It’s a blustery fall day at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, but the people gathered inside aren’t talking about the past. Engineers, programmers, and business execs are here on 5 October for the annual NY Games Conference, an event focused on divining the future of the US $32 billion worldwide video-game industry.
More than ever, the future is online. It’s impossible to grab a coffee without hearing about digital distribution and social networking. Though online games have been around for decades, this year—despite the recession—will go down as the tipping point for disc-free gaming. Whether they’re playing virtual Scrabble with friends on Facebook or downloading Sheep Launcher onto their iPhones, consumers want their games fast and free, which requires a radical shift in both business and technology. ”It’s quite frightening to change to a completely different business model,” Jay Baage, the NY Games director, told the crowd.
Here’s a look at the top five game-changing trends for this dynamic culture and industry:
1. Going Mobile
Software engineers looking to break into the game industry should look no further than their phones. According to the NPD Group, a technology research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., 31 percent of gamers now play on mobile devices. The iPhone’s 16 000 game titles outnumber the combined total for Nintendo’s and Sony’s handhelds, giving the iPhone one-fourth of what New York–based SuperData Research estimates to be a $2 billion global industry for mobile games.
At the recent Tokyo Game Show, nearly one-quarter of the new titles were cellphone games—an unheard of proportion just a few years ago. So far, many are quick and easy parlor-style games, but at NY Games, Masaaki Maeda, president and CEO of NTT Docomo USA, the North American wing of Japan’s leading mobile carrier, gave programmers a glimpse of next-generation gaming—a variety of Wii-like motion-sensing titles that gamers play with their phones, such as bowling (played by flicking your wrist while holding the handset) and dance games (in which you mimic movements of characters on screen using a motion-sensing built-in camera).