsoleted, or true public commons assets (Such as textures, models and animations from public sources) are shared between a consortium of interested corporations.

    EG, only one partnered company need develop a 1957 Chevrolet classic, and the other partners can use that asset later with a very minimal licensing fee. In return, that company can draw from the wide selection of physique animated, havok physics boobie girl models and textures that will be in there, rather than having to make one themselves.

    Such cooperation between vendors would enable high quality content to still be available, but would drastically slash artistic staff overhead.

    Similar collaborations for AI behavior, and engine tweaks/modifications could be kept, allowing work to not be replicated many times between the interested parties, and would allow these companies to continue producing innovative plots, and environments, while drastically cutting the overhead costs.

    Looking for a specific make and model of car? Check to see if a partnered affiliate in the consortium has already made one that will fill your needs-- Looking to resolve an issue with AI bots jumping out in the open and shouting "HERE I AM!!" when they should be doing pop-shots behind cover? Check the AI scriptlet repository to see if another AI programmer may have had insight before.

    A game title is more than the sum of it's parts, and having a shared resource of stock parts would allow game companies to focus more heavily on game DYNAMICS rather than blowing all their budget on artwork, and technical issues.

    However, I won't hold my breath that such an outbreak of common sense will happen any time soon, given the current trend to ever increasing levels of escalating aggression involving tactical IP portfolio warheads.

    What did the cold war teach us about standoff stalemates where we have hordes of weapons cached away, "For security"? It leads to economic problems, mismanagement, and bankruptcy.

    People never learn do they?

  • The Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:57AM (#27399351)
    Make some more damn games for the Wii. Bigger market, cheaper development... why are the big publishers focusing so hard on the smaller, more costly, 360 and PS3 market? They're cutting their own throats.

    And onlive is a farce; I can't believe that anybody on Slashdot believes that company has magical 22nd century technology.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Narishma ( 822073 )
      The Wii may have a bigger market, but when a majority of it is composed of non-gamers or casual gamers who by definition don't buy many games, it doesn't look that hot anymore. In addition, the Wii market share is still a lot less than the 360, PS3 and PC combined. And when you make a game for one of these platforms it's relatively easy to port it to the other two, which isn't the case for the Wii.
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:25AM (#27399489)

    Gaming, up to this point, has pretty much been a safe haven from the evolving inet, web and media industry turmoil. That is changing right now, as we speak.

    I've been doing regular webdev for a living the last 9 years and since 8 months ago I have a gig at a large global player browsergame company with a job I'd never dreamt of getting or even dreamt of being able to do profitably.

    The groth rate our company is experiencing now is totally bizar (something like upwards of 350%!) and this phenomenon is part of the equation. I suspect that a lot of the late web users - those who came to private computing soley through and because of the web (like my spouse) just a few years ago and can't help but constantly confuse Google with the internet - are responible for large parts of this trend. They couldn't install a piece of software (or a game for that matter) if their life depended on it, but they can find a website again (if the google results haven't changed ... *sigh*) and log in and continue to play a browsergame. This is where the critical mass is at today and I'm at it's epicenter right now, having howned my PHP, Flash & AS3 skills in the last few years. ... 'Guess for once I got lucky.

    Add in FOSS gaming closing in on critical mass and the 3D devpipeline getting cheaper by the day (or being comletely free [beer]) and most inovation coming from modders rather than companies anyway nowadays and you understand that gaming as we know it is a thing of the past. Any company not recognizing that will go the way of the dodo. That's a fact.

    My 2 Eurocents.

  • You can't play high-performance games on a thin client over the Web. I can't believe anyone's still talking like it's possible. The sums don't add up.

  • Island of stability. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:56AM (#27399615)
    From a purely economic perspective, where you can't sell enough units, and you don't make enough money to cover costs, you need to lower the price to drive sales and restore consumer confidence.

    You see, there is a strange effect, I call the island of pricing stability.

    On a graph of price vs units sold there is a sweet spot that extracts maximum net profit. Basic stuff. But to bolster the bottom line businesses often hike their prices in small increments. Short term this produces a bump to your bottom line as consumers tolerate the price rise, at least initially, which gets some smart guy who suggested it a bonus. Longer term sales take a hit as consumers make other choices, loose interest or merely spend less. Time wears on and your prices creep, overall you begin to loose gross revenue. It's not immediately obvious what is going on, it doesn't show up on short term graphs shown to the brass, nor obvious how to take corrective action (roll back that price change, cut costs, fast). Naturally everything from market forces to competition to alignment of the planets is blamed instead of potentially bad business decisions.

    After a number of price increments, where the profits just seem to keep coming in and nothing is really going wrong, what you eventually reach is a island of stability in pricing. Even far above the sweet spot this is often a nicely profitable model, even if sales decline a little, cutting costs drives revenue back to the bottom line. It is even somewhat sustainable mid term provided reasonable scarcity is maintained, competition doesn't get the lead and demand holds out.

    But there is one problem with this model. It's bollocks. This pricing island of stability is right on the edge of a steep slippery slope ready to be pushed off by competition or the slightest breeze of change from the market. Raise your prices further, for example, to try and raise funds for your lower than predicted bottom line, you can watch sales take a nose dive. In the overall picture, you just priced yourselves out of the market.

    Now if you ever were looking for an example of the proverbial epic fail. How about a price rise when your sales are already failing in a struggling market with weary consumers that's hardly profitable for anyone anymore?

    In the middle of a recession also? Surely this is madness.
  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:22AM (#27399735)

    ... their markets.

    Sometimes I have to wonder who is running the show at these companies, Soul calibur 2 for the gamecube for instance sold over ~700K copies, and yet when soul calibur 3 arrived it never arrived on the cube despite the previous one almost breaking a million, and SC2 was cross platform and it certainly did break more then a million in sales, yet they stiffed over 700K fans on the GC with sequels.

