According to tech research firm comScore, gamers are heading online more and more for fast free play. The study finds that 87 million Americans played online games in May, an increase of 22 percent from last year. At the same time, videogame sales are getting hit by the recession. NPD Group, another tech research firm, expects June sales to dip by 20 percent compared to last year.
So what's the takeaway? Gamers want to play for free? Of course - but there's something else going on here too. Online games are fast and easy. You boot up, log in, and start playing. It's a diversion that doesn't require you to struggle with unwrapping plastic and handling a flat round object. Small, quick, downloadable games are ideally suited for a new generation of players. Think about the music industry. Does any kid really care about buying an entire album anymore? The future is built on singles. The game industry is now feeling the tremors of this seismic shift. Online games are the "singles" of interactive entertainment.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.