High Score: Can The World Keep Up With Video Games?

Dennis Faas's picture

With Microsoft increasing online capabilities and downloads via Xbox Live in anticipation of the release of the Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) and Nintendo Wii, the gaming landscape is busier than ever.

And it's exciting too: console launches have become events occurring about once every four years, making them rare affairs. As the industry continues to grow, excitement over such releases has become comparable to the popularity of the Olympics and perhaps even the anticipation of a U.S. presidential election.

But, is gaming growing too fast? Can the North American culture and economy keep up with an industry that is sucking its clients into a system of interaction that is far greater than more traditional entertainment, such as movies and television?

Society vs. Sony

In a recent opinion piece on the subject, website GameDaily argues that the gaming industry is broken. In the opinion of the author, the industry is not growing at the pace it could -- a problem that stems from commercial decisions that stunt growth.

Firstly, game companies have yet to design, and more importantly, market games as media. Instead, opportunities to define a community of gamers -- as passionate as any Lost or Monty Python nut -- has yet to be constructed. The result is a mass misunderstanding of games and gamers, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from grandparents in the government and "Pong"-less parents. Without a defined network, gamers might forever be labeled introverted and violent social malcontents. (Source: biz.gamedaily.com)

The absence of such a network makes any defense of the gaming industry a difficult one. Recently, ARStechnica reported on the opening of a "Betty Ford" clinic for gamers addicted to the titles they play.

According to the report, the Amsterdam-based Wild Horses Center provides the most hardcore of gamers with a "detox" program. Clearly, the media has no issue with defining gaming extremism.

Until there is some association of gamers -- and it may take years of growth -- games will be perceived as a social evil, and not the problem-solving programs that challenge users far more than a Jackie Chan flick. (Source: arstechnica.com)

How does the industry grow?

The survival of the gaming industry depends on its increased popularity. Such popularity depends on price, perhaps the most controversial part of any console release.

Although the expense of cartridges threatened to eliminate momentum a few years ago with the expense of game purchases on the Nintendo 64, this generation of consoles appears to have the most complex and controversial cost breakdown.

Both the Microsoft 360 and Sony Playstation 3 have engaged dual pricing options, confusing gamers and parents. With that said, the prices themselves are a crucial factor in determining the industry leader for this generation; Sony -- clearly the leader for the last decade of gaming -- is charging headfirst into the next era with a system that will challenge wallets far more than thumbs.

If Sony is to jump ahead of the economic realities of consumers, the effect on the growth of the industry just might leave gamers defenseless for years to come.

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