Home / Book Chapters / The Evolution and Social Impact of Video Game Economics – “Show me the money!”: Shifting Fields of Capital in the Global Game Industry

The Evolution and Social Impact of Video Game Economics – “Show me the money!”: Shifting Fields of Capital in the Global Game Industry

Collecting Coins Cover

Collecting Coins Cover

Abstract: The last decade has brought seismic shifts in the videogame industry, perhaps so dramatic that even a notion of a singular “game industry” could be called into question. Some would cite the ubiquity of “free” tools for game production, such at Unity, the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) and numerous other tools as the single largest change. Others might point to the rise of “indy” or independently produced games as well as “art” and “personal” games. More might note the rapid uptake of digital distribution platforms as fundamentally destabilizing retail game sales. Yet, it is the shifting economics of the game industry that pose the greatest destabilizing force. This shifting field of economics challenges all aspects of the game industry. Companies simply no longer know how to reliably make money The flow of capital in the production of games has largely been a closed book. In 2008, for example, 90% of revenue generated for games was produced by the physical sale of games for console videogame systems (O’Donnell, 2014a, p. 184). Yet, since that time the game industry’s underlying economic system has split at the seams. From the rise of $0.99 games, free games supported by advertising revenue, “freemium,” or free-to-play games that offer in-game-purchases to crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter, the importance of capital has emerged as the single largest shifting aspect of the game industry. In this chapter, I examine a variety of games attempting to find their niche in this new space as well as the broader implications for the “AAA” or Triple-A / “Big” game industry. Convincing players to actually spend money on games where so many are “free” has proven to be one of the most difficult aspects of modern game design and development. In many respects, this seismic shift in the game industry serves to illuminate the critical role that capital has always had for games and play. This shift simply offers a new opportunity to see these systems laid bare for all to see .

More information about the book, The Evolution and Social Impact of Video Game Economics, can be found on Rowman and Littlefield’s website. Or you can find more information over on Amazon.

About Casey O'Donnell

Casey O'Donnell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University. He is part of the games faculty and Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) lab at MSU. He is also part of the game development collective Affinity Games. His research examines the creative collaborative work of videogame design and development. This research examines the cultural and collaborative dynamics that occur in both professional "AAA" organizations and formal and informal "independent" game development communities. His research has spanned game development companies from the United States to India. His research examines issues of work, production, copyright, as well as third world and postcolonial aspects of the videogame development workplace.

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