What Are We Gaming On? - LetMeGetToACheckpoint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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What Are We Gaming On?

The next generation of games is heating up with the summer months. But on whatever device we game on addictive games exist for the variety of gaming enabled devices. Personally, in the last couple of weeks, I picked up a PC game (The Novelist) in the Humble Spring Sale, grabbed a couple of used Xbox 360 games (Nier and Metro 2033), played Hearthstone on my iPad Air (winning and losing as a Mage), and idly tapped on Flappy Bird that's still installed on my smartphone.

With more games than I have time to play I still hover over the purchase button for on Steam for Transistor, eye the sales at Gamestop, and wonder if I should put a dollar or two into Battle.net for a Hearthstone Arena run.

Who is watching us while we watch for Watch Dogs? (How many times can we use "watch" in a single sentence?)

The gaming industry awaits next week's release of Watch Dogs. The game delayed from fall 2013 that was set to establish the next generation of gaming by bringing a new IP cut from the same cloth as Assassin's Creed. Additionally, the anticipation builds for the announcements coming at next month's annual E3 event. We are all eagerly awaiting new game news even while our gaming libraries includes piles of unplayed games.

Following gaming news with my own stacks of games waiting for me to find the time to spin up a title, I was taken by the thought that in the current market the games that we play and that take all of our time are not the sole means of income for the gaming industry.  

Despite the fracturing of the gaming populace into several gaming hardware options the home consoles remain the public face of gaming for the mainstream audience as depicted in television, movies, and even in sales ads with its game sales alongside deals for Mountain Dew and Doritos. The home consoles remains a major gaming player.

Oh, an symmetrical reflection! Answers in June's E3 or more questions?

The console exclusives are rapidly launching with each game positioning for its share of the gaming market. Playstation 4 already has Killzone: Shadow Fall and InFamous: Second Son, Xbox One celebrates Titanfall and Halo 5: Guardians is coming in 2015, while Mario Kart 8 is heralded to boost the Wii U. The sales of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are outperforming the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. In a market that now includes tablets and smartphones, devices not in existence at the launch of the previous console generation, the consoles sales show a strength in the home console. A reason for why Valve is pushing for the Steam Machine and the Ouya proposed a cheap home console for Android games.

By controlling the actual device that games are played on Sony and Microsoft are the gatekeepers into gaming for all players who power up consoles and pick up a controller. How Sony and Microsoft set and establish practices reverberates throughout the gaming community regardless of players' individual opinions of those gaming ecosystems.

Sony's now famous 2013 E3 presentation set the gaming community abuzz with the news that the Playstation 4 would support used games, cost $400, and not require an online check-in at launch as opposed to the Xbox One at the time. Microsoft's reversal of the Xbox One's price (by removing the required Kinect) and moving apps in front of the paywall was smartly announced before 2014's E3 in order to have the policy reversals "old news" by June 2014. How we play multiplayer, use our consoles as entertainment centers, livestream our gaming experiences, and more are dictated from the devices on which we play.

At the same time, rather than game makers enter into the market directly against the big three consoles a new industry arose, the OS (aka the operating system). A software rather than hardware gaming platform but no less controlling of where we game.  

Just 15 minutes for one more round of Hearthstone (I tell myself). 

Personally, I was resolute for a long while not to download games onto my laptop. After a single Humble Bundle sale in which I pointedly refused to download the games through Steam, instead choosing the DRM free download option, my laptop now has Steam, Battle.net, and Origin. Oops. Steam is simply necessary for PC gaming, each time I pull up Battle.net I wonder if I should play Blizzard's non-Hearthstone games, and Origin received a stay of execution from an uninstall with its "On the House" free games program.

Steam showed a successful financial path for companies to take control of where players game, not on what, and according to the Ars Technica study Valve leveraged Steam to push its games the best. Valve's games account for Steam's most owned and most played games all the while building a reputation of a gaming warehouse for all PC games. Still, the financial model of controlling the gaming platform in order to best peddle its in-house games is not new against Microsoft's support of Halo and Sony's death grip on The Last Guardian. Defining the software platform is as all powerful as selling the hardware.    

In-between gaming consoles and OS software, games are created. Game developers are a passionate people who often work for free with no guarantee of success. Competing head-on with AAA developers and their money making games is a given failure. The rise of the indie gaming scene allowed for a gaming market that supported smaller, less expensive games while giving small studios the opportunity to create the "next big" game.

But making games is a highly risky venture. Controlling not where the game is played but how the game is made gave us the rise of the licensed game engine. Developers oft enjoy creating from the ground up but making a game engine is redundant and inefficient, especially for smaller studios, who must use limited time and money on the game creation, not on the game's nuts and bolts.  A popular game engine becoming the framework that numerous games are built on is a silent income stream that's invisible to the average player.

The eyeball engine! Though I'm surprised that the eye isn't crying.

Epic may be synonymous with the Gears of War franchise in the previous console generation but the success of the Unreal Engine 3 was no small feat. Crytek may not have explored nuanced narratives within the Crysis franchise but all knows that the games are visually stunning.   

Nothing is more fun in a gaming generation than a good throwdown. Fight!

Software availability is changing. Paying a large fee of thousands of dollars upfront for a license to use the software for a year, not to own the program, is transitioning into monthly subscriptions. Unreal Engine 4 is now available in full for a monthly $19 fee with games made netting Epic 5% of the gross revenue. Additionally, Crytek launched an "Engine-as-a-Service" program charging a $9.90 monthly fee for the CryEngine without a royalty requirement. Chasing the dollars in game engines is no longer only the mega developers, who can afford developing in-house engines, but in the multitudes of small and mid-size studios looking to concentrate solely on game creation.  

The gaming economy is as varied as the games that we play. The games, while vital, are merely one component of how the dollars go into the gaming industry. The hardware and software platforms that we game on must be powered on each time we play while the popular game engines are found underneath the hoods of most games. The games are but one piece of an overall industry no matter how loud the buzz builds over the next new release.

Do exclusives convince you to buy a console or use a platform?

What OS platforms are on your PC?

How big is your backlog?

 

 

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