Aside from Modern Warfare 2, this season's list of highly anticipated games seems a little short, especially compared with last year's titles. Some of that obviously has to do with the host of titles delayed until the first quarter of 2010. More interestingly, we're seeing publishers question whether there will be AAA titles in the normally busy Christmas season next year. We all expect a new Rockband and/or Guitar Hero. There is no doubt about Call of Duty 7, and Nintendo will release a blood pressure test kit to go with your other super fun Wii diagnostic health equipment. Maybe it is too soon to break out your tea leaves and divine the future of games in 2010, but if history is any indication of what's to come we should be at least slightly concerned.
One need only look at EA's biggest selling title to see that big budget games see cause for alarm. In 2007, Madden raked in nearly 4 million dollars in the first month. In 2008, that number was closer to two million, and finally, the announcement of this year the sales caused a 19% loss in stock price for EA in August.
Is it that the market simply cannot support ten or more $60 games a year? Even the people with jobs are simply trying to save more as housing and retirement benefits sink to record lows. Do you think baby-boomers (No that's not a new infected in Left 4 Dead.) are going to go out of their way to buy DJ Hero with the threat of not having medical insurance or retirement pay lurking over their heads? How about kids who can't get jobs because their parents are refusing to retire?
I know that this may seem like more gloom and doom for gamers, but maybe there's an unseen benefit to the potential absence of big games in 2010. This year, we saw a major triumph with digital distribution networks like Good Old Games and Steam. This success, coupled with a booming free-to-play games market, may mean that gamers finally have an alternative to buying entertainment at a premium when all they want is something fun to kill some time with.
I'm not saying that multi-million productions are going away, but perhaps 2010 will not see massive productions like another $250 version of The Beatles: Rockband. Instead, there may be more choices for gamers who have to choose between life essentials and entertainment. Choices that make more sense in a world where the joblessness rate is near 10% and most people can't afford to go to the doctor.
Marion Cox is a weekly columnist at The Escapist, and is angry that you haven't followed him on twitter.