Friday, June 05, 2009

The State of the Gaming Industry

Slate has an article on this year's E3 conference and the state of the gaming industry.

"To the extent that games provide consumers with engaging interactive entertainment for $60—sometimes 100 hours' worth as in the post-apocalyptic Fallout 3—it's an industry that deserves to fly high in the recession. But the game industry has fired nearly 12 percent of its work force since last July (8,450 folks), according to Wanda Meloni, an analyst at M2. There may be more to come, too.

Beyond closing 13 game-development studios, video game publishers are tightening their belts while, at the same time, desperately trying to show how extravagant they can be by spending millions on parties with famous bands, fancy convention booths, and movie-award-like press conferences at E3, the lavish yearly games convention in Los Angeles that's more like a boisterous, barker-filled state fair midway than a business gathering."

That layoff percentage above implies that the gaming business recently employed over 70,000 people. Not all of those would be artists, but has the gaming industry surpassed features and TV series as the largest employer of animation artists?


Rob said...

I would attribute that 12% reduction in workforce not to the economy, but rather to greedy publishers using the economy as an excuse to squeeze studios for the most work with the least money. They're trying to take advantage of a bad situation and maximize their profits.

Paul said...

This is unfortunately very true. The gaming companies are all crying poverty - cutting jobs and reducing budgets, even as their revenue skyrockets. It's shameless how they say one thing when the truth is so obviously the opposite.

They are taking full advantage of the economic downturn. They use it as an excuse for their budget cuts and as leverage to scare workers who might not be able to find work outside the industry.

Thousands of people are losing jobs and losing money, while a select few collect the profits.

This may sound like whining, but it's just the fact if the matter right now. Animators (and modelers, TD's, etc) need to stay informed and realize that the industry is booming. Don't let yourselves get pushed around.

Nick Weidner said...

Part of that situation is attributed to the fact that like traditional animation houses, the companies that fund and distribute the games often get the bigger cut with less of the talent involved, where the smaller work houses that actually produce the game get less, and if the game does not well enough that is an even bigger impact on them.

Not to mention, similar to many situations in the feature industry, there is a lot of credibility and lawsuit involved in ownership. With games today the opportunity for a following is even greater than feature in many ways. If you haven't noticed, much of what comes out of both industries is sequels and spin-offs, which make those intellectual properties all the more valuable because they are popular. The most popular IPs get a lot of exposure and a lot of work out of them, like Mario, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, etc.

I guess my point is that much like the feature and series industries, production companies are more often slaved to the will of the distribution company and this can be both good and bad pending on reputation. And I would agree that the gaming industry has more animators employed, because if you assume that a single game requires the same sort of production time/work force/effort as an animated feature, and you look at the amount that gets turned out for games, it just adds up.

Personally I am a big fan of companies like Valve that work really hard and started by producing really solid IPs that they grew into a very strong base to grow without being constrained by a distributing company. Now they themselves have created the 'WallMart' of online VG shopping "STEAM" which is a wonderful program that lets you easily buy and manage games, download content and receive updates quickly and automatically.