There has been a paradox of sorts in the entertainment world over the past few years, as we’ve seen the once-burgeoning film industry begin to lose traction in the entertainment world to the likes of mediums such as gaming. Of course, that doesn’t mean that ticket sales have dropped off, or that revenue has dropped off in the film industry, as 2012 is trending to be more profitable than 2011 was — but that is what inflation is for, right? In 2011 the film industry made around $10.28 billion in revenue, while the gaming industry in physical sales alone made around $9.3 billion. This doesn’t account for downloadable content or games, either, but I’m not trying to make a point about sales surpassing films. The point about bringing up money is to really give the impression that gaming has reached a point in its lifecycle where it is as viable a method of spending money as going to the movies is.
The question is why? Why is gaming making so much money.
I think what it comes down to, in the long run, is obviously creativity and interactivity mixed with innovation. For years now it seems like Hollywood has become stale and focused on lowest-common-denominator entertainment. Let’s be honest here, there are lots of sequels, remakes and quite honestly rehashed ideas in the film industry. Irony is that outside of comic adaptations, adaptations of blockbuster video game titles have become the norm, even if the films have little to do with the movies, as seen in the horribly-received yet high-grossing Resident Evil films. If anything, though, it is just proof of a stagnant industry.
I’m not claiming that the video game world is beyond a lot of these pratfalls, because they aren’t. Remakes, endless sequels and new games that seem a lot like other games are indeed quite normal. There will most likely never be a Nintendo console without a Mario, Zelda, Mario Kart and Metroid title available, just like Microsoft is continuing to push the Halo games much like George Lucas wouldn’t let Star Wars just be done.
What I will claim is that there is a lot more in the way of options in gaming, and consumers are speaking loudly with their entertainment dollars. While it feels like indie films tend to gravitate towards the same subject matters and all follow trends, indie gaming covers a broad spectrum of genres, experiments with gameplay and offers gamers choices beyond the “triple A” titles that are released yearly. We’ve seen Kickstarters for adventure titles, we’ve seen games like Minecraft come out and blow people away, we’ve seen games like Braid and of course, games like FEZ. This is the innovation that I’m talking about, and it is innovation that gamers seem to be embracing and pulling up from the realm of “indie” into mainstream.
For the time being at least, gaming feels like it is home to more creativity, which is more than can be said for the film industry who will without a doubt push out more superhero, disasters, romcoms, by-the-books horror and quirky indies with how awkward teen life can be films within the next year. Gamers, on the other hand will see more upcoming titles in such forgotten genres as classic 2D platformers, adventure, puzzle, survival horror and more. All of this while the blockbuster games will push for more drama, better acting, more cinematic gameplay and more.
A question to ask right now is if gaming will ever surpass the film industry, or if they’ll continue to co-exist? With games like Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3 and more being cinematic and focused on storytelling, will more people flock to gaming for their fix?