Friday, October 17, 2008

Gamestop gave me a pile of money to write this blog.

Note: if you signed up for a subscription at your local GameStop, you'll see two additional paragraphs in this post.

Welcome to Exclusive Preorder! I'm an obsessive reader of gaming websites, but with the occasional exception of, most websites focus almost exclusively on the games themselves -- the latest screenshots, features, trailers, and other marketing materials publishers shower them with. Which is fine! There's obviously a huge audience for the latest news, as evidenced by my own Google Reader feed (Joystiq, Kotaku, 4cr, etc). But hey, like my profile claims, I'm really just a gamer at heart. I eat it all up.

That said, especially as I work in the industry I can't help but look at the "industry" side of the equation, and the gaming news sites frequently fail to address that for any number of reasons. Sometimes the news is big enough that even the news sites perk up; you may recall the massive row (Joystiq coverage) about Gamespot's firing of Jeff Gerstmann (grats on the new gig, sir). Publishers and review sites in a massive feedback loop of access and coverage? It's just the kind of scandal to drive page views.

I won't pretend that the games industry isn't healthy; clearly it's doing quite well for itself. But that can't keep me from wishing it would do well with a little more integrity, and perhaps a little more thought for the future. There's definitely some cognitive dissonance when your company is fueled by artists who love to create, but governed by the marketing potential of their creation.

Which brings me to this blog. I'm not an "insider" beyond the fact that I work for a company in the industry. I don't have the connections that get exclusives dropped into my lap (so yeah, the Gamestop preorder crowd is SOL on that one). But I'm here to talk about the news that gets me going and keeps me up. There are factions constantly pushing and pulling each other:
  1. The publishers, with the funding and the marketing power.
  2. The developers, with the talent to create a compelling product.
  3. The merchants, who have the final say in what actually reaches buyers... and who to some degree are the real "target audience," as far as publishers are concerned.
  4. The gamer! I hope you know who you are.
  5. The media, who simultaneously inform the consumer and advertise for the publisher... hopefully without too much conflict of interest.
  6. The ESRB, the government, concerned parents, crazy lawyers, and other external forces that act upon the industry.
Who are they? How do they interact? How does it affect what, when, or how you buy and play games?

Honestly, I don't know the answers except for a smattering of loose information on the surface. But maybe I'll learn something writing this blog. And maybe I'll even get a few people reading it in the process.