    This kind of bullshit is why game companies are where they are, there are paying audiences for their games, but then some clueless higher up decides "meh not worth it". The truth is the people running these businesses are fucking clueless about gaming, they've lost touch with the ir customers, and think it's all about making it more like the movies, which is just bullshit.

    I'm not the only tired of the endless FMV in place of gameplay (Metal gear solid 4, I'm looking at you!)

    You're not making a movie, you're making a game. Many development houses don't seem to get this. Sure gaming has a lot to learn from techniques from the movie industry, but it is NOT the movie industry, a couple of the games that got this right:

    God of war and it's sequel, and Call of duty 4 Modern warfare, both excellent games who's developers seem to understand - don't make your game into a movie, take the best elements of movies and adapt them for the game

  • by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:36AM (#27399821) Homepage Journal

    Suppose you develop something like -- ooh, I don't know, a computer -- for which there's a world market of only four examples. You have to add a quarter of the development cost to the price of each machine. Suppose you develop something like -- ooh, I don't know, let's say a games console -- of which you expect to sell a million examples. Then you need to add a millionth of the development cost to the price of each machine. But in either case there are a finite number of machines, because the machines actually have to be made, and the factories in which they are made have only so much capacity. And in any case, there's a real cost to building, packaging and shipping each machine.

    But take a software product, say a game, delivered as an Internet download. There is no cost of reproduction (or at least there is, but it's trivial). So your pricing does not have to reflect how many of the damn things you can actually build. If you spend (say) $10,000,000 developing it and another $10,000,000 marketing it, then the question is, are you more likely to sell:

    1. 20,000,000 copies at $1
    2. 4,000,000 copies at $5
    3. 1,000,000 copies at $20
    4. 500,000 copies at $40
    5. 250,000 copies at $80?

    To some extent it depends on the genre and on the technical demands of the game. There probably aren't 20,000,000 people world wide with state-of-the-art gaming rigs and and a taste for zombie horror, so if that's what you've produced option 1 is right out.

    But as the cost goes up, so does the piracy. It's not worth pirating a $1 game (provided the purchase interface is slick enough that actually buying the games is not a hassle). Not that many people are going to pirate a $5 game. For anyone who has a computer powerful enough to run a modern game, $5 is discretionary spending.

    But $80 is a lot bigger bite out of someone's budget. So more people pirate. And if the demand for your game is 2 million units, is it really better to sell 250,000 at $80 and have 1.75 million copies pirated, or to sell 1 million at $20 and have a million pirated? or even to sell two million at $10 and have none pirated?

    Yes, of course it doesn't work as straightforwardly as that. But my strong impression, as someone who is working up a business plan to develop a game, is that you've more chance of a profit selling more copies at a lower price than fewer at a higher.

    And, of course, anyone who actually spends $10,000,000 developing a game in the current climate is this: mad.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:28AM (#27400047) Journal

    The reason these games cost a mint is that game developers work with the frameworks from hell. I'm convinced this can't just be explained by incompetence. In the end I believe the dev tools, and not just in the games industry, are made difficult to use so that people can keep charging a mint for their labour. After all it takes a genius to understand this stuff.

    What we need is gaming frameworks that let you focus on the artwork etc. Core development of stuff like physics shouldn't be redone again and again with increasingly complicated frameworks that don't interoperate. Provide a simple to use physics engine. Likewise for 3D rendering. Likewise for audio. The challenge is to do this yet allow enough flexibility to create varied games that don't all look and feel exactly the same. Unfortunately I've only seen a handful of frameworks that meet these kinds of requirements and they are old and tend to compromise too much on the flexibility so focus on the "anyone can write a game" newbie market.

    Then there's the tools for the artwork. Anyone not in the industry tried to use a 3D modeller lately, and import their model into a game? It shouldn't take weeks to create a simple model. What's even more ridiculous is that you have to do stuff like unwrap the texture and paint that separately (I understand the latest versions of Photoshop allow you to paint directly on some of the common 3d models but I don't have much experience with this and it shouldn't be a new expensive feature).

    Big games are dying. That doesn't mean they all have to turn to crap. Take a look at some of the "amateur" content out there that's been made with the existing toolset and I'd say you've got good incentive to create easier frameworks and better tools.

  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:40AM (#27400113)

    Maybe games have gotten so good that no one needs to buy anymore?

    My PC addiction for some years now has been Call of Duty. I have been playing since the first CoD came out. I have purchased each upgrade as it came out (except for CoD 3, which was not available for the PC). It is the only game I play. I have been playing them for years. I have no time nor desire to play any other game as it satisfies all my gaming desires for a 1st person shooter.

    Every once in a rare while I will fire up Silent Hunter III, though not so much anymore as the Grey Wolves expansion has gotten so detailed my computer will no longer run it reliably.

    But almost exclusively, I play Call of Duty. The game is so good, and so fun (I play online against other players), and so challenging, that I feel no need to buy a new game for entertainment. I keep buying the CoD upgrades mostly to see how much more realistic the graphics have gotten.

  • by _Shorty-dammit ( 555739 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @07:43AM (#27400131)

    Ran out of chars...

    Anyway, Valve has been running pricing experiments on its Steam platform and have come up with some surprising numbers. A limited-time price drop of Left 4 Dead resulted in a 3000% increase in sales income. How can any sane developer/publisher ignore the kind of numbers he shows us? The article cites many more examples, with hard to ignore results. []

  • by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @11:03AM (#27402287) Homepage
    If the App Store has taught us anything, its that lowering the price to get more sells works. And since software (even games on Physical media) are nearly free to make replicate copies lowering the price to raise sells is a viable option. Unlike in cars....

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