When you think about the video game industry, you often think about Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Activision and EA as the big names. After all, they are the developers of the consoles and many of the best selling games. Obviously, their influence over the video game industry is vast. Currently, we are waiting with baited breath for the announcement of the next console generation. This puts the attention firmly on Microsoft and Sony (and Nintendo, but we already know what they are releasing).
However, there are other companies shaping the video game industry. You might not think of these companies right away. They are not typically thought of as gaming companies, but nonetheless, their influence is there. These particular companies will only have their influence grow as time goes on and people look for alternative games to play. We all love the latest smash hit, but the gaming industry is changing and evolving, and these unexpected companies are at the forefront of that evolution.
Just a few short years ago, if you wanted to make any kind of serious video game, you had to pitch the idea to publishers and investors and hope they liked the idea enough to throw some money your way. Publishers only have so much money to give out each year for up and coming projects. This left many games with great potential out in the cold.
With Kickstarter, game makers can pitch their ideas to the general public and attempt to seek funding that way.
Kickstarter opens up doors for games that may have never seen the light of day. Is it a perfect system? No, of course not, but anything that helps bring more games to market is okay in my book. Big ideas require a budget to become a finished project, and Kickstarter gives people with these ideas a way to turn them into a reality when they never could have before.
This one might seem a little more obvious than Kickstarter, but nevertheless, I cannot ignore Apple in this discussion. They have given birth to an entire new way of consuming video games. Before iOS, the thought of spending $0.99 for a relatively high quality game was inconceivable.
Now, there are thousands of iOS games worth playing that cost hardly any money. This is reshaping the value proposition in the video game market.
Besides changing the way games are priced, Apple is also bringing in a completely new group of people who would never call themselves “gamers” before. Whether they call themselves one or not, if you spend hours and hours perfecting your scores in Angry Birds, you are a gamer. Apple is opening doors for new people to play games and new developers to make games affordably.
Facebook is in a similar place to Apple, but they do not bridge the gap in the same way. Most hardcore gamers and people on the casual side play games on iOS. On Facebook, people who generally do not play gamers at all play most of the games. Games like Farmville see many people who have never touched a video game in their life.
While they may not be buying an Xbox or PS3 anytime soon, they are still playing games, and that is a good thing for the industry as a whole.
It seems like developers are still trying to get a feel for how to make social games work. Crossovers between mobile and Facebook seem to be successful, with the “With Friends” series leading the charge. Regardless, Facebook is ushering in a new age of gaming, and love them or hate them, social games are not going anywhere, and Facebook is certainly the main reason for this.
Google makes this list for two different reasons. The first, and what could end up being the most important, is Google Fiber. If Google Fiber spreads and offers everyone ridiculously fast Internet at an affordable price, it could change the face of gaming as we know it. A service like OnLive, where gamers stream games from the cloud, could become infinitely more viable if everyone had the speeds Google Fiber is offering.
No longer would we need new consoles every few years. Instead, an upgrade to the server would serve as the “new console”.
Of course, I have to mention Android as well. At the risk of sounding like an Apple fanboy, Google is kind of following Apple’s example, but their Android OS is still important for gaming. Apple may have got the App Store started, but with Android’s larger installation base, Google’s decisions going forward can and will shape the landscape for gaming in the future.
Sure, “the big three” will remain the center of attention for most gamers, but these other companies are going to play a huge role in where gaming ends up. You may not think of them as gaming companies, but make no mistake; these companies are just as important to gaming as the traditional gaming companies. They are making games that were never possible before a reality and bringing in new gamers at an exponential rate.
What “non-gaming” companies do you think are shaping the future of gaming? Let us know in the comments!