Synergy and Expanding Technology Drive
Booming Video Game Industry
By Paul A. Paterson
From the humble beginnings of Pong to the runaway successes of PacMan
and Grand Theft Auto, video games have become an enormously profitable
link in the chain of licensing and home entertainment. Today,
they represent fully one-third
the whole toy industry, up from a quarter in 1999.
Industry members like David Hufford, Xbox group product
manager, believe a number of factors have contributed to the growth of
the video game industry.
"First, the games content is broadening,” said Hufford. “Video games
aren’t just for geeky guys anymore. Video gaming is entertainment for
the masses. Whether you love sports, racing, action, kids games or games
that connect you to old friends who live on the other side of the country,
there is something for everyone."
"The second thing fueling growth is that video game systems are
multi-faceted entertainment devices,” Hufford continued. “People can play
DVD movies and music on game machines, expanding the entertainment value
Driving sales is the first generation of gamers, those
Gen-X consumers who continue to play video games after growing up with
"Those playing in the 1980s are staying in the market and playing
in their 30s and 40s," said Tricia Bertero, senior vice president
of North American sales at Activision, noting that development
has created an important game infrastructure. "The base [of the market
for video games] is 40 million units of hardware installed in American
At least partially responsible for keeping gamers interested are the
quantum leaps in the quality of both graphics and play, something Trudy
Muller, corporate communications manager at Electronic Arts,
believes has yet to top out.
"The visual fidelity of games continues to improve, but there’s
still a long way to go before graphics are maximized beyond improvement,"
said Muller. "Graphic realism is one thing, capturing and delivering
human qualities, nuances and emotions is another. There’s still a lot
of room for improvement and innovation in graphics in that regard."
Another trend that has emerged over the last 10 years is a strong convergence
between movies and video games. More and more, the major video game producers
are involved in films very early in the process, often before there is
even a script. The trick, according to Bertero, is choosing the right
"Not every movie will be a great game," she explained. "It
has to appeal to the demographic, which is boys over the age of 13, and
has to have the action component to make a good game."
In most cases, game designers need to flesh the story out, making it
bigger and more complex than what appears onscreen because, according
to Bertero, a two hour movie is not long enough to make a game. The pay
off is that releasing a game in conjunction with the launch of a movie
can dramatically increase sales.
"We see a three-to-four-times lift in sales versus launching a game
after a movie release," noted Bertero. "There's really a synergistic
Another emerging trend is the advent of online or remote games, something
designers believe will further expand opportunities for gamers.
"More than playing and talking with others, online gaming allows
game developers to extend their story lines by providing new chapters,
new missions, and introducing new characters so people can play through
a never-ending story," said Hufford. "Online [gaming] opens
up the canvass for game developers more than any video game technology
With the rush of technology, greater game infrastructure and a synergistic
relationship across the entertainment industry, Muller believes the future
looks particularly bright for the video game industry.
"It’s an exciting time for interactive entertainment," she
said. "Software will continue to improve, hardware will reach more
homes and technology will continue to innovate to bring more game-play
experiences to the consumer."