GDC大会主管Meggan Scavio说道：“手机游戏和社交游戏让我们看到，不需要1至2年的研发周期也能够制作出可盈利的游戏，这是单机游戏远远做不到的。”市场调查公司NPD认为，2/3的美国人在玩视频游戏，半数美国家庭拥有单机视频游戏机。同时，美国6岁以上公民中有1/5的人在Facebook之类的社交网络平台上玩游戏。调查公司ComScore表明，超过2100万的美国人使用手机玩视频游戏。EA首席执行官John Riccitiello说道：“十年前，全球或许只有1.5亿至2.5亿人在玩游戏，但现在玩家数量已增长到10亿至12亿左右。”
研发《植物大战僵尸》和《宝石迷阵》的PopCap Games公司首席执行官Dave Roberts说道：“社交游戏和手机游戏将数千万人带入游戏世界，这是七八年前该行业无法预见的成功。十年前，如果你问50岁妇人是否玩过视频游戏，或许她会觉得一头雾水。但现在，或许她也已经舍弃《FarmVille》、《宝石迷阵4：闪电战》或iPhone的《幻幻球》，投入视频游戏的怀抱。”
Information Solutions Group为PopCap所做的最新调查显示，超过1/3拥有手机的人玩游戏。半数手机游戏玩家表示自己在过去1年内玩游戏的时间有所增加，84%的人至少每周玩一次。据Scavio所述，手机游戏似乎并不会蚕食传统游戏。据游戏邦了解，许多单机游戏和PC游戏运营公司开始设计适用于iPhone和iPad的游戏版本。Scavio说道：“如果公司想要扩大游戏的覆盖面，就必须要研发对应各种平台的版本，他们需要追随玩家的脚步。看看Id Software设计的游戏《Rage》，这款单机游戏可以在iPhone上玩，手机只是人们玩游戏的新平台而已。”
今年秋天，Xbox 360将迎来6岁生日，PlayStation已面世3年，而Wii也历经5年的岁月变迁。此刻，各大公司都未成考虑开发新操作系统。然而数年间，这三款游戏机也在不断增添新功能，如可以使用网络来下载游戏或输出Netflix视频。游戏邦了解到，Xbox 360和PS3还可以连接至Facebook和Twitter。新型动态控制器，如PlayStation Move和用于Xbox 360的Kinect，增加了这些系统与玩家的互动性。但是某些向玩家传播游戏的云基础系统可能不久便会击败这些游戏机。正在运营的OnLive便属于此类系统，其竞争者Gaikai正在研发中。
网络数据挖掘公司GamesAnalytics北美业务运营主管Alan Miller预测道：“未来大部分游戏将通过网络进行电子销售，因此我极为关注游戏机开发商是否有能力设计出新产品来适应这个变化。”原动视公司创建者Miller曾为Atari 2600游戏机设计游戏，他认为视频游戏产业正面临25年来最大的变革，变革始于从零售至电子销售的转变。
前EA首席运营官Riccitiello表示，在自己创建的私募股本公司Elevation Partners的经历使他深信视频游戏产业必须围绕这些新型设备和网络进行改革。目前，EA提供诸如《质量效应》之类游戏的下载与销售，并计划使《Madden NFL》、《FIFA》和《龙腾世纪》登陆Facebook。游戏邦了解到，iPhone最受欢迎游戏榜单中也有EA Mobile的身影。据Riccitiello所述，转变的结果给公司带来超过7亿美元的年销售额，上季度销售增长39%。
Social media, mobile devices help video games grow
Talk about game changers. The popularity of games on Facebook and other social-networking sites coupled with the proliferation of games on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices is powering a mini-explosion in the video game industry.
More people are playing video games on more platforms than ever, even as hardware sales of traditional game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii — not to mention the games for many of those systems — have declined from $21.4 billion in 2008 to $18.7 billion in 2010. The estimated value of social-gaming publisher Zynga, the force behind many of the games on Facebook, has zoomed to as much as $9.3 billion, more than the value of established game companies such as Electronic Arts, publisher of Madden NFL and The Sims.
“The business model is changing,” says Ray Muzyka, co-founder of game developer BioWare, which releases its fantasy role-playing game Dragon Age II next week. Not only is the way people play games changing, so are the platforms on which they’re playing them, Muzyka says. “The types of content (and) the length of the experience is always changing — and a lot of that is a reflection of where games come from, the technology and entertainment fusion,” he says.
Disruptive forces are buffeting the video game industry more strongly than at any time since 1984, when Mario arrived on the Nintendo Entertainment System and began siphoning players from video game arcades. Still, optimism reigns as more than 18,000 game creators, designers, programmers and technicians gather this week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. That’s because overall spending on games is expected to increase through 2014, with mobile, social and downloadable games driving the growth.
