With Final Fantasy XIII coming out, do you wonder why original video games don't seem to come along as often as they used to? (And I'm speaking as an FF fan). Of course it's money. The cost of making video games has skyrocketed into the $10 million range and as a result, the number of publishers has dwindled to basically about four big ones — with Electronic Arts the biggest and baddest of them all. And this industry is getting bigger with the figure of $8 billion a year as one that is often quoted.
Why should gamers and industry bigwigs care if it's tough for the little guy? Because back when games were cheaper to make, the independents came up with the ideas that moved the business forward. Richard Garriott peddled Ultima, the first major role-playing title, in plastic bags. Sid Meier's Civilization and Westwood's Dune II cracked open the strategy genre. Id Software's John Carmack and John Romero created the pioneering first-person shooter Doom. Will Wright gave us SimCity and open-ended "sandbox" simulations.
O'Brien also points to this article over on The Escapist (I consider every issue a must-read). In the piece, Greg Costikyan writes that unless some outlet for creativity is developed, video games may be headed for a fall:
The nightmare scenario for gaming is that we become like comics in the '60s and '70s — a niche, repetitive field limited to a handful of genres with no real opportunity for growth. It might even be starting to happen: Video game sales in Japan have been declining for years, and even in the U.S., publishers are struggling to match their 2004 revenues this year.