Short Documentary Asks: Are Video Games Dead?

The video game industry experienced a near-fatal meltdown in the 1980s. In today’s uncertain economic climate, could it happen again?

Tech journalist Scott Steinberg examines the issue in part 1 of Video Games Are Dead.

The video is also available on Facebook, where it has generated a lively discussion.

Steinberg interviews a number of game industry and media types in search of an answer:

  • Michael Capps, Epic Games
  • Michael Pachter, Wedbush-Morgan
  • Jesse Divnich, EEDAR
  • Chris Kohler, Wired
  • Hal Halpin, ECA
  • Derrik Lang, Associated Press
  • Mike Snider, USA Today
  • Jason Della Rocca, Perimeter Partners
  • Peter Wanat, game producer
  • Chris Taylor, Gas Powered Games
  • Lorne Lanning, Oddworld
  • Cliffy B
  • Raph Koster
  • Greg Zeschuk / Ray Muzyka, BioWare
  • Nick Torchia, Warner Bros.
  • Cevat Yerli, Crytek
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  1. Roh02 says:

    I hope its not dead Ive been a gamer most of my life since I was 2 years old … Ive been a gamer for 25 years a quarter century.

  2. Stealthguy says:

    Meh, should the industry really be catering to the uninformed to get a quick dollar? They have the choice and the means to make quality games, if they don’t it’s their own damn fault if and when it bites them in the ass. Just because some Gamers are morons doesn’t mean every gamer should be bombarded with crap in plastic wrap.

  3. hellfire7885 says:

    Shovelware consumers tend to be well meaning relatives who don’t understand games buying them as a cheap thoughtless present for a kid.

  4. hellfire7885 says:

    One incident I can think of where the price literally killed the console was the Neo Geo. The console itself was over a grand, and the games were 800 bucks, a piece.

  5. udx says:

    I also believe there’s a problem on the consumer standpoint.  Sure there’s lots of shovelware.  But it seems some shovelware is selling well, especially when priced lower than the higher quality games.

    Furthermore(This is a non-gaming example), there are some movies that, despite getting panned, actually do well in theaters.

    So is the gaming industry having problems with quality control?  Or are consumers lowering quality control?  It’s something to think about.


    What is a game?(throws wine glass on the floor and it breaks to pieces) A miserable little pile of secrets.

  6. PHX Corp says:

    I think The video game industry should start listening to all Consumers of what they want to avert a crash(not that’s gonna happen but it may happen if the video game industry dosen’t start to listen to it’s consumers)

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  7. lordlundar says:

    You know, Its pretty easy to say "no" when you’re trying to defend your entertainment, but if you take a step back, look at the industry now and compare it to the one just before the last crash, you see some similarities:

    1. Shovelware. The last crash had literal TONS of shovelware put out to the masses, with very few of them even playable, let alone any good. Today we see at least half the shelves in game stores/sections being throw away titles and retailers doing "bargain bin specials" more and more often, mainly filled with the crap that’s overpriced at a dollar.

    2. Lack of quality control. No real standards of quality existed before the last crash, and a result after was nintendo issuing their official seal of quality. Today the seal no longer bears the quality portion and it seems with all the console makers, the terms for acceptance is that it will run and is not classified as adult only by the ESRB.

    3. Lack of creativity. A lot of developers were taking code from other games, modifying it slightly and renaming it to put it out. Today when a game get’s put out, it’s not promoted on what it brings to the table, but instead what it copies. (ie saint’s row as a GTA clone, Crysis as a doom clone, etc) As well the games that come out on the major systems are simply referred to as their genre without really standing out (most games get a basic review of "<insert quality> of <insert genre> that does well in what came before it, but fails in whatever new they wanted.) Any really creative games get shunned if they’re not overhyped.

    4.Overpricing. Systems before the crash were pushing at least an equivelant modern price of over a grand, if not those prices in actuality. The games weren’t much better, pushing equivelants of $90+, often for the pieces of shovelware that no one wanted nor could afford. Now we see CoD: MW2 being priced at $90 for the regular version, special edition at half again and the premier edition easily over $200. The <blank> Hero games requiring special controllers, often tripling the standalone game price which is little more than the past game with some minor changes. Most notably, trying to find a "AAA title" (and I use the term loosley) that is below $60 is rare at best, made even worse when the game ranks as "simply average" and you find that the money is to pay for the (often overblown and unjustified) hype. Then the real pit hits when you realize it’s more about protecting the image of a "meh" game than making a good one.