“What smartphones and social games is showing us is that you don’t need a year or two-year development cycle anymore to make a profitable game,” says GDC event director Meggan Scavio. “But those consoles are not going to go away.” Video games are played by as many as two-thirds of Americans, says The NPD group, a market researcher. As many as half of U.S. homes have a console video game system. Meanwhile, one in five Americans age 6 and up have played games on social networks such as Facebook, according to NPD. Then there are the 21 million-plus Americans who research firm ComScore says play video games on smartphones. “Maybe a decade ago, there were 150 million or 250 million people gaming, and now there are about 1 billion or 1.2 billion globally,” says John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts. “Every new device ends up being a game device.”
Getting social and mobile
In 2007, Apple brought its first iPhone to market, and Zynga launched Texas Hold’em Poker on Facebook. Since then, Apple has sold more than 73.5 million iPhones and 10 billion-plus apps, as many as half of them games. Zynga’s CityVille game, the successor to the popular FarmVille game, also on Facebook, attracts 20 million players daily and 95 million monthly, according to AppData.com.
Facebook games and games on smartphones, including Android devices, “have managed to do what the industry wasn’t able to do on its own for seven or eight years before that, to bring tens of millions of new people into the gaming fold,” says Dave Roberts, CEO of PopCap Games, which publishes Plants Vs. Zombies and Bejeweled. “If you asked a 50-year-old woman 10 years ago if she played video games, she would look at you like you are from Mars. Now, she is likely as not to play FarmVille or Bejeweled Blitz or Peggle on her iPhone.”
More than one-third of smartphone owners play games, according to a new survey conducted by Information Solutions Group for PopCap. Half of mobile gamers say they played more in the past 12 months, and 84% play at least once a week. The mobile games do not seem to be cannibalizing traditional games, Scavio says. Many publishers of console and PC games are designing versions for iPhone and iPad. “They need to if they want to expand their audience. They need to go where those audiences are,” she says. “You saw Rage come out from Id Software. That looks like a console game on your iPhone. It really is just a new way for people to game.”
Console systems holding pat
Console makers have had to adjust to market conditions. By past standards, all are getting long in the tooth.
The Xbox 360 will be 6 years old this fall, the PlayStation 3 and Wii, 5 years old. None are talking about new systems at this point. All three have added functionality through the years. Each can be used to download games and stream Netflix videos over the Internet. The Xbox 360 and PS3 also connect to Facebook and Twitter. And new motion controllers, the PlayStation Move and Kinect for the Xbox 360, offer ways to improve those systems’ interactivity. But cloud-based systems that stream games to players could soon leapfrog console games. One such system, OnLive, already is in operation, and a competitor, Gaikai, is in the works.
“All the games or the vast majority of games are going to be distributed online or electronically,” predicts Alan Miller, director of North American operations for online game monetization firm GamesAnalytics. “I am concerned about the ability of the console manufacturers to keep introducing new, better-generation machines.” Miller, a co-founder of the original Activision that published games for the Atari 2600, says the video game industry “is undergoing its greatest rate of change in the last 25 years, fundamentally generated by this transition from retail distribution to electronic distribution.”
Even publishers of the games made for consoles are having to adapt. Activision took in $1.5 billion in revenue in 2010 from digital sales of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty map packs. Yet, last month it abandoned its Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk and True Crime franchises to stem potential losses because of lackluster sales of recent releases. It also announced layoffs, as have many other game makers. Miller says Guitar Hero’s demise is a result of the “audience moving to online distribution” and the cost to “distribute the expensive peripherals that Guitar Hero requires.”
In the three years between leaving EA as COO and returning as CEO, Riccitiello says, his experience at private-equity firm Elevation Partners, which he co-founded, convinced him that the video game industry was going to have to transform itself “around these new devices and the proliferation of broadband.” Today, EA sells downloadable content for games such as Mass Effect, as well as creating Facebook games for Madden NFL, FIFA and Dragon Age (due to launch this spring). And many of the top iPhone games are published by EA Mobile. The result: more than $700 million in annual digital sales, with a 39% increase last quarter, says Riccitiello.
“I don’t think it replaces console gaming,” he says. “Big blockbusters are still part of the movie industry. At the same time, you can watch a cat video on YouTube. I guarantee you, a decade from now, there will be blockbuster games, and there will be our equivalent of cat videos. We are going to run the full spectrum. The more interesting thing is that all games are social from this point.” (Source: USA TODAY)