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The Game Industry Robin Burke GAM 224

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the game industry

The Game Industry

Robin Burke

GAM 224

slide2
1. MADDEN NFL 06 PS22. POKEMON EMERALD GBA3. GRAN TURISMO 4 PS24. MADDEN NFL 06 XBX5. NCAA FOOTBALL 06 PS26. STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II PS27. MVP BASEBALL 2005 PS28. STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH PS29. NBA LIVE 06 PS210. LEGO STAR WARS PS2
outline
Outline
  • Admin
    • Play papers
  • The Game Industry
    • Structure
    • Process
    • Problems
admin
Admin
  • Play papers
    • Done grading
  • Distribution
    • AAAAAA------
    • BBBBBB+++++++-
    • CCCC++++-
    • FF
the game industry5
The Game Industry
  • Statistics (2004)
    • US Retail sales: 9.9 billion
    • Software sales: 7.3 billion
    • Add MMO subscriptions: 1 billion
    • 248 million units sold
  • Halo 2
    • $125 million opening weekend
    • best film ever
      • $114 million (Spiderman 2)
costs
Costs
  • Premium game title
  • 1992
    • $200K
  • 2001
    • $1-2M
  • 2004
    • $5-7M
  • next generation
    • $10-15M
industry structure
Industry structure

