Interesting posting about Greg Costikyans attempts to raise VC for Manifesto Games, a start-up alternative game publisher trying to break the big company stranglehold on the market. I wish him luck.
Confession: I dont play games. But my two boys do and Im often depressed by the limited range of games in the local HMV store. Everything seems to be a variation on a few different categories. Cover versions abound (eg Age of Empires/ Cossacks.) The last really original game I saw was not a mainstream production – it came from the UN World Food programme, who presumably had the money to fund it. Costikyan is looking at the long tail of games where the creativity is more likely to be found: if he can give market exposure to independent developers, so much the better.
Costikyans comments on the game market are interesting.
In 1999 he said: “As recently as 1991, a typical computer game cost around $250,000 to develop. Graphics and sound have improved a lot since then, but computer games havent gotten any better as games. You dont need $1.5 million in development funding to develop a first-rate game; you can do it on $250-400,000. You just cant get shelf-space for a low-budget game.”
In 2005 he said: “As recently as 1992, the average budget for a PC game was $200,000. Today, a typical budget for an A-level title is $5m. And with the next generation, it will be more like $20m. As the cost ratchets upward, publishers becoming increasingly conservative, and decreasingly willing to take a chance on anything other than the tired and true. So we get Driver 69. Grand Theft Auto San Infinitum. And licensed drivel after licensed drivel. Today, you CANNOT get an innovative title published, unless your last name is Wright, or Miyamoto.”
Games are the other side of simulation: without them the technologies would not develop, without creative play the serious ideas wouldnt surface. And just as the big companies are strangling the games market, I am afraid the simulation market also risks being strangled. Some of the (US military) cash that goes into their training simulations undoubtedly funds major research and improvements: but I suspect a lot goes into pulling up the ladder behind yourself, and the sort of bureaucratic empire-building/ boundary-setting that goes on in the major simulation fora. (See my earlier remarks about meaninglessness as a tool for marketing business simulations: think of a new idea/ name, trademark it, defend it, etc..)
Sorry, getting off the track here. Good luck, Greg.