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  • 1. OCR AS MEDIA STUDIESAS G322: KEY MEDIA CONCEPTSSECTION B: INSTITUTIONS AND AUDIENCESTHE GAMES INDUSTRY -1-
  • 2. THE GAMES INDUSTRYWhat the spec says:Section B: Institutions and AudiencesA study of the production, distribution and marketing of a specific gamewithin one or across various gaming platforms, along with its reception by avariety of (British) audiences.This should be accompanied by study of the impact of next generationcapabilities (HD, Blu-Ray, online services etc) on the production, distribution,marketing and consumption of games.Candidates should be prepared to understand and discuss the processes ofproduction, distribution, marketing and exchange as they relate tocontemporary media institutions, as well as the nature of audienceconsumption and the relationships between audiences and institutions. Inaddition, candidates should be familiar with: 1. The issues raised by media ownership in contemporary media practice; 2. The importance of cross media convergence and synergy in production, distribution and marketing; 3. The technologies that have been introduced in recent years at the levels of production, distribution, marketing and exchange; 4. The significance of proliferation in hardware and content for institutions and audiences; 5. The importance of technological convergence for institutions and audiences; 6. The issues raised in the targeting of national and local audiences (specifically, British) by international or global institutions; 7. The ways in which the candidates‟ own experiences of media consumption illustrate wider patterns and trends of audience behaviour. -2-
  • 3. Who owns the games industry?The gaming industry is controlled by a handful of large corporations. This isknown as an oligopoly. These corporations are Microsoft, Sony and,Nintendo. They have more money and power than all the other companiesin the industry.Smaller companies for example Rockstar (the company that made GTA IVand Red Dead Redemption) need to find ways of staying in business. Itengineered the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE). This is a gameengine developed in order to facilitate game development on the XBOX 360,Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows and Nintendo Wii systems. It shouldact as a form of protection for the company as all next-gen consoles willneed this upgrade in order to play all future Rockstar releases.What is the purpose of the games industry?The answer obviously is to make money. These companies want consumersto 1) stay loyal to them and 2) use their platform for other things besidesgames and become home entertainment hubs.1) They maintaining loyalty by: a) Producing successful franchises „in house‟. E.g. Nintendo‟s Legend of Zelda b) Buying up companies that make successful games and ensuring all future releases of the franchise are made for their platform. E.g. Bungie was a studio that made Halo until Microsoft bought it. c) “Sweet heart” deals e.g. Rockstar Games released exclusive episodic content for the Xbox 360 version of GTA IV. Microsoft paid Take- Two (the publisher) a total of £40 million for the first two episodes. d) Incentives for gamers – E.g. the Rockstar Games Social Club is a web site that displays the gameplay statistics of registered users and features competitions and awards based on player activity within the game. Rockstar also rewards visitors to their PlayStation Home apartment with goodies such as clothing for their avatar and items and decorations for their own PlayStation Home apartment. Also, X Box Live offers exclusive downloadable content. -3-
  • 4. e) Holding back new technology so that people still buy current platforms and drip-feeding innovations into the market to ensure new must have features. Consoles have built in obsolescence.Many households as a result of the above own more than oneplatform.2) Home entertainment hubs besides play games allow users to: a) Download games and expansion packs b) Surf web c) Watch Blu-ray DVDs (PS3 only) d) Download films and play films e) Download and play music f) Buy music in games - the developers of GTA IV originally considered letting players purchase music in virtual reality by allowing them to visit an in-game record shop. g) Internet telephone h) Instant messaging and chat i) Store personal data like photographs j) Shop (buy goods online) k) Update your Facebook account with stats and achievementsThis is known as technological convergence.Console companies want you to replace your DVD player, PC, homephone, stereo system with their system. This will either put othercompanies who supply these out of business or force them to dodeals with Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo.It will also allow them to reach you easier and sell you new productsand services. In the future, there will be less advertising onbroadcast TV and more product placement on Xbox live and ingames e.g. billboards in Gran Turismo. -4-
