Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A History Of Computer Games, Part Three - 21st Century Breakdown

The 21st century has been a massive success for the video games industry, the rapid growth of technology, innovation and creativity, the industry seems to have flourished and today the global video game industry makes more money than Hollywood. Toady’s video game market sees massive sales despite the harsh financial times the world has experienced over the past few years. The industry now generates sales in the billions of pounds and is one one of the most rapidly growing industries worldwide. From 2005 through 2009, the US computer and video game industry achieved real annual growth of 10.6% per year. By comparison, the entire US economy grew by only 1.4% per year during the same four year period. Since being released in 2006, in just 5 years, the game Wii sports has sold in excess of 70 million copies worldwide, and in terms of consoles, the Sony Playstation 2 has sold around 150 million units worldwide since its release in March 2000.
Despite these impressive statistics many major video game publishers recorded losses in 2010, with pressures of rising development costs,leaders Activision lost $233m and EA also lost $322m, and in the UK retail sales of hardware and software where at £2.98bn, a drop from £3.31bn in 2009. Nevertheless, I feel that these statistics do not represent the whole picture, only a few weeks ago EA released Battlefield 3 (28th Oct 2011), and claimed it was the fastest selling video game ever, selling more that 5 million copies in its first week of release, and, as some of these statistics only take into account sales of 'boxed' goods, they are missing out on one of, if not the most important video game developments of the 21st century, online gaming.
Previously the exclusive domain of PC games, online gaming has become ever more prominent with video game consoles during the 21st century. Initially the idea struggled to get on its feet, not many games or consoles offered online gaming but thanks to the development of broadband internet and our current generation of video game consoles, Xbox360 and PS3, online gaming is now common place. Where once playing a video game was an isolated hobby, they now offer in many ways, a form of unrivalled social interaction. Not only do our home consoles provide this service, the rising popularity of Flash and Java has led to an internet revolution where websites also offer a new set of user interactivity, a great example of this would be the massive success of Facebook games, the game Cityville was launched in December 2010 and within 45 days had 100 million monthly active users. As well as this, other technology, particularly hand held devices such as smartphones and tablets have also given a boost to online downloadable games, seeing 50 million downloads of the game Angry Birds.
I could go on for a long time about how things have changed and progressed for video games in the 21st century, absolutely everything seems to develop at an alarming rate nowadays , its honestly quite frightening, and this is no more true than in the field of technology, the parenthood and lifeline of video games. But what for the future, and how will I be affected as a potential future employee of the video game industry? Well, personally, the future looks good, the amazing new technologies that are currently being developed, leading to increasing new ways to interact with a video games excites me, as a consumer, but what excites me as a video game artist is the ever increasing audience reach of games. Will this give me the opportunity to share my own ideas and creativity in a way that no other career could possibly even come close to? And be paid for doing so? Magic 8 ball says it looks likely.
Yet despite this bright outlook for the future of video games, the UK industry is struggling. Once a leader in game development, Britain is slowly slipping down the international league table, *cough, conservatives. Our government has made huge cuts to the funding of Arts and Sciences, other countries meanwhile are offering generous tax credits to technology firms and excellent university courses in games development. Errr, what?! Sadly, in the UK it is expensive to make games, high wages and a government refusing to offer any tax incentives. In addition to this there is a growing skills shortage, many university games courses seem like re branded media study degrees and only 9 games related courses including our own here at DMU are accredited by Skillset out of a possible 141!
This could lead me off on a massive tangent so I’ll bring it to an end here. One thing to say is that the video game industry, particularly here in the UK, has reached a massively challenging point. I know I am surrounded by a mass of talent with my fellow students, but I still get the feeling that a lot of the world still doesn’t take us seriously. It better start looking, video games are big, planet sized, but they are heading in the direction of consuming a solar system, the artistic realisation and interactivity is branching, consuming other areas such as simulation, product and customer research in retail chains, other realities, the list goes on and I'm very excited to be part of such a booming industry and will watch with intense as to where it heads in the future.
Watch this space!

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