Oh, How Time Flies By! and Other Academic Concerns.

“Revisiting Globalisation Through the Movie and Digital Games Industries” is a text that has, on the whole, not aged well. While some of its claims, like those pertaining to Big Studios taking a distribution and licensing role over a production one to maximize their profit, were and are still perfectly valid, a lot of important supporting arguments have been nullified by the changes that happened in more than a decade. In game-and-digital-arts industry time a decade is a lifetime. The ease with which large parts of the world can access information (you can nowadays play a MOBA match with people hailing from the literal four corners of the world) have made things go exponentially fast. One of those claims that I believe have weakened with time, is that making games (and movies) is an endeavour that requires structure and a formulaic approach because success is entirely uncertain: the demand, and thus the economic returns, are unpredictable. That claim has been challenged with the success of peer-funding platforms such as the immensely popular Kickstarter web platform. Demand can now be calculated upfront and so success depends more on managerial skills than box-office ratings. Thanks to Kickstarter and its ilk, production costs are, in theory, covered and so the lowliest of nobodies can now produce a game, movie, or any other project without relying on the the Big Studios. Of course this applies less to console-oriented games (even though the Ouya did succeeded) and the paper is largely only concerned with console games. Kerr and Flynn readily tells the reader that their paper is largely concerned with console games because “the console sector of the industry is by far the largest segment in software sales terms constituting just over two-thirds in 2001” (Kerr, Flynn 99) but in 2013 the sales figures had effectively been reversed. According to Forbes, in an article written by Jason Evangehlo entitled “As Global PC Game Revenue Surpasses Consoles, How Long Should Console Makers Keep Fighting?” The DFC Intelligence group had reported in 2013 that sales of PC games had surpassed those of consoles because consoles were becoming more and more luxury items while computers, as they were becoming more versatile and portable, were not a luxury anymore but a necessity: “ Consider that Blizzard’s wildly popular digital card game Hearthstone is playable on a Microsoft Surface, a $4000 custom gaming PC, and an iPad. All of which double as productivity devices, communication devices, and entertainment consumption devices. The last claim Kerr and Flynn made that I want to address is that, according to them and other academics, “The use value of the information industries, […] is based on the production of novelty” (Garnham qtd in. Kerr, Flynn 97) While it stays, even today, entirely true that most companies need to create a semblance of novelty to sell, in today’s digital distribution (Steam, etc.) it is not necessary to sell a lot. What I mean is that games, when sold without the need to produce physical copies, can be sold indefinitely. In 2013, again according to DFC, in the top 20 most played games, not a single one was released in 2013. Internet and digital distribution platforms have changed the landscape of globalization. I don’t believe it is impossible anymore for a small Irish game company to thrive in this environment. The easier means of production and ease of access to the market has made that possible. However, what it means vis-à-vis the possible cultural exchange is hard to tell.

Written by Louis Jérémie Robichaud-Cyr

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