ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.11 - FEBRUARY 2001
The Next Big Drive: Gaming Transforms Itself Again
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With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
Since 1994 the video gaming industry has released in excess of 7,000 individual titles that are as varied as the movies released by Hollywood each year. And the number of titles will grow exponentially with the new systems.
Celia Pearce, research associate for the USC Annenberg Center for Communication and Interactive Track Head of Production for the USC School of Cinema-Television. Photo courtesy of Celia Pearce.
The difference in the games is that they will now be a part of a broader entertainment choice, more of an end to end experience that will deliver quality interactive content to the consumer. But without intelligent, engaging games to play the game console will not find its way to the family living room coffee table.
"The console systems have moved toward offering more than just game play content thus insuring their positions as a family entertainment option," explains Kevin Sullivan, VP Sales and Marketing, AgeTec, Inc. "But, the console will reside in the living room and the game development company must strive to offer games that contain taste, style and content that the whole family can enjoy."
Developers are being given the ability to create games that are visually, and audibly, superior through consoles with remarkable computer power. With that ability, the game developers should be looking at an audience that is expanding beyond the typical gamer who is often characterized as an 18-35 year old adolescent male.
"The biggest driving force behind acceptance of the networked console will be bringing women, and families, to the platform," Pearce says. "And that will happen when games with content for women, children and families to play together becomes more readily available."
Presently the vidgame industry does offer great diversification. Of the more than 215 million video games sold in 1999, Pokémon titles for Nintendo sold more than 12 million copies alone, though the year's biggest title was Donkey Kong 64, selling 1.4 million games for a reported $86.4 million.
Nintendo 64 system console and game controllers. © Nintendo of America, Inc. All rights reserved.
Third party developer, Acclaim Entertainment, Inc. has created a diverse series of family titles from Allstar Baseball to Mary Kate and Ashley Olson adventure titles. Electronic Arts, Inc. develops games with instantly recognizable celebrity titles like John Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000/2001.
The clear victor in both software and hardware sales, however, for year 2000 was Playstation who remained victorious with 49.3 percent of overall software revenue and 50.9 percent of video game software unit sales.
Nintendo 64 captured 36 percent of software revenue and 24.9 percent of video game software unit sales.
The gaming industry's best hope for living room acceptance may well lie in being able to lure consumers to the game community where they will pay to partake in live, multi-player games instead of watching network or cable television reruns.
This will make gaming a direct competitive force against Hollywood's silver and television screens as interactive vidgames strive to eclipse the passive viewing of movies and sit-coms as one of consumer's leading entertainment choices.
Lara Croft, played by Angelina Jolie, stands in the High Council Chamber in a scene from the anticipated live-action film Tomb Raider, based on the popular video game of the same title. Photo courtesy of Newscom.com, Feature Photo Service.
Gaming Versus Hollywood
For 1999, the gap between box office receipts and VGI sales has narrowed to a scant $1.3 billion when comparing Hollywood's 1999 gross box office receipts of $7.4 billion and the VGI's industry sales of $6.1 billion.
"Over the last five years, video games have been the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry," says Lowenstein. "Between 1995-1999 alone, sales grew more than 100%, from $3 billion to $6 billion. All signals point to annualized average growths over the next five years of 15-20%."
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones was the quintessential explorer, thrill seeker and risk taker and a huge movie franchise for Paramount Pictures. The studio may be replacing Indy with a new tough-as-nails action hero when they release Tomb Raider later this year starring Angelina Jolie as the video game inspired femme fatale, Lara Croft.
As a franchise, Tomb Raider got its start in 1994 when game developer Eidos Interactive released her onto un-expecting male gamers everywhere. The dainty heroine was an instant success and her game life has already been sequeled three times with Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft and Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Through these action/adventure games, players have helped her to climb over, swim under and tunnel through natural and unnatural obstacles and deathtraps in her quest for treasure.
And one would have to believe that Paramount expects Lara and Angelina to be as successful a franchise as Indy and Harrison was for them. They have already signed the star for two additional Lara Croft theatrical release movies.
During a press conference in New York August 19, 1997, actresses Maud Adams, left, and Grace Jones, both of whom starred in James Bond films, play the Nintendo game Goldeneye 007. Photo courtesy of Newscom.com, Feature Photo Service.
But this is a two way entertainment street. Major studios, such as Disney, Universal and Fox have all developed divisions that oversee the development, marketing and promotion of movie branded games. Other movie studio owned properties, such as the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes, are turned into vidgames by third party developers like Infograms Entertainment, which has also turned hot television properties like Dragonball Z to the interactive game world.
As gaming gains ground on Hollywood, the demand for quality game developers will increase, as will the need for talented producers, directors, storywriters, script developers and animators.
With new game consoles will come new games and consumers can expect to see hundreds of new titles over the coming years giving the animator many more career path options within an opportunity filled industry. An industry which is attractive to many because of the perception that it is an industry that inspires individual creativity while lacking some of the traditional, often frustrating, Hollywood baggage.
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