  • 5. How Games are Produced, Published, Distributedand MarketedProductionIn recent years the games industry has gone through a revolution. Gamedevelopment in the 1980s used to be a cottage industry i.e. a singleprogrammer or a handful of programmers working alone producing gamesthat were then bought by publishers such as Electronic Arts.Now games are produced by hundreds of people working on different aspectsof the game sometimes in different countries. Around 150 game developersalone worked on Grand Theft Auto IV. Overall, Grand Theft Auto IV took over1000 people and more than three and a half years to complete, with a totalcost estimated at £80 million, making it the most expensive game everdeveloped.Production companies are more like established film production companiesnowadays e.g. Working Title (a company that has made 100s of films e.g.Hot Fuzz) with 100s of people involved in production. Both films andproduction companies are called studios. Rockstar, the studio that createdGTA IV has also funded films like The Football Factory (2004) and SundayDriver (2005).A typical present-day production team includes: 1. Artists who draw characters and settings before they are rendered on the computer 2. Designers who visually recreate the characters and levels on a computer. 3. Programmers who write the machine code to make all the visuals move. 4. Sound engineers (composers, for sound effects and voice acting) 5. Directors for the actors, cut scenes and camera angles. 6. Testers whose job it is to find bugs.All these would be divided into project teams with its own manager. -5-
  • 6. Games can be developed by an independent production company orthe development branch of a publisher or the development branch ofa corporation that makes consoles.Games now share many of the production techniques of films. Gamesuse famous actors to voice characters e.g. Kiefer Sutherland in Call of Duty,Stephen Fry in Fable 2. Famous musicians are commissioned to provide thesound tracks e.g. Hans Zimmer who composed the music for Gladiator alsocomposed the music for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The camera in thegame mimics the techniques of films that belong to the same genre. The cutscenes look just like exerts from films. Rockstar‟s latest game Red DeadRedemption is inspired by and often mimics classic Westerns such as TheGood, The Bad and The Ugly and The Wildbunch.Games are not made until a publisher puts up the money to fund thedevelopment process.E.g. Rockstar developed GTA IV and Take-Two Interactive funded andpublished it.PublishingWhen you write a book you need to find a company that will print, package itand send it out to shops. Similarly games have to be published.Publishers can be independent e.g. Electronic Arts or separate branch of acorporation that makes consoles e.g. Nintendo. Independent publishers areknown as Third Party Publishers and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo asFirst Party Publishers. EA and Nintendo are the top two in the industry.The biggest British publisher is Codemasters.Apart from funding the development, publishers are responsible for themanufacturing and marketing of games. Larger video game publishers, likeEA, also distribute the games they publish.A publisher may pay a production company £10m to make a game. They thenpackage the game and advertise it. This may cost another £2m. They decidethe price of the game and sell as many units as possible. If they sell 15mcopies the publisher will recoup its costs and make a profit. -6-
  • 7. GTA IV cost £80m to make and made £24.4m on the first day of its releaseand from an estimated 6 million units sold worldwide more than £400 millionin revenue was made in the first week.DistributionDistribution is the process by which finished games get sent out to membersof the public. The only way to buy games used to be from high street shopssuch as Game and HMV. As more people became connected to the Internetthey bought them from such websites as Amazon.co.uk. Now, as more peopleacquire broadband it is quicker and easier to download a game direct to aconsole or PC. TV adverts for X Box games now say „ready to download‟rather than „in shops now‟. As broadband increases in capacity this willbecome more popular and may signify the end of the high street storesselling games.MarketingThe marketing of game releases is now comparable to that of films. Gamesare now embedded in mainstream culture.Game campaigns now includes: 1. Film style trailers – game trailers often look and sound exactly the same as film trailers. E.g. trailers for games such as Gears of War 2 and Call of Duty: World of War begin with a slow dramatic establishing shots then aim to excite the audience by quickly cutting to a montage of intense action scenes from the game to a dramatic soundtrack. They sometimes imitate famous scenes from films. E.g. Medal of Honour: Allied Assault mimicked the beach assault in Saving Private Ryan. Trailers are carefully targeted. For example, on TV adverts for Wii Fit would be shown when advertisers know families and women are watching e.g. Coronation Street (pre-watershed broadcasts). Trailers for shot‟em up games would be shown in the cinema before action films such as The Dark Knight and Avatar. 