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Are Gaming Studios the Most Innovative Tech Companies Out There? 103

Nerval's Lobster writes "Computer games are big business, with millions of players and billions of dollars in revenue every year. But that popularity puts game studios in a tough spot, especially when it comes to mobile games that need to serve their players a constant stream of updates and rewards. That pressure is leading to an interesting phenomenon: while IT companies that create more 'serious' software (i.e., productivity apps, business tools, etc.) are often viewed as cutting edge, it might be game developers actually doing the most innovative stuff when it comes to analytics, cloud and high-performance computing, and so on. Broken Bulb Studios, Hothead Games, and some other studios (along with some hosting companies) talk about how they've built their platforms to handle immense (and fluctuating) demand from gamers."
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Are Gaming Studios the Most Innovative Tech Companies Out There?

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  • Just About (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think it is a fair statement. Unlike most business software, games actually have to be high quality in order for people to use / want to use them. Compare this to trying to pay your verizon bill online. Talk about phoning it in, hahaha.

    • Also, that Verizon bill payment is something mandatory, so people will just put up with the software even if it's a bit crappy. Games however are "optional fun" and if the game plays badly, it's easy to chuck it away and try some another. So yes, you are correct.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      I think it is a fair statement. Unlike most business software, games actually have to be high quality in order for people to use / want to use them. Compare this to trying to pay your verizon bill online. Talk about phoning it in, hahaha.

      And yet game authors are among the biggest plagiarists out there. Not many original ideas, but lots redecorating of old ideas.

    • by Dr Max ( 1696200 )
      Being Innovative in gaming is more than throwing millions of dollars and lots of artists at someone else's engine to make pretty graphics. There are defiantly some innovative gaming companies out there, but a lot are just piggy backing of the better companies, and using the stupid console crowd that will buy anything they see on the side of a bus.
  • Ummm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jaymz666 ( 34050 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:10PM (#43046449)

    No. At least not the big boys. Unless you call invasive DRM, sequel after sequel and shooter after shooter innovative.

    • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:17PM (#43046541)

      I'm pretty sure the main innovation by gaming companies is treating high-skilled, high-demand employees like crap.

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        I think it's a question of indie vs. big studios.

        I think there's absolutely no question that many indies, certainly the succesful ones are highly innovative, but I think it's frankly impossible to argue with any degree of rationality that the big studios are some of the most innovative companies out there.

        Even outside of simply looking at the product they produce, the gaming industry has historically been so backwards when it comes to newer software development practices that help improve quality of develop

      • I'm pretty sure the main innovation by gaming companies is treating high-skilled, high-demand employees like crap, while still getting them to give you their money.


    • You forgot about hiding a subscription model inside micro-transactions and day one paid DLC.
      • If the approval, manufacturing, and delivery time for a downloadable complement is substantially less than that for a disc game, then how is a "day one paid DLC" for a disc game unjustifiable? The developers ship what they have, keep working on new features after the game goes gold, and make these new features available to the public.
        • Because I said so!

          Your argument is invalid.
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      The end product may not be innovative, but the techniques that make it possible certainly are.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        If my "innovative" you mean "improving".
        There are suprisingly few truely new inventions for an industry that's supposedly creative.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by geekoid ( 135745 )

          Are you retarded, or just stupid?

          present participle of innovate (Verb)
          Make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

          innovating and inventing are NOT the same thing.

          • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

            Pedandic asshole, douchebag, prick. I hope that makes us even but feel free to tweak the balance as you see fit. On with the topic...

            new methods, ideas or products

            What new methods, ideas or products?
            If you take a lullaby and record it in hifi, does that count as "innovation"?
            Independant game developers are doing some innovative things, but the industry at large is failing misserably.
            Not even including the inevitable sequels, there are very few new things happening in the AAA games.

          • by jaymz666 ( 34050 )

            So you can't even get the definition right between two posts you made. What is it? By definition something new is invented. Because it didn't exist before.

    • Agreed. I haven't seen any serious technological innovation come from gaming in a long time. The article in question gushes, erm, discusses how gaming companies are *using* technologies like Hadoop. Same goes for "the cloud", essentially someone bragging about how they wrote some scripts/apps to make their deployments faster. Essentially, these shops are bragging about work that many very experienced senior network and systems admins (ok, some are called devops now, etc) do already. Woo.

      A serious innov

    • No. At least not the big boys. Unless you call invasive DRM, sequel after sequel and shooter after shooter innovative.

      Agreed. Big studio are innovative at making money. Indie devs make money by being innovative.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Yes, actually.

      There is a constant demand for more realism, both in look and behavior.

