Posted tagged ‘money’

Can’t Buy Me Love

November 10, 2010

CoD: Black Ops is the entertainment event of the year, y’all! Hundreds of millions of dollars are almost guaranteed to be spent on shooting foreigners in the face by all and sundry this christmas season. Game retailers are saying prayers of thanks to their greedy materialist gods.

To demonstrate how culturally important it was, Black Ops had a glamorous launch event at Battersea Power Station. The chap off Big Brother’s Little Brother was there and everything. So was (and this is a blast from the Jurassic Age) Sophie Ellis-Bextor* and also some chap from boyband Blue. Excellent. Games have made it, brothers and sisters. We’re in. We’re recognised. Testify! CODMODWAR2 made, according to the Guardian, $1bn worldwide, and that’s the kind of money that makes even James Cameron raise a jewel-encrusted eyelid. The fact that the Guardian wrote up the piece which I am plagiarising so gloriously here is evidence – games make money, and now people care.

The numbers bear examination, though (by someone other than me, ideally, but I’m the one with the keyboard and the chip on my shoulder). $1bn is a lot of cash. Avatar itself made twice that, admittedly, but most films don’t come close. Games are making someone an awful lot of money, and that has been equated to Going Mainstream – market penetration is what I mean here (I think). But money doesn’t necessarily equal acceptance. $1bn is the sort of money to make someone pull up short, twang their red braces and suck air in through their teeth, but making a lot of money isn’t the same as playing to a large audience. Avatar made twice as much money as CODMODWAR, and it did this at around $10 a pop. COD was selling at around $60, I believe. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to guess, then, that Avatar attracted an audience roughly ten times as large as COD. We’re not in. We just feel like we are.

We’re going the wrong way. Games have lept from ghetto pastime to money spinning Super Big Business without anything in between. Games are celebrating, and being celebrated for, profit. The industry’s ambitions rarely go further than baths full of money, and in doing that, by focusing on the genres and franchises that fill the baths the quickest, we are boiling away and reducing much of the artistry and experimentation that games grew up with. Activision wants to produce at least one title from each of it’s main franchises each year. SEGA have put the brakes on new games and new ideas, instead concentrating on sequels to their proven IP – so more Sonic, Football Manager and Total War, less originality. The publishers have found an audience happy to pay again and again for a certain type of game, and so the game keeps coming. The audience isn’t expanding, and rather than growing, maturing and broadening as it ages, gaming is narrowing, and becoming One Thing Only.

This is bad news for us, EDRites. Imagine a world in which the only games produced and sold are sequels, the same game tweaked just enough to justify the next £40, but not enough to actually be any different. Endless stultifying repetition. Sequel after sequel after remake after cover version. This launch event is, in some ways, a sign of that. It is a sign of the gaming world’s long-standing desire to be cinema, but a cinema without the arthouses. A cinema populated entirely by Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal films.

Money is fine, and money is important. But it can’t be everything.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

*Gilbo’s dad likes her.

Advertisements