TGC '10: Gaming, Gaming, Everywhere

TGC '10: Gaming, Gaming, Everywhere

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With the rise of the iPhone/iPod Touch apps, the popularity of the Wii and DS, and the huge boom of Facebook gaming, gaming is more ubiquitous than ever. But where does this leave core gamers?

At the last panel of the Triangle Game Conference 2010, Escapist publisher and Triangle Game Initiative president Alex Macris spoke with three panelists - Freelance game journalist John Gaudiosi, Atomic Games' creative director Juan Benito, and Adam Blumenthal, founder of Curious Sense ( the ones who made that REO Speedwagon game) - about the increased prominence of gaming in the world around us. Macris posed the question: "How many of us have games on our phone? How many of us have parents who are playing Facebook games like Farmville? Why are games everywhere?"

Part of it was that more people simply had a gamer's brain, said Blumenthal. More people had grown up in the age of Atari - in the age of the videogame - and those people were increasingly running the scene. Gaudiosi attributed part of it to the explosive non-gamer adoption of Nintendo's Wii and DS, and Benito agreed - but also added Apple to the list with its iPod Touch and iPhone.

But beyond gaming on portable devices and the Wii, the major buzz as of late has been about Facebook and games like Farmville. With Zynga VP Bill Mooney set to deliver the keynote at GDC Canada this May, both GDC San Francisco and DICE had undercurrents focusing on the success of Zynga - much like previous conferences had focused on the overwhelming success of the Wii. Was Facebook the future of gaming, asked Macris, or was it just a passing fad?

The future of gaming "may not be Facebook," said Blumenthal, "but it will be social ... Facebook is a medium. The content is shared by thousands of people - that's a trend that's not going away. There are more and new kinds of gamers." Benito largely agreed that, if not Facebook itself, Facebook-like platforms and structures were here to stay. It probably wouldn't be FarmVille, but social games would still be very prominent. "There are games that are 'pet rocks,' complete fads... but as gamers get more savvy, it's going to be increasingly challenging to capitalize on those fads."

While all of the panelists agreed that PlayStation Move and Microsoft's Project Natal were promising in terms of shaping how people interacted with technology - "Computers move to the easiest way to interact," and there's nothing easier than saying or doing something - they were more divided as to if they would also be a part of the future of gaming.

Blumenthal was enthusiastic, arguing that younger consumers were more comfortable with the idea of immersion and using one's entire body to play games, but Benito believed it was a "pet rock" and that people would get bodily fatigued after constant use. It might work great for party games and general at-home interaction with menus, he said, but FPS fans wouldn't buy it. "How long do you spend playing a game on the Wii at any one time?" concurred Gaudiosi.

Gaudiosi went on to drop a bombshell about what he didn't think was the future of games: "One thing we keep bringing up is the core gaming audience - I don't think they're the future of games. Core gamers are the ones who buy 30-plus games a year ... the real future of gaming is well beyond that small audience."

"We reached market saturation extremely quickly over a few generations," agreed Benito. "Now we're seeing an explosion, reaching out beyond that market to see growth. I think the core gaming size will still increase, it'll just be at a slower rate than the whole."

In a way, it's kind of true already, though the games that most people are playing aren't what many non-gamers think of as games. Somebody adding their mother-in-law on Facebook to help them at Mafia Wars is doing something they wouldn't ordinarily do to increase their score - as is going out clubbing more than usual to increase your rank on programs like FourSquare, said Macris.

How is that so different from somebody doing an achievement in a game to increase his or her Xbox Live Gamerscore?

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I admit, the only thing that caught my attention is the part where he mentions motion games aren't the future for core gamers. The body fatigue would be suffocating the least for hardcore gamers.

And I hope for God Farmville just dies out, in an instant.

Straying Bullet:
I admit, the only thing that caught my attention is the part where he mentions motion games aren't the future for core gamers. The body fatigue would be suffocating the least for hardcore gamers.

And I hope for God Farmville just dies out, in an instant.

If that was to at least die out, some good in the world would be done.

And as for motion games. I agree...how can you have 10 hr+ Game-athons if you need to stop every hour or so to rest up

Jaredin:

Straying Bullet:
I admit, the only thing that caught my attention is the part where he mentions motion games aren't the future for core gamers. The body fatigue would be suffocating the least for hardcore gamers.

And I hope for God Farmville just dies out, in an instant.

If that was to at least die out, some good in the world would be done.

And as for motion games. I agree...how can you have 10 hr+ Game-athons if you need to stop every hour or so to rest up

I agree as well.

I don't buy games to work out after a long day. I buy them to freaking relax.
Well, and to experience fantastic new worlds, but my point still stands.

And I to hope farmville dies. I have some pretty big personal problems with that damn game.

Any media has a gap between the core populace and the mainstream. There's a difference between a Dan Brown reader and an Umberto Eco one, between a filmmaking major and a guy who goes to the movies every week, the review-writing indie music enthusiast and the guy who's always with an iPod. Both may love the medium but each has a completely different view on it. We hardcore gamers may complain that there will be no more AAA games, but as console complexity increases they are bound to die out anyway by becoming so expensive you'll need MW2 levels of success to just turn out a profit. To me it means there will be less AAA games, but all of them will actually be unique and interesting since there'll be no point in just doing a repetitive franchise milking bad game - you won't make a profit and it'll be much easier to hit the mainstream.

