Will the Recession Kill Video Games Part 2

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In part one of my editorial I explained why gamers should not fear the reaper when it comes to the recession killing our favorite digital hobby. However, this is not to say that all is well. Many popular franchises and, perhaps more importantly, publishers are in danger of being lost forever. In part two of “Will the Recession Kill Video Games,” I once again peer into the crystal ball after the break to take a look at the foreseeable future of the video game publishers whose games we all spend hard earned dollars on.

EA Games

Oh, Electronic Arts, how I used to despise you. However, after last year’s unprecedented showing of strong new IP with Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space, and Spore, EA has gone in a daring new direction to no longer rely on the old money printing standbys. Problem is, it didn’t work. Mirror’s Edge got panned by the press, Dead Space got lost in the oversaturated horror genre and Spore didn’t have the lasting replay value of the Sims. Meanwhile all three franchises got lost in the 4th quarter seas of Call of Duty, Gears of War and other established IP’s.

EA has apparently learned their lesson and will think twice about releasing new series against the tried and true veterans. What does this mean for us? While I wouldn’t give up on ever seeing a sequel to Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space, or Spore (not counting a surely ridiculous amount of expansions), don’t expect to see them this year.

What will we get from our friends at EA? A heavy dose of sports of course. Madden will continue to sell a billionty copies come August, despite not making any significant improvements to the multi-million dollar formula. Same can be said for the NCAA, Tiger Woods, and FIFA franchises. The one brightspot for the EA Sports lineup will surely be Fight Night Round 4. Expect this title to be the best selling Fight Night to date and make boxing fans out of the most cynical gamer.

Also, let us not forget the impact of the Sims 3. While I’m surprised at just how little hype this newest installment in Will Wright’s juggernaut PC franchise is getting, no one can honestly think that anything with the Sims printed on the front won’t instantly make EA millions of dollars.

Other money makers for EA this year: The Godfather 2, Rock Band Beatles Edition, Trivial Pursuit, My Sims franchise, Burnout downloadable content

What will lose money: Warhammer Online, NASCAR license (don’t expect to see any other NASCAR games from EA), Arena Football license (see NASCAR), Need For Speed: Shift, Wii MotionPlus supported titles (don’t expect to get a ton of help from Nintendo promoting this), and last…. and certaintly most disheartening to say… Brutal Legend. Let me go on record by saying Tim Schafer is a criminally underrated genius. However, Tim Schafer is a criminally underrated genius with a history of games that may gain critical success, but not necessarily commercial success. This will be one of those games. Logan and I will be first in line to buy it, but we may be one of the few.

Don’t expect to see in 2009: Any new entry into the Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space (not counting the Wii version), Burnout or SimCity franchises.

Overall Outlook: EA will be just fine. However, don’t be surprised to hear of more layoffs coming out of their studios. In the roundabout words of Patrick Ewing, they make alot of money but they spend alot of money, and will cut costs where possible.

ACTIVISION

Activision may be doing the most to keep the video game indsustry from moving forward than any other publisher out there. They simply refuse to move in any other direction than what is currently working for them. But, since the merger with Vivendi/Blizzard, one can hardly blame them. Guitar Hero, Call of Cuty, World of Warcraft, James Bond, Marvel and Wolverine, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Castle Wolfenstein and a host of others are all established IP under the Activision banner that can all be expected to be exploited this year. However, with the success of these franchises comes a double edged sword.

The negative? These series could prove to get stale. The most likely franchise to lose interest with gamers will be Guitar Hero. No less than 5 Hero (not necessarily “Guitar” Hero) games will hit this calendar year, and that’s just what has been announced already. Gamers love them some Guitar Hero but 5 times a year is pushing it for any franchise.

The positive? Activision is making enough money to (hopefully) explore new IP, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. Also, Activision may see fit to spend some of that cash to buy up some of the talented displaced workforce out there. Would anyone mind seeing Activision snap up some of the developers from recently fired Skate 2’s Black Box Studios for work on the next Tony Hawk? Also, as already predicted from our own commenters from part 1 of this article, it is my strong prediction that Activision will acquire the Mortal Kombat series from doomed publisher Midway.

