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What is the Biggest Problem Facing the Gaming Industry Today?

June 20, 2013 IADT General, Game Design and Production 0 Comments

Game Industry ProblemsGame Design and Production professionals are divided.

Some argue for design, believing the biggest problem facing the gaming industry today is a lack of originality. Others, however, believe it is a matter of business – specifically, the gap between small, Indie production companies and big business. What do you believe is the biggest problem facing the industry? Design or business? Decide what side of the argument you fall to when you read these professional opinions:

Lack of Creativity

In an interview with Dave Cook of Now Gamer, creator of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Josh Olin said, “More and more gamers seem to forget what the industry is all about. It’s a creative industry – the most creative form of entertainment in existence.” He has seen many companies decide what they will produce based on the demands of its fans.

This is because companies have seen the most success when they build franchises. Today’s gaming industry has discovered that it difficult to be innovative and profitable simultaneously. And, when they can almost guarantee happy customers will buy sequels, they see no profit in developing original gameplay. Paul Cuisset, the lead designer at Vector Games, said of this trend, “If you have the feeling of playing the same game year after year, it’s because there’s not much room left for games with a title that doesn’t end with a number.” Creativity has become too financially risky.

Some companies are willing to make creativity a priority. Kelly Revak of The Behemoth admits that many of their fans ask for a sequel to their successful game, Castle Crashers. The company refuses to fall into the trap of sequel-making however, arguing that if they had given the fans a sequel to their first hit – Alien Hominid – Castle Crashers may have never been developed. Revak deems the process a slippery slope. She sees her company as being devoted to moving forward, rather than to rehashing old ideas.

Yet, many professionals agree with Justin Richmond, the Game Director at Naughty Dog, who believes the industry is in a rut. Creativity has become dependent on success – which, in terms of gaming, has become dependent on sequels. Few companies are willing to stray from financial certainty. Consequently, originality has disappeared from the market.

Gap between Indie and Big Business

Richmond believes the business itself is also a problem. “You’re seeing people being slotted into two camps. You’re seeing big developers, and smaller social developers, like the guys who are shooting for the moon.” He notes that some of these smaller developers are successful; Indie companies have been able to compete with big business to a certain extent. However Richmond concludes, it is primarily the big publishers who determine what gamers have access to. Tomasz Gop, Senior Producer at CD Projekt RED, agrees. In fact, he believes the gap is increasing and worries that middle-segment developers may start disappearing. Gop using app markets, like the Apple Store, as an example. According to Jeff Tunnell of Making It Big in Games, the Apple App Store sees about 126 new games per day – which is 882 games per week, or 46,000 games per year. Many of these games come from small Indie developers. However, the App store typically focuses on announcing new releases from popular companies. Tunnell argues that this means an Indie game, no matter how fun or well-designed it may be, has about a 0.56 percent chance of being advertised on the Apple App store homepage.

Indie companies simply do not have the same advantages as big business producers. Their resources are smaller, their design teams are smaller and their audiences are smaller. They maintain success (on some level) primarily because they have built loyal fan bases around original, creative gameplay.

Yet, David Arcila argues that there is hope to overcoming this gap. Originally, it was incredibly difficult for Indie companies to exist because making a game independently nearly impossible. Licensing and distributing the game was simply too expensive. However, in the last few years, game development technologies have become more affordable or, in some cases, free – allowing Indie companies to access the same tools that big business is using to manufacture their games.

There is a way to solve these problems. No matter what side of the argument you fall in, keep both issues in mind as you continue to work through your degree program at IADT. Talk to your instructors and your peers – what problem is most important to them? How do they believe the industry can solve it?

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