      Games are on the edge of AI, and the push that boundary.

      Also in simulate consistent and contextual applications of physics.

      " sequel after sequel and shooter after shooter innovative."
      you really don't get it, do you.Can you really be that short sighted?

      Yeah, anothe FPS sequal, so what? how does that apply to the conversation? each itteration has better computer bahaviouor then that last.

      I'ts like saying car compnay don't inn

      • by jaymz666 ( 34050 )

        [ ìtt ráysh'n ]

        repetition: an instance or the act of doing something again
        step-by-step process: a process of achieving a desired result by repeating a sequence of steps and successively getting closer to that result
        repetition of steps: the repetition of a sequence of instructions in a computer program until a result is achieved

        Iteration by definition is not innovation.

      • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

        If games are on the edge of AI, then Kurzweil's AI singularity must still be a few millennia off. But yeah, I guess Angry Birds has shown that computer simulation of physics is close to perfection.

  • So what? How does this really help us? I realize that the same question could be posed for quite a few of these articles, but I really don't see the point. It's just self-applauding, if you ask me. *expects plenty of -1 Flamebaits and -1 Trolls* Oh well; I tried getting my idea across.
  • by schneidafunk ( 795759 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:15PM (#43046513)
    I assumed the most innovative technology development, regardless of field, is in a military or university setting.
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      maybe 50 years ago, but tech is going so fast that most new investments are in the consumer field now

      by the time the government plans and funds a big project, the tech is out dated. don't even talk about implementation

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Obviously this person doesn't know anything about real university research...

        -Private cell phone companies aren't working on 'mesh networks' that dynamically route packets around bad nodes or anything like this.
        -Cell Carriers aren't looking into new software defined radio algorithms that automatically change frequencies to avoid interference
        -Private companies aren't looking into producing new security models, encryption algorithms, and crypto systems (that aren't meant as DRM to stop people from doing what

      • by dAzED1 ( 33635 )
        odd - I work for a company that makes "integrated operating rooms" - cameras everywhere that feed to secure locations, store for training, etc - where via touch or motion-sensing, those participating in the surgery can change the lighting hue(different colors are known to be better for particular surgeries) or brightness, change what camera feeds are on what screens, change the temperature in the room, change the audio feed for the music they're rockin out to - including integrating with itunes, pandora, et
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        not true at all.

        The size of government programs for a big project develops new tech to fill needs.

    • About 1% of military is 10 years ahead of civilian tech, the remaining 99% is a cobbled together mess of decades old systems, "tried and true" designs, and things that are just too expensive to update.

    • Innovation is a more incremental form of progress than what you're thinking. Universities tend to be more focued on the breakthroughs, the game-changers that maybe come once every hundred years. The private sector fuels a lot of innovation, and gaming pushes the computing industry in certain directions while it completely ignores other directions.

      For distributed computing and computer graphics, I'd say gaming is pushing the boundaries of these fields. For storing, processing, and representing data (e.g. A.I

    • university: innovative thinking
      military: innovative action (processes and products)

      then there's

      Silicon Valley: innovative way of making money... hey, aren't there lots of gaming companies in the valley?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just ask them!

  • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:20PM (#43046569)

    I would consider companies like ID and Crytek to be innovative as they build the underlying game engine. Most other game developers then license the game engine on which their games are developed.

    • by admdrew ( 782761 )

      Agreed. Carmack is oft considered one of the most innovative devs (games or otherwise) ever, based on the incredible work he did on their various engines, as well as his foresight to what console and PC gaming would become.

      I'd also give a big nod to Valve, who has been tied with highly technical work (building the Source engine out of q1/quakeworld), general gaming innovation (scripted scenes and impressive NPC AI), and business innovation (Steam!).

      • Ok, but that was like 20 years ago. I don't really view Carmack as relevant to gaming anymore. Rocketry, maybe...
        • I think that you're being a bit too quick to judge. If you read/watch any modern interviews with him, he'll talk about all of the R&D type work he does in testing the current possibilities of ray-tracing, voxel engines and how hardware is changing and how they can utilize those changes in 3D graphics programming.
  • The big players such as EA will never invest in a project that hasn't been already proven to be successful. This is why most if not all new breakthroughs come from indies (e.g. Minecraft).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With a rare few exceptions (ongoing development of Steam, engine development at Epic, Valve, Crytek and Unity, the ongoing reinvention of the voxel wheel, MMORPG development) the vast majority of game developers are some of the least innovative people in programming, if you are looking at it from a coding perspective. If you hate middleware today, consider that most games these days are built almost entirely out of middleware, with only the art, animation and SFX assets plugged in.