2. Film tie-ins - often games are made to cash in on the popularity of a film. The games publisher has to pay the film studio to gain rights to the name of the film. Recent examples include Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings and Star Wars. This can work the other way also with the film studio cashing in on the popularity of hit games. The studio has to -7-
  • 8. pay the game publisher to use the name of a game. This also leads to more sales for the game. Recent examples include Resident Evil, Hitman, Max Payne, Final Fantasy, and Avatar.3. Soundtracks - Rockstar paid as much as £4,000 per composition and another £5,000 per master recording per track. Soundtracks contribute to the gaming experience and shape the character of the games. Sometimes game soundtracks are released as albums or compilations in their own right. E.g. Grand Theft Auto IV.4. Magazine and Newspapers - Reviews of games and magazine articles with actors and designers are covert adverts for games – i.e. they appear to be independent and part of the magazine when they are really just increasing the games‟ publicity. GTA IV was on the cover of nearly all videogame magazines for months both before and after the release (this is known as prior advertising). Dozens of newspaper articles were written about it e.g. Sunday 4th May 2008 – The Observer dedicated a page of its Arts and Culture review section to debating whether or not GTA IV is a work of art. The May 2008 issue of Official Xbox Magazine (UK) published the first Grand Theft Auto IV review, giving the game the maximum score of 10/10. PlayStation Official Magazine branded the game as "a masterpiece”. The film magazine Empire gave the game a perfect 5/5 in its game reviews section, calling it "damn-near perfect".5. Ambassadors - people who are offered incentives by companies to promote their games on forums and introduce new users.6. Online advertisements on websites forums that are accessed by the target audience e.g. Facebook, YouTube etc7. Posters in public on buses, billboards etc8. Viral marketing - this is where people pass adverts or links to each other via their phones, Facebook, Twitter or email and help companies do their advertising.9. Publicity stunts e.g. live BMX competitions to launch a new BMX game.10. Email newsletters that feature incentives such as discounts to buy new games.11. Adverts on the consoles themselves via live Internet connections. -8-
  • 9. 12. Playable demos in stores. For example shopping centres. 13. Celebrity endorsements e.g. Wayne Rooney FIFA Football, The Redknapps Wii Sports, ex BB contestants and Mr T World of Warcraft. 14. Game conventions e.g. E3 generate hype for future releases - Microsoft vice president Peter Moore announced at E3 2006 that GTA IV would appear on Xbox 360, by rolling up his sleeve to reveal a GTA IV temporary tattoo. 15. Sponsor events like football matches and extreme sports events. 16. Free demos – give users a taste of the game 17. Controversy - The prequel to GTA IV, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, created major controversy when released in America in 2005. A patch unlocked a hidden sex mini-game that led to calls in the media for the game to be banned. However in the end it only created more publicity for the game. Similarly Manhunt was banned in the UK – it was eventually released, and the media coverage created more publicity for the game. 18. Bundles – E.g. PlayStation 3 Sports Champion Move Bundle – An introductory package for PS3 newcomers, which includes a PS3 system, a PlayStation Move motion controller, a PlayStation Eye camera, Sports Champions Blu-ray game and PlayStation Move game demo disc. 19. Corporate synergy – As part of its “It Only Does Everything" marketing campaign for Move Sony has entered a synergistic relationship with Coca Cola.Game Audiences and ConsumptionTV, films and games now compete against each other for people‟s money.GTA IV was hyped in the same way a blockbuster film like Dark Knight. TVand films are passive while gaming is becoming more interactive all the time.GTA IV is an example of a sandbox game, which allows users to departfrom the game‟s narrative and create their own. In films the audience has towatch the plot unfold in sandbox games there are lots of possible endings theuser can choose from. This is known as non-linear game play. The latestgeneration of games let users create their own content. The narrative and -9-
