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2004: New Blog Resolution, Holiday Gaming, and Other Bits

Posted by spaceghost on January 6, 2004 at 9:46 AM PST

Happy New Year! After a much needed holiday break, and an excessive amount of gaming (2:30am chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and diet Cherry Coke to keep the gaming energy going) I am fired up and make this resolution: regular blogging. Yes, I know that things have been quiet on the gaming front, but no more! So, with the first blog of the new year, let's tackle some holiday gaming, outlooks for 2004, and a pet peeve......(cue the music).....

2003 was a VERY good year for gaming. Titles like SSX3, Knights of the Old Republic and Lord of the Rings:ROTK made for some awesome game evenings in the “Melissinos Media Pit”. The cinematic nature of these games and slick presentations are starting to REALLY blur the lines between interactive content and television/movies. I dare say, the Lord of the Rings game was more enjoyable than the movie (which is one of the best movies ever made) because I got to play through the story with my friends. KotOR is probably the BEST StarWars story written since The Empire Strikes Back. Hats off to Drs. Ray, Greg and the BioWare crew. And the audio presentation in games like SSX3 and LotR, whose audio was encoded using the THX audio specification, can be summed up in one word: un-freakin-believable.

What really struck me about these games, aside from being fantastic pieces of entertainment, was that they were available for more than one gaming platform. The current trend is to start publishing the same title on multiple platforms due to the quantity of game capable devices on the market. Of course, you need to ether have development tools and technologies available for every platform you want to target or a LOT of money to dedicate several teams to developing the same title. Developers today almost have no choice but to target multiple platforms. Why? Due to the average video game costing between $4-6 million dollars to develop, not including HUGE licensing fees for movie properties, music rights, advertising and so on, the only way to recoup your investment is by hitting as many devices as possible.

This market trend is VERY good for Java technologies. The focus of the Game Technologies Group on client side development will pay off for the game development community in a big way. With the ability to focus on a specific set of game related APIs, it will be much easier to guarantee cross platform portability with performance across a wider range of platforms than any other technology currently in the market. Add in the ability to target a variety of devices (cell phones, portals, set top box) for additional game play features and you start building a very compelling, network centric revenue and game play “platform” for developers to utilize.

2004 promises to be a great year for the games industry. There will be close to 75 on-line games that will be released, showcasing a diverse amount of content in the market. We will see the current consoles showing their best content to date and hitting their stride as the current product cycle starts winding down in anticipation of the next generation platforms in 2005/6. Sony should be releasing the first product that will have the ability to go after Nintendo's dominance in the portable gaming market, the PSP. Nintendo will be releasing two game console products this year. Mobile games will continue to grow at a record pace (but could also collapse if not managed properly, another blog another time) and we will see more game specific devices ala N-Gage and Tapwave's Zodiac hit the market. We will see newcomers like VIA and Iridium Labs try to bring new “general” game consoles into the already crowded market.

Lastly, PC vendors will continue to bring game specific PC's to the market. No surprise there as the exotic gaming hardware actually has the ability to generate more than 1-2% of revenue and people will buy them! Hot colors, funky case mods and all shapes and sizes. Anyone that does not understand that gaming and entertainment is what drives the consumer PC industry is asleep at the wheel. Why else can you buy a 3+ GHz processor, 1GB ram, and a video card that eats most workstation performance alive at Best Buys for $1000? To surf the web or balance your checkbook? I don't think so.

Now, on to my closing rant: pet peeves. I only have one to pick at right now, so here we go. Video game violence and the media. The blame levied against the games industry for violence by our youth has reached a fevered pitch. The press can't seem to understand that video games have moved on from being an anti-social activity for introverted 13 year old boys to an adult embraced mainstream pastime. While I don't agree with all of the violence in certain games, I don't believe that they should be banned either. As a parent I see it as my responsibility to monitor the exposure of media to my children. Yes, I have Grand Theft Auto III in my house, but my kids are not allowed to play it and they know it. Just like they would not be allowed to watch Good Fellas or the Sopranos. BTW, a hallmark of any permanent technology or medium is met with the same opposition. Look at the music, television, motion picture, comic book industries and so on. You don't want to play it, don't buy it. Off the soap box.

So there you have it, games for the new year, outlook for 2004 and a wee pet peeve. Wishing you a safe, fun and exciting 2004! Happy New Year!

-Chris Melissinos

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