Crispy Gamer

Frisky Business

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It sounds corny, I know, but as far as the business of digital diversions is concerned, there's an expression the British use to describe soccer that suddenly comes to mind. Specifically, 'It's a funny old game.'

Amusingly, to those in the know, the interactive entertainment industry is more like a freaking riot. At least, that's what we insiders try to tell ourselves while smirking ruefully and shaking our heads over one wasted opportunity or shocking gaffe or the next. (What... You mean asking $600 for a glorified Atari with no breakout hits really is too much?)

Don't get me wrong: There's no commercial sector more amusing or filled with hyper-intelligent, talented people on every continent. It's just hard to be in the business of making dreams come true without watching some shatter or evaporate in the process. (GODgames and SiN Episodes, we're looking at you; Duke Nukem Forever we'll save for another column around 2010, when it finally ships.)

But I digress. Jaded cynicism day in and day out gets tiresome -- and can easily be had anywhere else. Given the wealth of related discussion topics and the greased-lightning pace at which the sector moves, I'm guessing you're tuning in here for more than just the opportunity to hear some random stranger bitch. [Note: In case of error concerning the latter, please see Roger Ebert's kind efforts.]

Maybe it's the latest dirt on your favorite developer. Perhaps it's a chance to rant and rave over sudden shifts in the market, such as the sea change promising the industry's inevitable move towards casual vs. traditional hardcore gaming experiences. Could be you're looking for a little insight into how to break into the biz and get cozy with hotshots like Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto or The Sims impresario Will Wright. Then again, in this era of Twitter-inspired ADD and lightspeed-style blog posts, perchance it's the just the opportunity to get a more in-depth look at today's headlines -- and what they mean for longtime enthusiasts -- that's got you nosing around.

Whatever the case, perk up, Sparky, because you're sure to find it right here, in this cheerful little series of screeds devoted exclusively to chronicling the more commercial aspects of the PC and videogame industry -- not to mention their effect on everyday readers and the sector as a whole.

That's right... Much as most of us worship digital diversions for their rich creative depth and boundless potential as an art form, at the end of the day, one can't forget that this is still a business, and a colossal one at that. Because with sales of console software topping $1 billion last November alone according to analyst group Wedbush Morgan, and with the industry generating $14 billion in revenue total, you can bet your behind on what follows.

Going forward, shareholder-funded publishers' decisions are going to be mostly money-driven, not made out of, say, a personal passion for rhythm/dancing games, stealth-action titles starring chesty super-spies, or the cinematic works of Michael Bay (although that MTV Games deal with Jerry Bruckheimer is kind of suspect: Dangerous Minds: The First-Person Shooter, we choose you!).

Thankfully, yours truly is here to serve as a guide through the twisted machinations and tangled web of strategic maneuverings that inevitably follow in the wake of today's digerati. Over the coming months, we'll be taking a closer look at the latest industry happenings -- and, more importantly, what they mean to the average man on the street. Because hey -- today's purchase by EA of BioWare/Pandemic could be tomorrow's Full Spectrum Warrior: Dragon Age.

It's not that I like calling companies out. Sometimes, you've just got to speak up (OK, wail like a drowning baby) in the face of public opinion, lest ye smile in the face of impending disasters like the debut of Boogie, Pyschonauts' painful journey to market or the PlayStation 3's debut.

What's more, occasionally, a little reality check is all it takes to read between the headlines and understand, despite all those conflicting messages, which so-called next-gen console is really playing with power. (Seriously -- given the system's cost-conscious price point, mainstream approach, kid-friendly leanings and instant eye-catching appeal, was it honestly that hard to predict the Wii's success?) Besides, if you listened to analysts, we'd all be wearing virtual-reality helmets and playing with scent-emitting, touch-sensitive 3-D holograms on our BetamaxMondo 3000 by now.

That said, even I must draw a line in the sand somewhere, meaning that there are also some things we won't do here come rain, shine or a healthy endorsement check.

For example:

  • - Cop a fanboy attitude and pick sides based strictly on emotional ties instead of hard facts -- I could give a rat's ass if the future belongs to the Philips Cornea-Humper, Xbox 720 or Nintendo w00t.


  • - Cave in to outside pressure, and be scared to call b/s when something reeks of it, such as Sony's PlayStation Home initiative, which looks less 'killer app' than 'kill me, please,' period.


  • - And, of course, pander to our readers... If you want simple regurgitations on manufacturers' official corporate lines, read the press releases. Otherwise, expect to hear my honest take on the scenario, right or wrong, even if it means having to field midnight calls from EA Sports head Peter Moore personally. ('Pip, pip, cheerio... Tell me, you weren't really planning on going live calling [Insert NFL license-exploiting tragedy here] 'ranker than Madden's flabby, sweat-soaked taint,' were you, guvna?')



What's more, throughout it all, remember that deep down, I'm actually the glass-half-full type. What's good for the goose is good for the gander -- and videogame biz -- meaning that I love to see smart, well-founded ideas and software titles succeed. After all, it just means higher-quality, more meaningful experiences and greater returns for dedicated fans and industry captains alike.

Either way, get ready for a fun jaunt. If 2007 was any indication, this year's about to kick off to an exciting start. Rest assured that I'll be right there, riding shotgun -- and dirty, natch -- to bring you the inside scoop on where the biz has been, where it's going, and why, despite doctor's orders, you can't afford to tune out.

Besides, strictly between us girls, trust me on this. At the very least, it'll be worth sticking around to see (in a nod once again to our friends across the pond) who gets kicked right in the checkered balls...

For a look at Scott Steinberg's credentials, check out his writer page.

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