The Future Is Online

17 10 2008

Paul Mayze (COO of Monumental Games) and Mario Rizzo (Realtime Worlds‘ Business Development Manager) will be speaking at this year’s GameHorizon Conference at Centre For Life in Newcastle. The subject:

If online is the future of gaming, what does it take to be successful in this space? and how can you make the transition to online?

The event is on Thursday 23rd October, it’s free, and there’ll be food, drink, and networking afterwards. If you’re thinking of getting your business online, this looks like a a good place to be as they take a new look at MMO’s and Online Gaming. Register for the event here.





Recession Proof Earner?

26 09 2008

NPR ran a piece the other day headlined with the abominably delicious pun “In Tough Economic Times, Video Games Console

It’s a rather fluffy piece, but is a non-specialist press pointer to an important trend: Entertainment does well during times of recession, and games are growing much faster than any other form at the moment.

Boing Boing pointed to this with the headline “Games are recession proof earners?“, but I’d really like to see more comprehensive figures comparing them to other media over the next few years.

(CC image by crowolf)





Studio Closures

11 09 2008

It’s been a sad week for UK game development, with NCsoft shutting the UK development studio and cancelling the unannounced MMO they were working on. The designers I knew working on the project are very sad, telling me only that it was an exciting project and they’re absolutely gutted to see it end.

There have been quite a few studios closing down over the past few months, with Pivotal also recently going in the UK. Microsoft have announced that US outfit Ensemble will be shuttered after Halo Wars is done. SEGA Racing was also closed in the UK this April, though Codemasters quickly snapped everyone up to form their own racing studio.

Gareth Edmondson of Ubisoft Reflections cites studio closures and consolidation as a sign of industry maturity. If so, it’s one that has been ongoing for 9 years or so, and I doubt it’s so cut and dry. Often closures and redundancies have been signs of bad production practices, such as scaling problems faced by companies that only work on one project at a time.

It seems the credit crunch is biting the games industry hard. It’s also the case that entertainment does well in times of recession. I expect to see the strongest players doing marvelously by the time the world is maneuvering back out of the present financial crisis, but am worried about developers. It’s highly likely that, big publishers doing business how they do, studios will only see a mite of the proceeds.

(CC image by Jasoon)





The End of “Gamers”

22 07 2008

Ian Bogost has an article up on the newly relaunched EDGE Online (replacement for Next-Gen), talking about ideas of who gamers and what games are. He’s particularly cogent near the end:

When we acknowledge videogames as a medium, the notion of a monolithic games industry, which creates a few kinds of games for a few kinds of players, stops making any sense. As does the idea of a demographic category called “gamers” who are the ones who play these games.

It’s taking some people a very long time to comprehend just how much the industry is fragmenting and expanding; I suppose old memes die hard, and we’re going to need a lot of speech like that above before a lot of people get it. I speak to some very progressive developers nowadays who are convinced that the AAA, boxed product, two week sales window is the road to extinction, and there’s a good chance they’re right. Of course, the people who play those games will still want that kind of content, but it seems like new forms of production and distribution will eventually trump all of the old school studios.

I got stuck into the comments there, and commenters over there seem okay so far too. Here’s hoping the standards stay up 🙂

(CC image by Steve Rhodes)





Rating Systems

2 05 2008

PEGI ratings

The BBFC intend to launch a rating system for online games and films in just a few months, much faster than the two years or so stated to implement the full recommendations of the Byron review. It seems the BBFC are going to work with PEGI, and this TechRadar interview with BBFC chairman David Cook goes into some detail on it (warning, site has popups):

Tanya Byron has recommended pretty much the same thing online as she has recommended for physical product, which is that games to be rated 12 and up should come to the BBFC. So there are two routes we could go here. We could either set up something which we are already doing – called BBFC Online – as a competitor to PEGI Online or we could feed into PEGI Online, given that PEGI Online already recognises BBFC symbols.

In early April the same site interviewed Patrice Chazerand from IFSI (the body in charge of PEGI), who also seems to be a pragmatist:

“The UK public probably couldn’t care less about the competition of two game ratings agencies – they care about getting the right information,” he added.

Maddeningly, just when it seems all the sulking could end, DSGi have announced that they’ll be rolling out their own in store game ratings system. Why? It seems utterly pointless and confusing for a retailer to expend resources on a third rating system when they could put more oomph into raising awareness of BBFC and PEGI ratings.

It gets worse. Here’s how the rating panel will be selected:

The Currys panel will be selected from the winners of in-store competition, the retailer has said.

and what the system will feature:

The sticky labels will feature a “squabble-ometer” and a laughter scale.

Not only is this going to be cringeworthy, but by the sounds of it, despite their line on games expanding into a family activity, the way they’re pitching it is all wrong. It’s crazily simplistic to reference the “games are for teenagers” meme as dying then imply that they’re for kids. A patronising, proprietary ratings system that regards games as “family fun” instead of entertainment for all ages, including adult only titles, is going to do absolutely nothing for games or anything else.

On reflection, DSGi’s system sounds like it might be exactly the kind of crashingly irrelevant rubbish that people just ignore. Here’s hoping.





Rest in Peace, Gary Gygax

6 03 2008

D&D

Gary Gygax was at GDC this year. Sadly, news comes via nearly everywhere that he just died. From Terra Nova:

May he rest in peace proudly as one of the very few people whose creations will outlive them.

(Edit: XKCD has done the sweetest tribute I’ve seen).

CC image: D&D circa 1970, mattdork





SCi Cut 25% of UK Workforce

6 03 2008

Hitman

Reducing them to a total of 800 employees, they are axing 14 projects. No announcements as to which ones yet:

SCi announced its restructuring plans after suffering an £81.4m loss from operations in the six months to December 31, 2007, compared to a loss of £17.9m in the same period in 2006.