About nine months ago MSNBC’s game-editor Kristin Kalniug wrote an article asking whether or not the video-game industry is “recession-proof.” As an anticipated artist and animator for video-games, this question is one that became really important to me, especially now with our economy looking the way it does. I proposed this same question at a small presentation called “Art, Technology, and Design: What is the Future of Games?” hosted by Champlain College. The question was initially met with a lot of turned heads and some smiles and snickers scattered about. That’s okay though, because this is an important question to ask.
Before I reveal the response to my question, there are some things I would like to share with you. I am a customer service representative at Blockbuster Video. Whenever I rent a Blu Ray disc to a member, I am required to ask the member if they have a Blu Ray player. Providing the member didn’t erroneously pick up the Blu Ray disc, they more often than not respond “Yeah, I have a PS3.” This is because until recently, Sony’s Playstation 3 video-game console was the cheapest way for people to enjoy their favorite movies in high definition on Blu Ray. Even now with companies introducing new lines entry level Blu Ray players, the PS3’s offerings are simply worth the extra money. So what did Sony do here? Sony established its latest contribution to the video-game industry not as a video-game console, but as a home media solution. Sony gave consumers an affordable Blu Ray player that does so much more than just Blu Ray, things that traditional DVD players, game-consoles, and even other Blu Ray players simply can’t do. So now, even with these entry level models, consumers have grown comfortable with the other services that they can enjoy with Sony’s Playstation 3.
Even Microsoft recently introduced a partnership with Netflix that will allow Xbox360 owners with an Xbox Live account to download movies off of their Netflix que instantly! This comes in addition to the Xbox Live Marketplace where “Silver and Gold members can redeem points to get extra content to enhance their entertainment experience” (Xbox.com). Notice how Microsoft chose to introduce the Xbox Live Marketplace on their official web-site. They promise that the service will enhance your “entertainment experience”. Xbox Live will enhance not only my video-game experience, but my “entertainment experience”. This is because the Marketplace does not only have game add-ons, but also includes movies, music videos, television shows, and game videos!
What I am trying to get at is that the game industry is no longer just about video-games. The target audience for most hardware and game developers is much more broad now than it has ever been. The game industry wasn’t being followed and their numbers were not being recorded years ago during the last major recession, but during that time, the film industry proved that people need distractions from everyday worries and concerns. Perhaps the video-game industry’s integration of film and television into their offerings may serve to increase the video-game industry’s presence in contemporary entertainment during these rough times.
Let’s return now to the small presentation though, and the response to my asking whether or not the game-industry is recession proof. Our guest speaker’s response cited the price of a retail video-game or video-game console versus the price of a movie ticket, a DVD, or even a DVD player. Will people have the money to spend on video-games usually debuting at $59.99 each, or consoles between two and four hundred dollars? The speaker, however, didn’t say that the price of video-games would drive people away from the industry, and that video-games will still be a popular form of entertainment and distraction during the recession. As for “recession-proof” though, he predicted where some families might be accustomed to purchasing five or six video-games for their child for Christmas, they may now only purchase two or three. He also doesn’t believe video-game consoles and hardware would sell as well this holiday season as they had last year because of the steep price tag.
While I too agree that the video-game industry is not “recession-proof”, I don’t feel that the industry will be hit too hard. While a movie ticket may only cost ten dollars before concessions, a movie ticket will only provide you two hours of entertainment. A $21.99 DVD offers a mere two to three hours of entertainment, and how many times can you watch the same movie over and over again? Video-games on the other hand, charge $60 for usually no less than 13 hours of entertainment. That’s not including the many more hours that can be spent playing with others with the internet capabilities of next generation video-game consoles. Some games, such as Sony’s Resistance 2: Fall of Man promise over four hundred hours of game play to explore and complete 100% of the game. Modern video-games simply have so much more to offer than other more traditional forms of entertainment and I think that consumers will realize this even when spending is tight.