Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Electronic Games 100: Done

Wheatley, by TRP-Chan
The Games Magazine Games 100 is the biggest project I do all year: a 15-page supplement on the 100 best games from the last 12 months. We picked category winners in Action, RPG/Adventure, Mobile/Handheld, Strategy, and Sports/Driving, as well as Game of the Year. These categories fluctuate sometimes: when classic adventure games roamed the land freely, there were enough of them to support their own category. Mobile games are a new category, and there were so few platform-exclusive handheld games of note that I just dropped them into Mobile.

You'll have to wait for the December issue to find out what we picked, but I can talk a bit about the general contours of the game industry as it stands in 2010-2011.

The game industry continues to grow, but in strange and unpredictable ways. Here are some quick observations:
  • 72% of American households have a videogame machine. 
  • Consumers spent $25.1 billion on games in 2010, with those numbers projected to hit $48 billion for 2011 and $70 billion by 2012. By comparison, worldwide motion picture ticket sales for 2010 were approximately $31 billion. 
  • In studies of children 12 to 17 years old, 99% of boys (and 94% of girls) play video or computer games, with no variables for race or ethnicity.
  • The average game player is 37 years old, with 29% of them over the age of 50. 
  • Video games had skewed heavily male for most of their existence, but by 2010 48% of the gamer audience was female. 
  • Approximately 13% of the gaming audience is made up of males under 17, while 37% are adult women.
  • Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello revealed that since the year 2000, console games have dropped from 80% of EA’s total sales down to only 40%. What filled that vacuum? It was mobile devices, which are becoming the dominant platform in electronic entertainment. 
  • The 3DS was a dramatic flop. A lack of quality 3DS games and the explosion of the mobile market lay at the root of Nintendo’s woes. The company made deep price cuts in the hardware, but it may not be enough. For the first time in gaming history, Nintendo may lose its complete dominance of the handheld market. 
  • Mobile gaming has emerged the dominant force in interactive entertainment. This is not merely driven by technology, or convenience, or price point, although all of these are factors. It is driven by the wild creativity that is being unleashed in mobile gaming design. Apps are cheaper to develop, which means more people can make quirky and original games and get them directly to players without involving a publisher or retailers. As a result, a rich and previously inaccessible vein of innovation is tapped, radically changing the gaming landscape. The shocker in preparing for this year’s Games 100 was how many of these little games eclipsed an increasingly-derivative mainstream gaming market. While consoles are dominated by endless sequels, mobile gaming seems to offer a fresh new surprise every day. 


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