Over the last week, whilst I was in Spain, a number of interesting stories supporting my world view made the news. Here are a few of them.
- Warner Bros. (with some of their $500 million of Abu Dhabi finance) buy Midway as part of a drive to build a stake in the game industry. They already bought Traveller’s Tales, missed out on SCI/EIDOS and are very strongly rumoured to be on the verge of buying Codemasters. All this is part of two trends, firstly consolidation of conventional plastic and cardboard game publishing (online publishing, by its very nature will remain fragmented) and secondly the move of big media/movie companies into gaming. They have no option as older forms of media are in sharp decline whilst video gaming continues to ascend.
- Four million people play Mafia Wars daily. On Facebook, MySpace, Tagged, Yahoo and, most recently, iPhone. This is symptomatic of a huge trend. Social networking and gaming are converging at some speed. The success of World of Warcraft, Free Realms, Habbo and Guild Wars (amongst others) owes much to their social networking capabilities.
- Sony has a new gesture interface patent that allows everyday items to be mapped for in game use. We live in exciting times for the man/machine interface. After decades of zero or slow development we are now seeing a veritable explosion which will be felt well beyond the confines of recreational gaming. Creative content is going to take a long time to even begin to catch up with some of the potential being unleashed. And this is going to have a significant effect on human development.
- Michael Pachter predicts that online downloads of full console games will not happen till 2019 and even then will have a smaller market share than plastic and cardboard distribution. He is very brave making this prediction and he is wrong. The advantages of online distribution are so great for everyone involved (except retailers) that we will arrive at a tipping point after which physical distribution will rapidly disappear. And that tipping point is sooner than ten years away.
- 100 million (possibly) used video games traded annually in the USA. Without a single penny from these transactions going towards the development of these games. There is an argument that new game prices are far too high precisely because a trade in value is factored into the initial price. If this is so, then online games should be sold for far lower prices because of the removal not only of the secondhand trade but also of retailers and their sales margins.