    Now you have two major companies that really don’t give a shit about the issues above so long as they get their massive profits by making you think the uncreative, overpriced, piece of crap is a "must have" game. After seeing that, I personally see it not so much a case of "if" a second crash will occur, but "when" and what will the fallout will be.

  8. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Meh if this

    is the rule for development then they are trying to copy not only realism but the experience which tends to quash artistic individuality in favor of paint by number duplication and we can see that in modern gaming. Both it and film lean too heavily on bland paint by number schematics which come off more often than not as generic and lacking.


    I mean compare Quake 1 and 2 to doom 3 and Quake 4 wheres the imagination wheres the artistic whims in either level layout or design?  Its nothing but over used and watered down pablum to feed to eager babies who don’t want to think for themselves….. seriously its as much corporates fault as the consumers fault…

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

  9. Stealthguy says:

    But how exactly are they suppose to do it different? Nothing is new, everything is recycled. I don’t see how one would get outside the box in a medium that is primarily visual. Videogames have to adapt but I doubt they’ll truly be in their own until we see VR games as the norm.

  10. JustChris says:

    I hope that more developers see that they do not have to copy another medium’s presentation to get people engrossed in the game. But I believe it has to do with making it accessible to the masses. Even movies copied the structure of live plays in its early years. Every medium seems to take from other media that preceded it.


  11. ZippyDSMlee says:

    That andyou didnt have a home console and a few dozen games in every other home. If video gameing was still mainly arcade it would have been broken long ago.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

  12. KayleL says:

    The gaming industry was well heading into a crash, recession or no recession. The gaming industry is relatively new compare to other mediums, so we haven’t been able to prove how well the gaming industry would do in hard times.

    Historically, the entertainment business does very well in recessions, and the gaming industry is part of that. The crash in the 80’s was because it was already unstable.

  13. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Well….. the immoral crusaders of the bottom line is everything and the consumers are sheap suits or the normal inane moralists looking for publicity…..


    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

  14. magic_taco says:

    For me, I think not.

    After hearing some people around here talk that the video game industry is recession-proof;them losing a million or two wouldnt much be a loss.

    If the economy doesnt kill the industry, the immoral crusaders will.

  15. Icehawk says:

    Whereas game companies (like the above mentioned Activision) may fall to the weighside methinks the industry will survive.  Movies did and they had less of a (rabid) following.  Of course if government somehow managed to gain control of, or starting to tax the stuffing out of gaming.. well that might prove a different hurdle. 

  16. Parallax Abstraction says:

    Use of Pachter as a source is an automatic hit to this video’s credibility in my opinion.

    I do think the industry is in a bad position right now, largely becuase of publishers trying to one up each other on technology, constantly fighting what their customers want, trying to "exploit" franchises as Activision does and generally just not knowing hos to manage costs.  I don’t nearly think games are dead and I do believe the industry needs to rethink how it does business or it could be in trouble.  What caused the crash in 1984 was an overabundance of inventory and too many companies cranking out garbage and diluting the value of the industry to consumers.  While there is too much coming out now and ther eis oversaturation, quality as a whole is definitely up, along with expenses.  I think the industry can save itself, it just may not like what it has to do.

    Parallax Abstraction
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

  17. Vake Xeacons says:

    I think most of the biggest publishers just over-estimated success. Yes, profits are higher this year than last, and so on, but the big tycoons didn’t realize how much prices and competition has gone up over the years as well. Ergo, while they’re making more money, it’s not as much as they expected.

    But this happens with every big industry; the big companies get cocky with success, while the little guys are always aware of how tenuous their involvement is. So the little guys are more careful, more in tune with consumers, and more worried about getting their stuff out there, than with overall profit. For those that aren’t doing well, it’s their fault. We’ve seen EA getting worse for years, for example.

    Bottom line: We’ll survive.

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