I have been looking at the evolution of the Gaming Industry and I cannot but notice some similarities or overlaps between this and the Movie Industry. The Gaming Industry has evolved exponentially in the last 30 years, whereas the Movie Industry has taken over 100 years to get to where they are now. Let us see how these 2 industries are similar and will they suffer the same pitfalls.
Like any story, we need to start from the beginning. When movies were in their infancy, there were no studios and only very few people knew how these new technologies worked. There were no film classes or university courses that specialized in, how to make movies. These were all things that were mostly self taught.
Games did not start in a much different scenario. When people started to develop games, there were no classes on how to program them. There were no gaming bachelors at university. Even Computer Science was only starting to become a recognized discipline. Very few people knew how to develop these games and most of them were created from their basements.
Both are also considered entertainment. In many cases there is overlap between the 2 industries. You can say that they both were built on the premise of telling a story. Even the lesser intense games of the 1970's, had a story behind it. The only difference is that you had to add in some imagination to the mix, as technology was as evolved as toay.
Both industries had to go through some kind of transition. The movie industry was born when still images became moving pictures. The length of these moving images were shorter than what we know as motion pictures today. Then came along silent films. That evolved to movies with speech and then colour. Then there was stop motion animation, followed by computer graphics (CGI). There were many points in history where the movies reinvented itself.
The gaming industry has gone through some evolutions as well. The hardware that games run on have evolved. This gave way to graphically better games. We went from 4 bits (Atari, ColecoVision) to 8-bits (NES), 16-bits (SNES and Genesis) and so on. This lead to an evolution of how game story telling is done. We went from 2D platforming games (Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog...etc) to immense worlds (Fallout Series, Witcher Series, Mass Effect Seies...etc). The sound has evolved as well. We went from 4 bit sound, to 16 bit sound, to the music productions that we have in current games that rival any big movie production.
Although the transitions and evolutions are quite different in both, both still had to go through thee growing pains..
So where are you going with this? I feel that the gaming industry is heading in the same direction as the movie industry in terms of how content is created and marketed. Here are my takes.
This may be a culture thing, but these industries both love to do remakes. This is evident with the success of the Resident Evil 2 remake on PS4. Did people need a remake? Some would argue not really. All Playstation had to do is release the old game and make it backwards compatible on the PS4. But they opted to remake it. The thing is that it has made money and good on them. Usually what happens is that once something works, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
This is especially true in movies. How many remakes and reimagining of movies have we seen in the last 10 years. There are numerous examples (Ghostbusters, Spiderman, A Star is Born...etc). It almost feels like mainstream entertainment is only looking for the $ and not looking at the creative side of things. The remake fad, may have started before, but for me, it started with the Spiderman movies with Tobey Maguire. This was when I noticed that we may see a trend. After this we started seeing remakes of remakes. Another example is Batman. It has been redone numerous times with different timelines.
EA has fallen to the same criticisms with the franchises that they have. They release a Madden football game every year with marginal differences between releases. Their NHL and FIFA games fall in the same category. It seems that they go for what works and have stayed with it for a long time.
All this to say is that it seems that the gaming industry and movie industry go for franchises and ideas that are known to make money. It seems every game coming out is a sequel to a previous game (Red Dead Redemption 2, Fallout 76, Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein II...etc). Movies are similar, as a lot of the movies in the top 20 are remakes or sequels, Superhero movies (Aquaman, The Avengers), A Star is Born (remake), and Spiderman: Into the Spider -Verse, just to name a few.
Both movies and game development studios are less and less independent. This means that less companies hold a piece of the pie. Although the gaming industry has not reached the levels of monopoly as the movie industry. For movies, you have Fox Entertainment, Sony Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures, Viacom and NBC Universal. There are other smaller studios, most of which are owned by these big companies. The gaming industry is definitely moving in that direction with the likes of Bathesda, MIcrosoft, Sony, EA, Blizzard/Activision are becoming the big 5 of game development and game publishing.
What are the effects of that? Well, this leads to less independence for the video game studios. Unlike the 80's and 90's, it is harder and harder for a smaller developers to have a hit. Yes we have a few a year like Inside and Cuphead, but these are few in far in between. I understand the need to have staples in the repertoire, but I truly believe companies are relying too much on guaranteed money and do not take enough changes or risk to create the next big thing.
3D and VR (Virtual Reality)
Both industries tipped their toe in 3D at numerous times in their history. Remember a few years ago when 3D was the next big thing at the movies. It never really took off but it is still around today.
They have tried to get more butts in the seats of theatres as attendance has been going down for quite some time. People opt to stream the movie at home legally or illegally. A dinner and a movie nowadays is a lot more expensive than it used to be. Also, watching the movie at home allows you to pause the movie when you want to grab a snack or to go to the washroom. Due to this, they had to come up with new things and 3D was one of those things. I do not think that it had the impact that was expected.
Games have their version of 3D in Virtual Reality. The Playstation VR is not a super success, but it is not a failure by any means. Games continue to come out for this platform. I do not think that it is mainstream yet, but it has the potential to get there. Like movies and movie theatres, I do not think that this is mainstream yet. Most people do not have the desire to invest in this technology. It is still too expensive for the average consumer.
I had actually written a series of articles about the evolution of Virtual Reality with movies and games. You can find the link below.
We are starting to see new initiatives like Black Mirror on Netflix, where you are supposed to choose your own adventure. Basically the idea is similar to a TellTale Game. I have not tried it but I have heard that the concept is not well baked yet and needs to grow and perfect the craft a little more.
In the end, both of these industries are built on the premise of creating entertainment and making money. The gaming industry is not a laughing stock anymore. Due to big game releases such as Grand Theft Auto V, which have made more money than most big movie franchises, games are taken more seriously. That is awesome. However, due to this, now that it is taken more seriously, taking risks is not as prominent as it once was.
Games have become so big now they have directors, producers, music composers and scripts. As mentioned above, I think that eventually, these 2 fields will merge. Movies will be interactive and games have already become very long stories (Red Dead Redemption 2 and Witcher III....etc).
All this to say that I can see a lot of overlap in these 2 industries. Where I hope the gaming industry can be different is in not being lazy. They still need to take risks with games and i this is how the industry has evolved over the years.
What do you think? Where do you think games are heading. Let me know below.