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Games vs. Movies: The Battle of the Bling-Bling

July 16, 2004
Vlada "Sheldon" Cirkovic

Comparing the achievements, we reached some interesting results...

Computer game development has definitely become a corporate business. The days when a handful of enthusiasts could handcraft unique works of art in this field are over. Major development studios now have several hundreds employees, lead by a management team which is, of course, concerned primarily with profitability, directing the teams they oversee to forget about innovation and concern themselves with only that which can make the studio more money. This leaves little space for originality. Knowing your blockbusters is what matters, and this is exactly where games and movies become comparable. Striving to expand the market, the companies tend to address the people who do not normally play games and who usually don't know (and what's more don't want to know) what makes a game fun, and pumps them for details about a movie that will eventually become a game world. But, if you name your game after some famous movie, you already have an advantage over the rest of the market. The mixture of the two arts usually had poor results, with The Chronicles of Riddick and Spiderman 2 (console version) as recent possible exceptions. Several titles that were dubbed revolutionary were poorly accepted by players at large. The general rule, which is still obviously right in most cases, is that a good movie is followed by a mediocre game.

Until a couple of years ago, video games would appear a short time after the movie, and were treated as all other secondary sources of profit, like t-shirts and action figures. This is no longer the case; the games are being produced in conjunction with the movie, in order to achieve maximum financial impact through a simultaneous launch. Actors, animators and modelers do their parts for both the movie and the game. And while there still are a lot of games made after movies, those that had movies made after them were usually followed by various difficulties... only the best selling games stand a chance of being turned into movies, and they most commonly lack sufficient quality content to make the movie interesting. This is most evident in any of the Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider movies, and we are yet to see whether Prince of Persia or Doom will do any better...

The world market of entertainment software and hardware made $20 billion in 2002. Due to the increase in use of computers in the world, this market should be making $30 billion per year by 2007.

The single largest market is in the US. The data shows that the gaming industry made $7 billion in the US alone in 2003. This huge figure proves the unstoppable advance of the industry, especially when compared to the $3.7 billion made in1996. The capital is typically reinvested in developing more powerful hardware that would run the next generation of games. Of course, this largely depends on major hardware manufacturers and their assessment on whether they turned enough profit on existing technologies to justify the research and development costs.

From this $7 billion sum, $5.8 billion was attributed to the console market. Thanks to the lower prices of the most popular consoles, there is more and more of them around, and their sales increased by 5.4% in comparison to 2002. PC games made "only" $1.2 billion, and had a decrease in sales by 14%. There are more reasons for this, the most prominent being the slashing of hardware costs. A console will "last" longer than a PC. Sony claims that its PS1 spent ten years on the market. How many video cards did you have to change in the meantime in order to be able to play the latest games at decent frame rates? On the other hand, the constant advancement in video and audio technology means that most PC games are continually technologically superior to their console counterparts. There is also the fact that some genres like strategies, adventure games and first-person shooters remain mostly a PC exclusive (with the possible exception of the last one). The decrease in the sales of PC games is also attributed to the delays of highly anticipated titles like Doom 3 and Half Life 2. This tendency to create an incredible hype and then keep delaying the game which eventually appears on the market in some semi-functional state, requiring a host of patches before it can even be played to a decent degree also remains a PC-exclusive. This is partially due to the fact that there is only a single piece of hardware to test the console game on. PC games, until recently, held the monopoly on on-line gaming, but that is obviously changing due to the Internet integration of the major consoles, specifically Microsoft's XBOX Live service and PlayStation titles like Final Fantasy XII.

To date, almost 70 million PlayStation 2 consoles have been sold around the world. The other consoles fall far behind with Microsoft's XBOX having sold 13.7 million units, and the Nintendo GameCube with 15 million. Another crucial segment of the market is the market of mobile devices, currently ruled by Nintendo GameBoy Advance, which sold 190 million units. This market will soon see two new competitors: Sony's PSP (PlayStation Portable), which can play music and video, and Nintendo GameBoy DS (Dual Screen) whose dual screen will bring higher resolution games (at least according to the Nintendo marketing department). Both devices will support wireless connectivity. Apart from this Sony announced that it would put its much-anticipated PS3 on display by the end of the year, and have a playable version of it at next year's E3.

The new generation of mobile phones with powerful features led to the development of video games solely meant for mobile phones. This is currently the fastest growing segment of the industry. The most profit in this field was seen in 2003, with $587 million, which is twice as much as in 2002. It is expected that it will reach almost $3.8 billion by 2007.

The entire gaming industry currently makes more than $11 billion per year. 186.4 million Console titles and 52.8 million PC games have been sold in the US alone. New games keep appearing at an incredible rate, yet, unfortunately, quantity seems to be ahead of quality. The average price for popular PC games was between $30 and $50 in 2003, which is 8% lower than the previous year.

On the other hand, the results of the movie industry go both ways. The number of cinema tickets sold went down, and the number of DVDs sold skyrocketed. The following table shows the theatre statistics for 2002:

Rank Country Profit ($ millions)
1. USA 9,516.6
2. Japan 1,571.5
3. UK 1,134.4
4. France 971.8
5. Germany 908
6. Canada 602.1
7. Spain 591.7
8. India 534.6
9. South Korea 507.5
10. Italy 496.3

We shouldn't forget that some markets, such as the Indian market, have huge profits in the movie industry, while video-game sales fall way behind. Even though the markets in US, Europe and Japan have a lot in common, the statistics show that the average European sees 2.4 movies per year, with Americans watching 5.4 movies and the Japanese only 1.3 movies per year.

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