Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The death of the high-street game store


I was told on the train back to Aberystywth one time, by a student of economics, that during this time of recession, at least I wouldn't be hit as hard. He said that, though luxury goods sales dwindle, entertainment related products and services historically maintain a healthy trade.

But seeing this happening to Game, I wonder how true this can be.

It's the tipping point for my argument. No-one in games is getting anything like the money we would have seen before the recession, and yet I'm told to my face that at least my profession won't be affected.

So, what's going on?

I suspect that the economics student is right. I suspect that the market for entertainment is just as strong as it's always been, but much more worrying is that the market I am working in is not all of entertainment, but just one corner of it. And, due to the recession, anyone talking about a dwindling market, could well be blaming the slow death of profits on something that doesn't naturally or actually have any impact.

Maybe we're experiencing a recession at the same time as the games industry is experiencing a change of course. The way to make money is changing, and because the recession looms, it's not obvious that we're dying by standing still.

The highstreet retailer model is being crushed from two sides. Boxed games are a dying breed, but so is buying games at a shop.

They were definitely going to die.

I feel that a lot of games developers see the reason they're not being paid well in the shadows of other narratives. Some see Steam or Origin as a way to save them from pirates, which they assume to be the ones costing them their wages. Others see that it's the second hand game market. Neither seems ready to admit that people are actually buying more games than ever before. The only real problem seems to be people wanting to make AAA games when the majority doesn't value those games any higher than some grumpy avians.

Entertainment makes money, otherwise Apple wouldn't be the largest company in the world right now. The games industry needs to recognise that being stubborn and doing it the old way, making block-buster hits, though it brings in millions, might not be enough any more. When you bet millions to make millions, while others are tossing peanuts and making a good percentage of what you're expecting back... well, you've got to ask yourself: are you doing it wrong?
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