Wednesday, January 04, 2012
The Economist is a British weekly news publication, founded in 1843 to "to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress." Given how it is a rather serious publication, it was interesting to see that last month for the first time in history they had a special report on video games (the linked-to online article is a lot shorter than the print version). As you might imagine they were looking at it from an economic angle, and stated that at an annual revenue of $56 billion the video games industry was twice as big as the recorded music industry. And the fastest growing media industry around.
Two weeks later the Economist went one step further, and started discussing whether SWTOR will be a WoW killer. Their answer was "maybe", and then they wondered whether the subscription business model wasn't on its way out anyway.
I think it is safe to say that video games have arrived in the mainstream. The Economist even discussed how all new media are at first regarded with mistrust, and compares the scares that video games cause violent behavior or are addictive with similar fears about novels or rock and roll music. The Entertainment Software Association helped this arrival in the mainstream a lot this year when they published their report on Essential Facts about Video Games, showing for example that the average age of the American video gamer is 37, or that 42% of them are female. There are more women over 18 playing games than boys under 18. And while shooters are an important category, they actually come second after sports games, and have less than a sixth of the overall market. Many people play either with friends next to them, or online.
Thus the image of the video gamer as being a teenage boy playing shooter games alone in his mom's basement is being recognized as false by the mainstream media. Surprisingly today it is mostly the hardcore gamers who are furthest away from the realization that they aren't representative of gamers any more. Video gaming as an industry has moved on, and only a few dinosaurs still clamor for games to be made for a niche elite of hardcore players.