The gaming inudustry ready for a disruption?

GoNintendo (via Digg):

The consumer electronics industry today faces this same kind of inflection point. For many years, technical performance reigned, whether measured by the dimensions of TVs, computer memory and speed, or the multiple functions embedded in cell phones. But as Christensen also observed, technological gains can eventually overshoot a market. That leaves a vast opportunity for disruptive technologies whose appeal is typically, “cheaper, simpler, smaller, and frequently more convenient to use.” Cue the Apple iPod.

Nowhere does the example fit better than my own industry, videogames. Twenty years ago, we were almost exclusively the province of 12-year-old boys. Many of those same players who grew up playing games with our Mario character retain their appetite for games today, even if their preferred adventure now is darker, deeper and increasingly complex. Still, the performance vector is unchanged: make it look better on screen, make it even harder to win, and players will be happy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the future. Mounting evidence shows that we may well have overshot our own market. Our games grew so complex they became intimidating, further polarizing players and non-players. Market revenues have sagged in the U.S. for the last two years, and in Japan for six of the last seven. The industry just endured a disappointing holiday season and studies show that non-hard-core gamers are playing less frequently.

I think he’s right. Lately I’ve been pretty blah about video gaming – I kind of assumed that had something to do with growing up, but thinking about it, what has the industry offered lately? The answer is, not much. Games are prettier but less engrossing, they take too long to finish making it prohibitive to someone with time constraints, and there’s been very little overall innovation in gameplay.

You tend not to think of video games as a form of old media, but they are – they might be the newest of old media, but they’ve been around since the early 80s and have followed the same paradigms since their inception, and the focus has always been on the technical merits. Nintendo might be very right that the time is ripe for disruption – hopefully the Revolution experiment will pay off.


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