My ears are still ringing from attending E3 last week. But this time I came away with a much different perspective on the industry.
I attended the very first E3 way back in the dark ages of 1994. I ventured into a male dominated world of shooters, racing and “boobalicous” avatars (as well as booth babes). I was one woman out of maybe a hundred or more young men to attend. I was there to see what the animation potential from this renegade group from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), would have for a mere mortal animation studio.
Having never played any console games (and I still have not had the pleasure of using one of those boxes), I was mesmerized by the animation, but I could see that games were a completely different world. The animation, for the most part, was trying to re-create reality or taking the player into dark and strange lands. But in those dark early days, the animation was not very good and the CGI still had some 400 lb warriors look like they were walking on the moon.
You just don’t make animation and then play it, in the game business. It is a unique combination of equipment, programming/technology and art.
It wasn’t until I went to Game Developers Conference (GDC) a couple of years ago, that I really learned why the goal was to make the cinematics as realistic as they do. They can not just go out and film the shots they want. The developers, if they want to capture real action like in “Call of Duty” and other like games, have to recreate the action so the gamer could make those moves that are unique to the individual game player. It really is about the engineering of the games. The action, or animation, on top of the engineering is the eye candy.
But what is the future of the console. A few years ago, I attended a KOCCA USA panel discussion on the Asian game industry put on by the Korean government agency. It was my first exposure to the world of online and PC games and why they existed so prevalently in Asia and the console didn’t. During this presentation I learned consoles were not sold in Korea and other parts of Asia for the prime reason that the publishers were worried about piracy. The other reason was, most Korean, Chinese and other Asian populations did not have TV and computers in their homes. They used computer at internet cafes. Japan is the exception.
It is only recently consoles have been sold in Asia. The Asian gamer had become used to social games, online games and even PC games. There is a huge industry of this style gaming in Asia. That same year, I attended a mobile conference at NATPE, the US television marketplace. A gentleman from CBS declared causal games would soon dominate on mobile and our mobile devices were going to be like our remote control, computer, phone and viewing device, all in one – “Pfft. . .my Motorla was not going to be doing that,” I said because no one had a Blackberry and iPhone was not even a glimmer. These statements and a couple more gave me the feeling the console was going to going the same place the VHS tape player went.
I proclaimed this in my classes. Oh, you should have heard the gamer students protest this statement. It was deafening. I have made this proclamation every year since and the number of protester is getting smaller. Then the L.A. Times ran an article on June 5, 2011 just before this year’s E3 about the 6% decline in console sales. The Wii and Kinect are trying to make the inactive active, and have given a lift to the industry. But several people have confessed to me they never get off the couch and they use their boxes for Netflix and a computer in the living room.
So where is gaming going?