    In their defense however t

  • No, and also no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:28PM (#43046691) Homepage Journal

    Some game companies do innovate, I don't want to take that away from them. But they're not coming up with new technologies most of the time. Stuff tends to appear in a technical paper before it ever appears in a game these days, maybe gets presented at siggraph or something even before anyone can put it into a commercial product.

    "Tech" also covers a lot of ground. When you consider the complexity of what's going on in biotech, video games are a footnote.

  • by Shalian ( 512701 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @01:28PM (#43046697)

    I've always said that an MMO is literally the most complicated piece of software one can make. Take every single problem that exists in software engineering, and you have it in an MMO.

    A) Every problem from a normal game.
    1) Resource streaming for an open world.
    2) Particle system running on 5 year old commodity hardware
    3) Physics system to handle projectiles (Even if it's not havok you still need something for the characters falling from the sky.)

    B) Every problem that a business app would have.
    4) High availability clusters
    5) Billing systems
    6) Massive databases
    7) Customer Support back end
    8) Call center support

    C) Every problem that 'internet companies' have
    9) Latency kills
    10) World wide datacenters mapping 1:1 and 1:many architecture pieces

    D) Some nice unique problems for MMOs only
    11) Cross server object replication
    12) More hackers targeting it than they would some banks.

    • D) Some nice unique problems for MMOs only
      11) Cross server object replication

      Only MMOs replicate objects across servers? How amazing, tell us more.

      • by Shalian ( 512701 )

        That could have been worded better. What I meant is real time object replication where state on an object one on server is mirrored on other servers. IE: If you are standing near the boundary between two servers, you on one server, your opponent on the other server. Each server is constantly updating object state to each other as well as to the observing clients. What are the other cases that this is common? I'll be happy to move the location in the future because I know on MMOs I worked on this was t

    • by Erbo ( 384 )
      I've always thought that the way certain MMO games use cluster technology to support a massive single-instance world was pretty innovative. Second Life, for instance, uses a system where each 256m x 256m region of the world is mapped to a single server CPU core. (That's for "full" regions; the lighter-duty "homestead" regions get mapped four to a core.) EVE Online does something similar with its individual star systems, but more dynamically based on traffic in those systems. Certain heavily-trafficked s
    • That's why it's modularized into more or less the components you've described. Each one is developed and managed separately, and communicates amongst each other via established protocols.

      MMO's are, for the most part a jack of all trades. They don't usually push the boundaries of existing technology, only use what's available out there. Otherwise, it becomes too complex to handle.

      The one area they tend to lead in under your D category (though I somewhat disagree with what you've listed). These are unique cha

    • You're quite right. Having been both a pro and a hobbyist games and games engine developer, I have lost track of the number of times that I have explained to people, sadface engaged, that their MMO goals are unrealistic. Even MO goals. Or O. Or M.

      Finishing a game to completion, any game, is a massive undertaking, and the vast majority of those who try it fail. You have to be delusional to even attempt it, which is why the ledger of successful games developers is replete with visionaries who refused to b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... I'm biased :)

    I'd say the industry is at the top of innovation on some areas (e.g. GPU programming, SIMD programming, and performance-oriented programming in general). BUT on the other hand we're near the bottom for innovation in some other areas like database design, use of modern languages, and architecture vs coding.

    That's not to say some games companies don't innovate in those areas, but it's atypical. OTOH, if you want your audio codec or video codec or GPU-based algorithm optimized to within an i

  • ...shooting for the worlds longest switch/case statement, you may be onto something.

  • I guess something on the scale of League of Legends probably has something. Games Guild Wars2 have interesting things like being able to hot patch without restarting servers (which is trivial for web servers or even databases, but for systems with persistent connections you need to do a bit of magic...but even then not that much).

    But that is still nothing compared to what retail manufacturing (actually having to deal with real physical thing... When you code can break non-standard machines permanently in wa

  • Isn't it a bit too black and white to say one sector is unequivocally more innovative than the other?

    Call Of Duty 8: Kill The Arabs (or whatever money spinning title the publisher is mulching out now) isn't innovative in the same way Half Life (1 or 2), Deus Ex (original!), Doom or Starcraft etc. were, but likewise I don't doubt with modern AAA titles a lot of work goes into the graphics.

    Microtransactions are innovative, certainly, but moreso in a psychologically manipulative sort of fashion.

    I guess my poin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In a word ... No.
    I have played video games since there were video games, and most certainly the last decade of games (bar very few) have had no innovation other than graphics, which wears thin quickly.

