Games: More like movies?

In a recent episode of X-Play, a gentleman from was commenting on why games are tough to make – unlike movies, you often have to re-invent at least part of your technology from the start.  If you've worked in games (or programming) you know that's not strictly true – there are many development tools – but game development certainly requires a lot of work and a lot of invention if not re-invention.

As I noted that's not strictly true that gaming requires re-invention of technology.  It's less true over time, and I think that can signal a shift in gaming.

I crush on Emergent Development Technologies and Gamebryo, of course, but with a reason – it's cool technology that speeds gaming.  There's many amazing companies and tools out there used in game development – modeling images, graphic rendering, video codecs, and so forth.  Despite the complexities of game design, there's also many tools to help with it.

These tools also didn't exist ten years ago in many cases.  Or twenty years ago.  Definitely not forty years ago.

Movies of course have been the same way.  Hand-build special effects are done with CGI purchased nearly off-the-shelf.  Cameras and equipment are standardized.  Props are available from warehouses and supply shops (perhaps hearkening back to the days a local hardware store supplied many a cheesy film).  Movies have just been at it longer.

You doubtlessly see where I'm going with this.

Gaming is not like movies now.  There's no reason to assume there won't be more technologies, more standardization, and despite the complexities of game design, an easier time of development.  More consulting companies, more stock technology, an easier way to make games.

In fact, gaming lacks the issue of needing a lot of actors – or the ones you get can literally phone it in.  It doesn't need sets that exist in the real world.

So my guess is it's going to get a lot more like movies – and thus easier.  Already I'm amazed at how much can be made in gaming – and how much can be outsourced – with a relatively small group of people.

Next, throw in DLC – making it easier to distribute games without costly printing, burning (and in some cases, marketing).  Downloads are changing movie distributions, and they're changing gaming distributions.

So, I think game development is going to get more like movies.  And much as movies moved from big studios to easier production and distribution (and "small movies" like TV shows and TV movies were able to do more with technology), so will games.  That, forgive the term, is a game changer.

What will that mean?

  • Easier production – and more potential competition.
  • A chance to niche-design games for a more specialized market.
  • Continual industry changes due to these shifts.
  • Increased involvement by other non-gaming industries.
  • A need for gaming companies to niche or make massive blockbusters.

Gaming?  It will be more like movies.

– Steven Savage