The accelerated change of the game industry

It used to be that video game industry cycles were predictable. The waves were big, but you could see them coming. In 1994, when I moved to Silicon Valley, Netscape had gone public. I witnessed the whole dotcom boom and all of the hopes that arose around massively multiplayer online games, which was the game industry’s version of the dotcom cycle. Dozens of titles were born, but only World of Warcraft came to dominate that new piece of the game world.

The era of 3D graphics created a revolution in gaming that more than 70 graphics chip startups helped serve. Of those, only Nvidia, Intel, and Advanced Micro Devices survived. With each new game console cycle, game publishers and developers came and went. The cycles were so familiar that everybody thought a cycle had to last five years. (Microsoft changed that and shrank the cycle to four years with the original Xbox, and now it is going past seven years with the Xbox 360). Price cuts became an annual tradition.

But now the era of accelerated change is upon us, said Ted Price, the chief executive of Insomniac Games (the creators of the notable Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises), which has been around for 19 years. If we’re in a cycle, or maybe an investment bubble, we won’t be able to see it until we have hindsight. The patterns are crazy.

“The industry reflects society right now,” he said in an interview with GamesBeat. “Society is evolving extremely fast in terms of how it uses technology. Our industry is experiencing that change as well. We’ve been very lucky over the last almost two decades to have a stable, predictable industry. But now we’re in a different world. That change has come upon us and everyone else in the world in the last five years. So it’s not just us. It’s the Internet. It’s sales. It’s traditional media. Everything and everybody is feeling the effects of this accelerated change in our world.”