A Change in the Game Industry

 The game industry is under a change. This change has nothing to do with technology improving or game publishers growing bigger. Yet I feel this change will be the biggest thing to hit the video game industry in it's history. Over the past few years, the budget to make games has been increasing exponentially. For these past few years, I felt the publishers granting this budget were doing this because of IP's of the game being created. It makes since to spend big money on a new Gears of War simply because the name of the game is "Gears of War." However, after recent events, I have come to realize that big license names aren't the only things pushing the industry forward. Similar to the movie industry, the big names creating the names of these people are going to be the thing making the sales. 
 
Probably the most recent example of this is when Jason West and Vince Zampella were both fired from their position at Infinity Ward. These two names have been floating around the media so wildly that we now refer to them as the people who made Call of Duty, not Infinity Ward. A development team can change so rapidly there is almost no point in expecting them to employ the same people for consecutive games or even in the development of a single game. That is why the game industry now follows these big names.
 
After the canning of West and Zampella, they were picked up by the Creative Artist Agency, the largest talent agency. There hasn't even been a handful of game developers who have been represented with such high regards, but having two being picked up at the same time, it seems like this is just the beginning for a way for "free agent" game developers to get around.
 
The next big news in this story comes when EA Partners seeds these two men, with nobody else on their team, money. Two men, that is all it takes to seed money from one of the biggest game publishers. This has hardly happened in the game industry. It would usually take an entire team with a laid out plan before they may even approach EA to ask for this. In this case, the two names were big enough to grant them the money. 
 
I find this very similar to how the movie industry works. A movie is not sold by the studio making the movie, it is sold by the directors directing the movie and the actors acting in the movie. The movie industry has faces to push the material it tries to sell. To me, it seems that the game industry is slowly gearing toward this new marketing strategy. We already see Tom Clancy's and Sid Meier's name on the front of the box. How long until we see "Cliffy B's Gears of War 3?"

11 Comments
11 Comments
Posted by Fr0Br0

 The game industry is under a change. This change has nothing to do with technology improving or game publishers growing bigger. Yet I feel this change will be the biggest thing to hit the video game industry in it's history. Over the past few years, the budget to make games has been increasing exponentially. For these past few years, I felt the publishers granting this budget were doing this because of IP's of the game being created. It makes since to spend big money on a new Gears of War simply because the name of the game is "Gears of War." However, after recent events, I have come to realize that big license names aren't the only things pushing the industry forward. Similar to the movie industry, the big names creating the names of these people are going to be the thing making the sales. 
 
Probably the most recent example of this is when Jason West and Vince Zampella were both fired from their position at Infinity Ward. These two names have been floating around the media so wildly that we now refer to them as the people who made Call of Duty, not Infinity Ward. A development team can change so rapidly there is almost no point in expecting them to employ the same people for consecutive games or even in the development of a single game. That is why the game industry now follows these big names.
 
After the canning of West and Zampella, they were picked up by the Creative Artist Agency, the largest talent agency. There hasn't even been a handful of game developers who have been represented with such high regards, but having two being picked up at the same time, it seems like this is just the beginning for a way for "free agent" game developers to get around.
 
The next big news in this story comes when EA Partners seeds these two men, with nobody else on their team, money. Two men, that is all it takes to seed money from one of the biggest game publishers. This has hardly happened in the game industry. It would usually take an entire team with a laid out plan before they may even approach EA to ask for this. In this case, the two names were big enough to grant them the money. 
 
I find this very similar to how the movie industry works. A movie is not sold by the studio making the movie, it is sold by the directors directing the movie and the actors acting in the movie. The movie industry has faces to push the material it tries to sell. To me, it seems that the game industry is slowly gearing toward this new marketing strategy. We already see Tom Clancy's and Sid Meier's name on the front of the box. How long until we see "Cliffy B's Gears of War 3?"

Posted by Turtlemayor333

I agree with everything you're saying here, but the big question surrounding all of this has to be, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Or at the end of day, does it matter? I'm curious on your thoughts there.

Edited by FluxWaveZ

95% of people who bought Modern Warfare 2 don't even know (presently) who Jason West and Vince Zampella are (I know I practically don't).  Same with people who buy Gears of War knowing who the hell Cliff Blezinski is.  We know, because we're "hardcore" gamers and we frequent a video game forum.  Those who are not, who are the mass market contributing way more sales than us, don't know or give a crap who the makers behind Modern Warfare are.  Heck, I bet more than 70% don't even give a shit what a developer or an "Infinity Ward" is.  For all they know, if they know anything, "Activision" are the ones who made the game.
 
Honestly, putting "Tom Clancy" or "Sid Meier" behind the titles of their games almost doesn't do shit for sales. The makers behind games don't influence people as much as the makers behind a movie do, and it'll take a freakishly long time before this "change" is realized. 

Posted by Claude

I've read so many stories about developers and programmers leaving to form a new company. You're right about whole teams getting the most money or a studio being bought by a larger company, but those two guys seem like pedigrees in their field. I wonder why Will Wright's name is not on the cover of video games he's made? Will Wright's Sims 3 or Will Wright's Spore. His name is huge.