  • Gaming companies as whole have dated client side and server side architectures. The software they write is still stuck in the early 2000's for the most part. Things like distributed, highly available systems are still far beyond there grasp. They have a hatred towards modern languages (C++ EVERYWHERE YO) and tend to have a poor understanding of where, when, and what to optimize. I am sure there are some game companies out there that do push the edge and "get it", but for the most part game studio are some
    • What do you suggest games be written in if not C++? What exactly is a modern language by your definition? The only thing i can think you might mean is some interpreted or managed languages which are definitely not optimized for game development. Perhaps the poor understanding is from yourself and not an entire billion dollar industry?
  • They're about as innovative as Hollywood is creative. The problem is that all the good gaming studios out there get bought out by one of the 3 large publishers, essentially forced to make yearly installments of whatever IP they created. To compound the problem, they have been targeting consoles rather than PC's, which means the actual hardware and specs in use are 10 years old.

  • big ones are Innovative in makeing them suck with loads of crap like DLC, Haveing to buy stuff in game, killing user mods and maps with a big load of DRM.

  • For as long as I've been involved with computing (early 1980s), two things have always held true:

    1. Gaming has driven the performance envelope in many areas, which then filters down to other applications. For example, GUIs in the late 80s/90s would not have been possible if gaming hadn't pushed graphics technology 5-10 years earlier. More recently, GPUs led the way toward general multi-core processing, and game UIs led to the "tactile" interfaces that are now common on smartphones and tablets. Expect to se

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday March 01, 2013 @02:51PM (#43047645) Homepage

    There's no obvious measure of "innovation", so there's no way to say which tech companies are the most "innovative". All the word "most" is is totally pointless speculation.

    There are ways in which hardware OEMs are innovative. There are ways that OS vendors are innovative. There are ways that databases are innovative. There are ways that financial software are innovative. There are ways that game companies are innovative. I could keep going with every sector in "tech".

    But it doesn't really matter, because "innovation" isn't really what helps users. What helps users is solving their problem, which is sometimes innovative and sometimes mind-numbingly dull. It isn't even what helps tech companies: What helps tech companies is enough hype to get the market's attention combined with solving their users' problems enough to keep the revenue flowing.

  • ... we are right royally screwed.
  • The way I see it is:

    1. Games innovate coding techniques a lot of times, algorithms, methods, best practices, etc...
    2. Business apps innovate the methodologies, techniques, and things related to saving the business money by streamlining processes, pretty sure MVC came out of this, but MVC is NOT for games by any means. Agile though... :)

    • MVC is NOT for games by any means

      How not? To me, the key concept behind model-view-controller is separation of the part of the game engine that handles physics and AI from the part of the game engine that handles graphics. Provided you aren't trying to port to a platform that only has a single language (such as JavaScript for the web, Java for applets and the earliest smartphones, or C# for WP7 and Xbox Live Indie Games), you can remake the same game for different platforms by slapping a new graphics layer on top of your already tested and

      • by Shados ( 741919 )

        MVC type 2 (I think thats how the current mainstream version of the MVC pattern is refered to) is a pretty darn specific implementation of a separation of concern.

        If you have a presentation layer, a backend layer, and something to mediate between the two, that COULD be MVC, it could be MVP, it could be MVVP, or countless other patterns. And thats just for web and thick clients. In the graphic world you have plenty of other patterns.

  • When I started working on my game several years ago, I decided to actually *use* the hardware.  As a result, almost nobody could even play it reliably until the last couple years or so.

    In other words, I am insane--unlike professional game studios.

    If yer curious it's free please please come play my game :-)
  • Believe it or not, I am serious with that answer.

    • Porn was on the front line bringing credit card payments to the web.
    • Its not universal, but they have single sign-on across there brand network.
    • Guess who helped to bring video streaming, and video chat to the web... PORN.
    • They would also love to get a standard for Virtual Reality.
    • Most porn actresses/actor embrace social media.
    • More people in the general public probably heard of Craigslist because of prostitution than any other reason. (not exactly porn, but rela
  • Game studios are NOT innovative. They keep making games based on 5+ year old tech, while the tech world has moved well beyond it. Most PC games are straight ports without anything added to make it better.

    Okay, now that we have new consoles, that is supposed to change? For what, 2 years? Then once again, the tech will be beyond what consoles can do, and yet, everything released will be based on the current generation of console tech, no matter how much the tech has moved beyond it.

    Yes, I am looking fo

  • You fucking twits. Games are being neutered by ridiculously underspec'd hardware on consoles. That's why a side by side comparrison on an 8 year old console looks identical to the PC version -- The assets / polly counts are the fucking same (except shaders and texture res -- because that won't break the game enough to require a whole new batch of logic testing like AI or new meshes would).


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