I love hint books for video games. Sure they're fun to get help on a game, but they're also chocked full of interesting details on the game, extra tips, and even instructions superior to the game manual. They usually boast good production values as well – the really good ones are a pleasure to read and thumb through. I think my love of hint books is easy to understand.
As I'm quite fond of hint books, I've noticed some trends that makes me wonder what the future of these large, beautiful guides is:
- Downloadable content in gaming means more games coming out. With the speed-to-market of games, with more choices to write hint books for, how will companies that make them choose?
- eBooks. It's rather obvious that more and more people are reading books in electronic format. This is great to save trees, but are people going to keep their iPads on their laps to read their hint books while playing the X-box?
- The internet. Go to http://www.gamefaqs.com/ and you can get a lot of information for free on games. It may not be as big or beautiful as some of the truly elegant books, but it's there for the reading. Sites like GameFaqs also support communities so you can ask and answer highly specific questions.
So between more games, people getting used to electronic access of books, and the free online services used by people to get their game-hint fix, what is the future of Hint Books? As you may guess, I'm going to attempt to answer this because it's a geekonomic area, and an area of career interest – besides for some of you hopeful writers out there, it might give you some career ideas.
So my theories:
- Big gorgeous hint books are not going away for awhile. However within the next decade I expect them to become more and more of a luxury item, loaded with extra art and content, and focused on Big Name Releases. They do and will sell, but I suspect they'll merge with the "peripheral merchandise" and "bonus merchandise" markets. This way they provide marketing and get people's attention so they're worth it because . . .
- eBooks like it or not will become bigger in game hints because you can get them out fast and people can buy them cheap. No printing, no production, no marketing. People can print them if they want. A company can assemble them fast (and out of their notes) and release them quick or even free. This gets people's attention, their willingness to pay – and heads off the chance that online resources will steal their hint book thunder. This is important as . . .
- Online Game Resources like GameFaqs come will continue to grow in prominence since they present a huge source of data (especially for "hint bookless" games) and they provide questions, answers, and community. I'd give it a 50/50 shot that some game resource sites will try Hint Apps for Smartphones, iPads, and so on. As more and more people play games, online game resources and communities could have an even larger potential market. This leads to . . .
- Smart companies will already jump on this market or even make deals with game resource sites. They'll make apps for providing hints, provide guidebooks, and otherwise work together – or create their own online hint sites and resources. Such things build relations with gamers and provide good branding. However, ultimately it's about the game, so . .
- I expect some companies will experiment with "levels" of help in a game. The game itself can plug into online resources and even communities, allowing people to ask questions in game, get answers, cheat their hearts out – or ignore the advice.
So there's my theories on the future of hint books for games – luxury items, fast-to-market-hints, and gradual internet and game integration. I see this as happening over a decade or more, but I do see it happening.
So, get moving people . . .