Posted by HypoXenophobia

Sid Meier, American Mcgee, Shiguro Miyamoto, Tim Schafer, Schafer brothers (Erich and Max), Tomonobu Itagaki , David Jaffe, Peter Molyneux, Hideo Kojima. A decent size of names in the industry that have been influential. Just because recently there's been buzz behind the whole Activision/Infinity Ward fiasco, doesn't mean people haven't been following designer by their names. This blog is very shortsighted.

Edited by Fr0Br0
@HypoXenophobia:  Have any of those names been handed millions of dollars before they have even formed a team? Most of those names wouldn't even been given millions of dollars once they have their plans set out. Also none of those names have ever been picked up by any Hollywood talent agency, let alone the biggest one in the business. This blog may be focusing on recent events, but games have never made this type of money until recently (Modern Warfare 2). And the creators behind those big games are starting to be noticed by people outside the game industry. It's only a matter of time before it starts to become mainstreamed into these various medias and incorporated into daily conversations by the casual gamer.
 
@Turtlemayor333: I have no idea if this will affect the gaming industry positively or negatively. I believe that if it takes the course of how Hollywood has grown, then the game industry will grow exponentially and the turn around point for games being made to face up to 6 months even. I think that would be interesting to see so many games being produced and websites such as Giantbomb would become very handy even for the casual gamer. But then again, with so many games being produced, would most of them be crap and lack innovation? So I guess it's still up in the air for me.
Edited by Mono_Listo

I assume that it's always been this way within the industry (I'm sure Will Wright, Sid Meier, et al could have floated about and secured funding at will over a decade ago). The difference is that information regarding industry talent has become disseminated in ever increasing amounts (the plethora of journalism sites, forums, podcasts, Twitter and other social networking, etc). Not to mention that the gamers of last generation are now all grown up and many find themselves in entertainment and media careers, which is one of the reasons geek culture is now chic (making it even more likely for non hardcore gamers to be aware of creators). So now not only do industry insiders recognize the value of this talent, but also hardcore gamers, people that watch Attack of the Show or X-Play, possibly even those that casually read gaming sites or watch Jimmy Fallon.
 
And of course, these guys created one of the most lucrative new IPs and had a very public falling out with their previous publisher. Industry trends and practices had nothing to do with them being courted the way they were by Activision's largest competitor.

Posted by AhmadMetallic

Money

Posted by Horace

This is not a sign of change in the industry.  West and Zampella's new game will have "From the maker's of Call of Duty" on the front and the industry will continue to revolve around IP power and the studio name.  Some designers/producers are "big" names but only in a very limited circle.

Posted by HypoXenophobia
@Fr0Br0 said:

" @HypoXenophobia:  Have any of those names been handed millions of dollars before they have even formed a team? Most of those names wouldn't even been given millions of dollars once they have their plans set out. Also none of those names have ever been picked up by any Hollywood talent agency, let alone the biggest one in the business. This blog may be focusing on recent events, but games have never made this type of money until recently (Modern Warfare 2). And the creators behind those big games are starting to be noticed by people outside the game industry. It's only a matter of time before it starts to become mainstreamed into these various medias and incorporated into daily conversations by the casual gamer.
 

There's a reason why they haven't been handed millions of dollars. Those people are the head of their own teams. Why would they leave their own company for another one? With the exception being someone I forgot, Brian Reynolds. Brian Reynolds currently makes millions of dollars on facebook games. Before that, he was responsible for the multimillion copies selling pc game Sid Meiers Civilization II and then he was also involved with Sid Meiers Alpha Centuri which is another multimillion copies selling pc game. The man breeds talented making one of the best RTS I've ever set eyes on Rise of Nations.
 
I really don't get where your logic follows that Hollywood = Talent because it has not worked for half the movies they produce.
 
Games have made that type of money, stop being short sighted and do research beyond press releases. A separate Activision game would quickly curtail that at over a 11 million subscribers. 
 
Lastly, prove it. When did the words "West and Zampella" come out of your mouth prior to the fiasco? The casual gamer will probably never utter Miyamoto's name and he is responsible for what is essentially the most recognized video game character. But according to your logic, an M rated game, which completely negates a large portion of the audience, that is a quasi realistic FPS, there goes pacifist and people who get motion sick, that has sold 1/8 the amount Wii's and DS available in the market is clearly going to be on the tongue of the casual gamer. Leave hyperbole behind and be realistic.
Edited by ArbitraryWater

Well, Sid Meier and Tony Hawk are still the only individuals classy (or, in T. Hawk's case, Unclassy) enough to have their names in titles. Do I think that names have power in this industry? Much like movies, they certainly do. But I don't think it's a recent thing. Shigeru Miyamoto has been name dropped since at least Super Mario World, if not earlier. Don't forget people like Richard Garriot either. That dude made games in the 80s.