  • 10. action goes in the direction the player wants it to. An example of this is LittleBig Planet. Online game play has an advantage over TV and film in thatallows users to communicate with each other, compete and become part of acommunity.Games as NarrativesHowever, in videogames, understanding how the story elements work oftendoes help players to win. Narratives are most apparent a game‟s cut scenewhich can be thought of as mini movies existing inside a game. They borrowmany techniques from cinema, such as camera moves (the pan, zoom andtracking shots) and angles (the mixture of close up and wide). Compare forinstance the cut scenes in Red Dead Redemption to the films of Sergio Leone.Immersion and AgencyImmersion, the feeling of being completely involved in something, isassociated with other media. People often get lost in a good book or film butonly games offer what Janet Murray in her 1997 book Hamlet on theHolodeck calls agency. She defines it as “the satisfying power to takemeaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices”. Gamesprovide many opportunities for players to exercise agency which Murrayargues makes them more immersive.The stereotypical gamer used to be a lonely, obsessive teenage boy.Now games are mainstream gaming crosses all social, gender andage barriers. The Wii is often marketed towards women andfamilies.The (Near) Future of GamingMove and KinectBy introducing the Wii, Nintendo have successfully widened the appeal ofconsoles by making games more social and kinetic. Previously, Sony andMicrosoft have had nothing to compete with Wii Fit, Wii Sports etc. They areattempting to rectify this and capture Nintendo‟s market. Within the nextyear, Sony are releasing Playstation Move and Microsoft the Xbox Kinect.Move is a motion sensor system similar to the controller for the Wii but Kinectgoes one step further and involves motion capture technology that promisescontroller free gaming. I.e. your body is the new controller. - 10 -
  • 11. 3DA growing number of games are being launched in 3D – Avatar, Batman:Arkham Asylum, Killzone 3 and Grand Turismo 5. As 3D displays including TVsbecome cheaper expect this trend to continue.The Death of the ConsoleA new online service launched recently in America promises to serve games toyour living rooms, live, and without the need for a console or a high-poweredpersonal computer. It is a „cloud‟ service called OnLive which launched in theUSA last June. It instantly delivers games direct to your TV screen, using asmall receiver unit that connects to your existing broadband connection.All the processing that consoles used to do is performed by a network ofpowerful remote servers using compression routines. Players provide theinputs using a joypad, as normal which are streamed back with almost non-existent lag.Users will pay a $14.95 (£9.99) subscription fee each month, plus the cost ofeither buying or renting each game. In this regard OnLive has several verysignificant advantages: there is no need to invest any further in a game youare not enjoying; you can sample all the latest releases with minimal costs.OnLive enjoys the support of many high-profile games publishers – removingthe need to manufacture and physically distribute games is an obvious andlucrative benefit to them. High profile titles such as Borderlands, Prince ofPersia and Assassin‟s Creed are among the launch games announced so far.GlossaryAvatar - An avatar is a computer users representation of himself/herself oralter ego. It can be in the form of a three-dimensional model used incomputer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensionalusername used on Internet forums and other communities.Game engine - A game engine is a software system designed for thecreation and development of video games. There are many game enginesthat are designed to work on video game consoles and desktop operatingsystems such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. The corefunctionality typically provided by a game engine includes a rendering engine - 11 -
  • 12. (“renderer”) for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics engine or collision detection(and collision response), sound, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence,networking, streaming, memory management, threading, and a scene graph.The process of game development is frequently economized by inlarge part reusing the same game engine to create different games. - 12 -