Activision dumped most of their potential new IP when acquiring Vivendi/Blizzard, including Brutal Legend.  One potentially stellar game that was saved is the upcoming Prototype.  This is a high budget anti-hero action game that has the potential to put another feather under their cap.  However, the game has been marred by high costs and tons of set backs.  Expect the game to be high quality but break even financially.

Bonus Prediction: Activision will have the best selling game of 2009. It’s name: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. In related news, water is wet. However, this prediction is slightly daring in the fact that nobody from Activision or (potential) studio Infinity Ward have acknowledged that this game even exists. As of yet it is officially unannounced with no release date. However, given the series consistent annual release and the fact that Infinity Ward (creator of the first Modern Warfare, otherwise known as Call of Duty 4) has released their take on the game every two years, would leave none surprised if this is the year we see a follow-up. Also, Activision (thanks to Blizzard) may also have the best selling PC game of the year in Starcraft 2. Though I still expect the Sims 3 to beat it out for overall sales, no PC game will be more hyped and looked forward to than this long awaited sequel. And yes, it will come out this year.

Other money makers for Activision: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, Guitar Hero downloadable content, the next Tony Hawk console game.

What will lose money: Guitar Hero Van Halen (who thought this was a good idea?), DJ Hero, James Bond license.

Don’t expect to see in 2009: Any new IP worth a damn aside from Prototype (including the gorgeous looking Singluarity from Raven), Diablo III, a Call of Duty real-time strategy (but I am calling it for 2010).

Overall Outlook: It will be another great year for Activision and Blizzard financially. However, continuing to rely on the same old same old will make this their last great year unless they start to crank out something new.

Part 3 will look at even more publishers coming next week. Spoiler Alert: Many of them won’t survive.

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10 responses to “Will the Recession Kill Video Games Part 2

  1. No sooner does the article go up than Activision decides to officially unveil Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Must have been the pressure to respond after this article went to press. For my next prediction, the temperature on the surface of the sun will be very hot tomorrow.

  2. While the face of gaming may change, the market correction will be good for video games in the long run. The shakedown will spur innovation and creativity as competition for our money ramps up.

    Too many of us like to play video games. Our entire generation was raised on them. It’s here to stay.

    To keep optimistic, just remember what we got after the end of the first Golden Age of Gaming… Nintendo!

    • Totally agreed. Especially considering that the indestry as a whole has seen record growths the last few years. It’s the publishers who have been spending their money poorly and milking franchises that no one cares about anymore who will be in trouble!

    • One could argue the opposite though, that companies will see the success Activision has been having in “exploiting” franchises and turning them into yearly releases that they might flock to that business model. It’s looking like we may be in for more of the same till the economy gets better and consumers can afford to take risks with new IP that’s coming out from comapanies like EA and Atari.

  3. That’s true. I guess I just want to be optimistic. And it’s not all bad… I’m really, REALLY looking forward to sequels to games like Mass Effect and Bioshock. And both of those were new IPs not too long ago. To even have a chance of making the BIG money, developers know they have to take chances on new IPs. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. You can’t win if you don’t play.

    Here’s an idea for EA, wouldn’t it be cheaper for them and cheaper for us if they just released sports game every 2-4 years (like NCAA Football, or Madden) and in the meantime they sold yearly updates as downloadable content. You know, new players, photos, gameplay tweaks. Since they have to come out with a new top-down game every year they don’t have much time to make improvements on the formula.

    • EA is turning into the big gem it seems of the video game industry in my opinion. They’ve actually come out and said they won’t stop making new IP, but they’ll be a little more careful with release dates. Expect to see another Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space sometime next year probably.

      EA has actually been hinting at the option of moving to a subscription based model with their sports games. This is what I could dig up for now, but if you dig, you’ll find multiple mentions across the net.

      http://kotaku.com/5030771/ea-sports-to-introduce-subscription-programs

      • Nice find.

        I can’t remember off the top of my head which game or developer, but one of the new baseball games is having a live roster where trades and injuries in the real world impact in-game rosters. They may have been doing that for years, I don’t know. The only sports game I play regularly is NCAA Football, and I play that passionately.

        But EA has their hearts in the right place. If you’re not developing new IPs you will die slowly as the existing ones are bled dry.

  4. Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

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