Hardware Suppliers

Support Services

Tool Vendors

Developers

Publishers

Distributors

Consumers

Retail Outlets

publisher
Publisher
  • Money
    • Fund game development
    • Fund marketing campaigns
  • Connections
    • Convince distributors / retails to carry and display the game
    • Manage licensing
    • Manage intellectual property
hardware suppliers
Hardware suppliers
  • Hardware
    • Supply console hardware to consumers
    • Supply peripherals / add-ons such as video cards for PCs
    • Supply hardware and development tools to developers
  • Quality control
    • Approve games for release on console platforms
tool vendors
Tool Vendors
  • Produce specialize software used in game production
  • 3-D modeling
    • Maya
    • 3DS max
  • Sound editing
  • Motion capture
  • Middleware
    • AI engine
    • Physics engine
    • Graphics engine
    • etc.
support services
Support services
  • Motion capture labs
  • Motion capture actors
  • Sound studios
  • Voice actors
  • Contract art / animation
  • Musicians
  • Composers
  • Technical writing
  • PC configuration testing
  • Localization / translation
  • etc.
developers
Developers
  • Create art assets
    • 3-D models
    • textures
    • animations
  • Create audio / video assets
    • cut-scenes
    • sound effects
    • speech
  • Develop game code
    • graphics engine
    • game AI
    • user interface
distributors retailers
Distributors / Retailers
  • Distributors
    • Maintain inventory
    • Market games to retailers
    • Deliver games to retailers
    • Monitor sales and market activity
  • Retailers
    • Sell to consumers
process
Process
  • Pre-production
    • Concept development
    • Game Design
    • Art Production Plan
    • Technical Design
    • Prototype
  • Development
    • Planning
    • Asset development
    • Code development
    • Play testing
    • Quality assurance
  • Post-production
    • Manufacturing
    • Packaging
    • Marketing
    • Advertising
concept development
Concept Development
  • Players
    • Designer
    • Tech lead
    • Concept artist
    • Producer
  • Brainstorming activity to generate new game design
    • often based on existing IP or licenses
      • movie characters and situations
      • sequel to existing game
    • more rarely, original IP and designs
      • almost always from someone with a proven record
  • Tasks
    • Concept art
    • Game concept
    • Budget
    • Competitive analysis
  • Get a publisher interested
    • Or publisher may contact developer for this
game design
Game Design
  • Players
    • Designer
    • Tech lead
    • Concept artist
    • Art director
  • Nitty-gritty details of every bit of the game
    • every level
    • every character
    • every gameplay element
  • Task
    • convince the publisher that you can actually produce the game
    • provide framework for art production plan and technical design
technical design
Technical Design
  • Players
    • Tech team
  • Software development plan
    • Middleware licensing
    • Staffing
    • Tasks, milestones and deliverables
    • Budget
  • Task
    • Understand the technical challenges of production
    • Plan and budget for the effort
art production plan
Art Production Plan
  • Similar to technical design but on the art side
    • what are all the art assets?
    • how will they be produced?
    • Budget / staffing / etc.
prototype
Prototype
  • Establish the "look and feel" of the game
    • especially its core mechanic
  • Task
    • Convince publisher to fund development
      • Will it be fun and distinctive?
      • Are the technical aims feasible?
development
Development
  • Hard work
    • Programming
    • Creation of art assets
    • Integration
    • Tuning
    • Testing
  • Organized by milestones
    • part of production plan
    • developer only gets paid when milestones are achieved
    • E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) often an important milestone
      • major marketing opportunity
      • aiming for Christmas sales
post production
Post-Production
  • Master disks shipped to hardware supplier
    • Acceptance testing for quality control
  • Manufacturing, printing, packaging
  • Marketing
  • Distribution
  • Retail
realities
Realities
  • Game development is
    • complex
      • different skills
      • different technologies
    • dynamic
      • changing technical environment
      • changing competitive landscape
    • uncertain
      • design is iterative
      • hard to predict successful game mechanics
problems
Problems
  • The last mile: retail issues
  • Risk vs reward
  • Lost innovation
retail issues
Retail Issues
  • Game stores are small
    • 200-300 titles in stock
      • compare to record stores!
    • space is a premium
  • Retail wants to shelve profitable items
    • games have a limited period to prove themselves
      • a couple of weeks
slide26
Risk
  • Sales are increasing
    • larger population of gamers
  • But it is harder and harder to make money on a game
risk ii
Risk II
  • To balance risk
    • publishers need to place lots of bets
    • so that big wins balance the losers
  • Publishers need to be big
    • really big
      • Nintendo
      • EA
      • Sony
      • Microsoft
    • it isn't clear that Midway is going to make it
  • As the bar is raised
    • higher definition art
    • more technically complex development
    • the stakes at the table are raised
risk iii
Risk III
  • Publishers cannot gamble
    • they are in business to make money
  • Their $10 million must go where the return is acceptable and predictable
    • sequel-itis
    • licensed IP
    • well-known genres
  • Because
    • there are existing fans
    • there are channels to market to those audiences
risk iv
Risk IV
  • Control of IP
    • Control of IP is a hedge against risk
      • IP can turn into a franchise
      • with lucrative spin-offs
    • Publisher owns the game concept, characters, and (usually) code base
      • Bioware made KOTOR but
      • LucasArts owned the IP, so
      • Obsidian made KOTOR II
  • Result
    • Developers lose control of their creations
genres
Genres
  • A game genre
    • a set of formal rule characteristics that give rise to
    • a core mechanic (or collection thereof) with durable appeal
  • Examples
    • social card game
    • real-time strategy
    • first-person shooter
    • action adventure
genre life cycle
Genre life-cycle
  • A genre has a life-cycle
    • Coinage
      • A designer creates a game that exemplifies the mechanic
    • Popularization
      • The mechanic is refined and a really popular game breaks out
    • Maturity
      • A group of the gaming population focuses on this mechanic and becomes a market force
      • Product differentiation occurs above the mechanic: narrative elements, licenses.
    • Decline
      • Market consolidates around the winners of the "Maturity" phase.
      • Less devoted fans move on to other genres.
      • Well-defined market attracts marketing attention but little innovation.
    • Niche
      • Genre addicts form the sole audience.
      • Technical innovations in the mechanic are of primary interest.
      • Innovation decreases.
examples
Examples
  • 2-D arcade shooter
    • Spacewar
    • Space Invaders
    • Defender, Centipede, Galaga
    • Defender II, Galaxian
  • Text-based adventure
    • Adventure
    • Zork
    • Planetfall, A Mind Forever Voyaging
    • King's Quest
death to the games industry
Death to the games industry?
  • Costikiyan's claim
  • Loss of innovation in the mainstream game industry
    • Budget pressures and risks
    • Genre maturation
  • Problem
    • where will innovation come from?
    • no avenue for independent developers to reach a mass audience
    • nothing like
      • independent film industry
      • independent record labels
wideload games
Wideload Games
  • Stubbs the Zombie
  • Alex Seropian & Co.
    • founders of Bungie
    • developers of Halo
  • Problem
    • how to develop a modern console game with a limited budget
staffing
Staffing
  • Few people for concept and design (~5)
  • More for prototype development (~10)
  • A lot for full-scale production (~20-70)
  • Problem
    • How to keep 70 people busy during next design phase?
  • Typical answer
    • Try to have a portfolio of projects coming and going
      • some small-scale
burn rate risk
Burn-rate risk
  • Very risky for the developer
    • A project that doesn't materialize
      • means 50 people with nothing to do
    • A project that runs late for technical reasons
      • means 30 artists with nothing to do
      • while programmer work day and night
      • while nobody gets paid
wideload ii
Wideload II
  • Insight
    • people x time = money
    • fewer people means more time for the same money
  • Solution
    • license existing engine (Halo)
    • small core team (11)
    • augmented by contract work (65 peak)
      • concept and game art
      • animation
      • motion capture
      • sound
wideload iii
Wideload III
  • Result
    • Schedule slip could be absorbed
      • contractors weren't paid while technical fixes made
    • Focus could be on game play
      • not on meeting targets
    • Some difficulties in managing distributed team
      • but they did it
  • If technical innovation was required
    • new game engine
    • much more difficult
the future
The Future
  • Next-gen games
    • higher budgets
    • more complex technology
    • increased customer expectations
  • All mean greater risk
    • which means less innovation?
monday
Monday
  • Culture paper
  • Grand Theft Auto III
  • There is no quiz 3