What I'm saying is, hardcore gamers, prepare to become the beret-wearing presumptious guys at the café with the French name. They are us tomorrow.

I don't think farmville is stealing any players from CoD4, and I don't think CoD4 players play much farmville. I think that the people playing farmville were the people who played windows solitaire before. If the industry manages to make some money off them, good on them, but I doubt that there will be a time when farmville rakes in more money than a continuous stream of God of War games, for instance. We're safe, fellas.

Irridium:

Jaredin:

Straying Bullet:
I admit, the only thing that caught my attention is the part where he mentions motion games aren't the future for core gamers. The body fatigue would be suffocating the least for hardcore gamers.

And I hope for God Farmville just dies out, in an instant.

If that was to at least die out, some good in the world would be done.

And as for motion games. I agree...how can you have 10 hr+ Game-athons if you need to stop every hour or so to rest up

I agree as well.

I don't buy games to work out after a long day. I buy them to freaking relax.
Well, and to experience fantastic new worlds, but my point still stands.

And I to hope farmville dies. I have some pretty big personal problems with that damn game.

You have big personal problems with a game you don't play? Do you have big problems with other activities you don't partake as well?

All I'm saying is that if it doesn't involve or disturb any aspect of your life, why would you actively hate something? Hate Ubisoft for making hardcore gamers lives miserable. Hate Valve for releasing a game every seventh year. Don't hate a game that you don't play and that doesn't interact with your life in any way.

Edit - Unless of course you enjoy it when people go out of their way to harp on how gay people who play consoles are or how people who never played WoW call WoW players dumb virgins.

The Random One:
Any media has a gap between the core populace and the mainstream. There's a difference between a Dan Brown reader and an Umberto Eco one, between a filmmaking major and a guy who goes to the movies every week, the review-writing indie music enthusiast and the guy who's always with an iPod. Both may love the medium but each has a completely different view on it. We hardcore gamers may complain that there will be no more AAA games, but as console complexity increases they are bound to die out anyway by becoming so expensive you'll need MW2 levels of success to just turn out a profit. To me it means there will be less AAA games, but all of them will actually be unique and interesting since there'll be no point in just doing a repetitive franchise milking bad game - you won't make a profit and it'll be much easier to hit the mainstream.

What I'm saying is, hardcore gamers, prepare to become the beret-wearing presumptuous guys at the café with the French name. They are us tomorrow.

Hey, what's with the French bashing, here? *chuckles* Gosh, that's such a cliché.
Seriously, though, I couldn't agree more. For good or for ill, that's where the gaming is going. The games for the masses, and the games for the hardcore gamers. I wouldn't mind it if there were less AAA games, but I fervently hope they won't die out, because those are what make gaming worthwhile. We'll just have to hope that the "Francis Ford Coppola"s of the gaming industry keep on going.

And yes, the Wii's fun, but who wants to keep jumping up and down for hours on end. Not I. (Lounging on the couch or in a desk chair is a lot better, even if that does make me lazier)

We are so fucked. It's been a good run everybody. Hold onto those old consoles and games. We won't be getting many more of them...

Well, once again casual games wont affect in any hardcore gamers. Hardcore games will still come out. Hardcore gamers as article points buy loads of games per year. But what they say is that if the industry wants to expand needs to focus (and I would say also) on the casual gamers as the hardcore gaming market pretty much reached its limit to grow a long time ago.

Think for example of the car industry on the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. First cars produced and sold in the first two/three decades of the industry were mostly luxury cars aiming for the upper reach classes, until low cost models started being produced to aim the population with less purchase power. Almost one century later did luxury and expensive sport cars die out?! No, they are still there and are actually the main show off of most companies on each major exposition and got special attention by the media. They are still aiming the same market, wich is still buying them. But the rest of the world is buying cars with accessible prices and lower quality

Hmm... Well, to be honest: yes, i fear not "casual" gaming as a threat to "hardcore" gaming, but social gaming is a whole beast altogether. The thing is, "casual" games like Popcap's, flash developers, etc, have low production values, being cheaper to create, but the revenue is also lower than that of "hardcore" games. So, in a way, there is balance and scaling. Social games, however, represent a huge paradigm shift. The "casual" dressing, social metrics-driven approach, and pyramid scheme-like nature of such games, translate into a disproportionate profit: big revenue with little investment. So, it doesn't take a genius to imagine a lot of corporate executives doing their math and concluding that it's best to shift manpower and resources to that blooming and more profitable market.

Now, some saturation is likely to happen in that market too, but what will happen to traditional games in the process? I have no idea. One likely scenario is indie developers filling in the gap. But we are well aware that in this industry, few companies show creative vision for a long time without being bought by a larger company and engineered towards profit. Also, some young social gamers may become increasingly more demanding, wanting more depth and complexity, pushing the market forward again.

There are way too many variables to keep track of, to be able to make accurate predictions. I'm sure some particularly intelligent, resourceful and industry-insider individual could be more prone to having a good answer, but it sure would take a lot of careful analysis. So, we'll have to wait and see how this unfolds. One thing is for sure however: "core" gaming may go through a rough patch. Hell, i believe it's already happening....

EDIT: to anyone interested, i can't remember who posted this in some of the MM's Zynga threads (thank you, whoever you are), but it's quite an interesting read on this matter... Don't let the length discourage you, it's worth it.

 

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