Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Game Migration

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A post from the New York Times says that Electronic Arts is up for grabs. CTRL-ALT-DEL made a parody of the whole thing, stating that the company could be bought for a measly $100. Which isn’t that far off, seeing as to how, if the news report can be trusted, EA stocks sell for $13.09 apiece.

That’s not all. As of August 21, 2012, NASDAQ reports say that Activision Blizzard stocks sell for even less than that, having fallen by 0.99% to $11.98 per share. Despite the fact that Diablo 3 has sold over 10 million copies (if Wiki is to be trusted), Vivendi’s thinking of selling off Activision Blizzard as well.

So where’s the market moving to, if they’re not buying these big, blockbuster games? Are we looking at mobile and casual gaming dominance? I started thinking about this while playing Temple Run on my girlfriend’s iPad.

Looking at this report from Bloomberg, this certainly seems to be the case. And I can understand why: a lot of the complicated (read: hardcore) games are being targeted to an increasingly small demographic, namely folks who are still willing to buy a console, or buy a computer, and then buy the games released for those platforms. I know a bunch of friends who’re still into using one of the big four gaming platforms, and several others using handheld game consoles, but I’ve noticed a steady incline in the number of people using an Android or Apple app, or the number of Facebook invitations I get in a day.

And I get it. Temple Run is basically an endless loop throughout a dungeon that you virtually can’t “beat”, with a set of milestones to reward you throughout your attempt to run through a bizarre temple. This follows a theme parallel to the old Galaxian or Pong games: the entertainment value lies in how far you can get without losing (the same can be said of the original Super Mario Brothers 2).

But this Penny Arcade report is interesting, since it shows that in a way, the hardcore (or mediumcore) gaming demographic isn’t at all dead; they’re just not buying the big releases. Steam and are two great avenues for buying old and new games that will faze the casual gaming crowd, but the real kicker is that these guys are selling their wares at nearly the casual gaming crowd’s prices (when they’re on sale, anyway). Is this a viable sales strategy? The companies selling through Steam think so. So why are Blizzard and EA thinking of selling? Why not just tap avenues like these to ramp up sales and improve the liquidity of their companies?

I’ve been sitting here for five minutes, thinking of a way to close this article, and I can’t figure out how, without extolling the virtues that simple, cheaper games seem to offer. The fact is, Facebook seems to make money out of the (non-Zynga) games that they have to offer, aside from the other advertising opportunities available. And developers for both mobile games and Steam-powered games seem to be having less of a hard time selling their simpler stuff at a cheaper price. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

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