Is the Video Game Industry Unsustainable?

Posted on August 4, 2010

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Naughty Dog founder Jason Rubin recently questioned the sustainability of the entire video game industry if it continues to churn out AAA titles.

Naughty Dog founder Jason Rubin

Rubin thinks that the traditional model of exclusively selling expensive packaged goods through retail is coming to an end–and companies that continue to do so will become extinct. Quickly.

Triple-A titles are the video game industry’s bread and butter. Don’t think so? Try this: make a mental list of your top five favorite games. Here’s mine for example:

  1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  2. Super Metroid
  3. Metal Gear Solid
  4. Super Mario Galaxy
  5. Half-Life 2

All five of them are AAA titles. They cost millions to make, and, thankfully, raked in millions. But all of them were gambles to make.

Video game companies are staffed by real people, with real lives and real worries. And, as far as real worries go, money is way up there in the most worry-worthy. The more money that these companies throw at a couple select titles, the bigger of a risk that these companies could fail, and subsequently go belly up.

In the very first episode of Game Theory, Rubin, along with industry giants Will Wright (the Sims series) and Trip Hawkins (he’s the guy who came up with putting games on CDs) discuss the state of the industry.

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