Reading about the Phil Harrison interview yesterday, anyone in the game industry would see Atari‘s forward thinking strategy. The focus of the company moving forward will be based on digital distribution and new media (Facebook, iPhone, etc). Contrast this with the strategy of Gamestop and parts of EA, and you can tell why this is forward thinking.
Ive been having conversations with my friends in the games industry and some I them see this change, while others don’t. Video games are still a very young industry and the next 10 years will dictate whether games are viewed as gimmicks or art. To get there, I believe games need standardization at the high-end to create universal experiences that a varying (skill) set of players can enjoy. This means that high quality games need to be more accessible. Not just in terms of accessibility or casual gamers, but also in terms of length and scope. Look at the IMDB top 250 movies. Gone With the Wind was the greatest movie of its time as a financial success. What you can also see from the IMDB page is that the movie had a run time of 238 minutes (4 hours). I watched this movie several years ago and found that to appreciate it, you had to be a dedicated movie buff. Games today often suffer from the same problems of having titles that just run too long.
In the early console wars, significant effort was placed on technology. This is synanomous with the developmet of the camera for movies. Today, we’ve reached a point where the “camera” is reaching a point of “good enough.” That means that the focus is on gameplay and story rather than graphics. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be companies that will drive technology. And they are necessary for advancement in the games industry. But the fact that Epic is valued at 1 billion plus shows that many people are happy buying tech rather than developing it internally.
The next step in making high end games mainstream is to control the length of the games. I will never stop being a gamer and neither will the generation below me (that’s a good thing). But I don’t have the same amount of time I had back in the day. This means that I want games to provide a great experience with having to invest 100+ hours. Looking at the movie industry, studios like Pixar demonstrate that great movies can be done in a 90 minute timeframe. We need to approach game development the saw way. Phil Harrison may not say that word for word, but his strategy may very well lead to that.