There is a very interesting Question of the Week on Gamasutra today. They asked an audience of video game professionals which console they were going to buy. The question was:
As a video game professional, are you buying a Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s Wii or both on their North American launch later next week? How are you securing your console (eBay, pre-order, queue?), and what underpinned your buying decision?
I thought the answers were fairly interesting. Overall, game professionals are not really happy with the direction of the industry at this point. They see a very hardware-focused generation this time, with not a lot of focus on the quality and playability of the games. Many of the titles for Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 are sequels to existing games, just upgraded with new graphics (ie, every Electronic Arts sports title).
As a result, there is a lot of excitement about the Nintendo Wii, and their stake in the ground that it is game quality and playability that matter, not next-generation graphics.
Personally, I think in the end, there is not question that consumers will continue to push for increased graphics and processing. This continues to make professional game economics look more and more like movie economics. Many new game titles now cost $15M-$20M to produce. This economic one-up-manship will not stop, however, as long as the profits from a successful title continue to rise into the hundreds of millions. Just like the movie industry, there will always be low-budget, independent games that make news. However, by and large, it will be the bread-and-butter, expensive titles with expensive franchises that dominate the industry.
It’s the price that the video game industry is paying for being as large and mass-market as they have become.
Still, you have to credit Nintendo for fighting the good fight for game design. After all, this is the company that literally saved the industry in the mid-1980s from the ruin that was left after the Atari rocket crashed. Their party line then was they same as their party line now: too many games of low quality will kill the industry. It’s better to have fewer, higher quality titles that really deliver great games.