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Comment: New Years Resolutions for the videogames industry

As the end of year reports from retailers and publishers continue to file in, it's time for the industry to take stock of its performance and decide what it's going to do differently in 2006; <i>Rob Fahey</i> has some suggested resolutions...

By now, most of you who made New Years Resolutions have probably broken most, if not all, of them, and would rather not be reminded of the concept. However, as retailers around the world dutifully file their end-of-year results, revealing just how well, or how badly, the industry did in the run-up to Christmas, perhaps it's worth considering what New Years Resolutions the videogames industry as a whole could do with signing up to.

Firstly, how about resolving to try out a little innovation and give creative developers with great ideas precedence over those who start every game description with "it's just like..." and the name of a top ten game from last year? The videogames media probably sounds like a stuck record on this topic, but one of the biggest lessons publishers can take away from 2005 is that the market craves innovation more than many in the industry care to admit - as the runaway success of the Nintendo DS proves admirably.

Next, we could all do with remembering that just because a platform is in the headlines, doesn't mean that every other platform ceases to exist. Reading the news - and we fully confess that GamesIndustry.biz is probably as guilty of this as any other site - this year was all about handhelds and next-generation consoles, but if you actually wanted to make serious money this year, you should have been releasing on the PS2 or the PC. Much of the doom and gloom in the market in the latter stages of the year might have been alleviated if marketing and promotion budgets had focused more on things which people could actually buy right then, rather than things that might be nice for them to buy some time down the line.

"Look before you leap" is a very old saying, but it could do with being a New Years Resolution for some game publishers - and it could do with being applied broadly across a wide range of the areas in which they do business. Next-generation consoles are a good example; it's been quiet throughout 2005, but we expect 2006 to be a year when many publishers have to go to shareholders cap in hand because they've vastly overspent on next-gen games which can't hope to live up to their overblown promises.

The proverb could do with being applied elsewhere as well. 2005 was a year in which almost every month brought news of an MMORPG project being shut down, as companies which had tried to jump on the latest bandwagon discovered that it's tougher than it looks. Blizzard and NCsoft may be making plenty off their efforts in the space, but for a while it seemed like every publisher in the world thought they could make their fortune there as well - and instead succeeded only in losing fortunes. The same thing happened with mobile gaming as well, a sector which is now making real profits after years of ill-advised ventures.

The message may seem mixed, but in summary, if we were to ask for a single resolution from the industry in 2006, it would be this; be more adventurous in terms of creativity and innovation, and more conservative in terms of business. There's little wrong with the fundamental business models of the industry, and stepping outside those models should be a carefully considered move, not simply a leap onto the nearest convenient bandwagon - but on the creative front, many publishers are struggling to do anything but endlessly follow the lead of other firms who take real creative risks, and reap real rewards. Business is all about calculated risk - and in 2006, let's try and make our supposedly creative industry take more risks on content, and less on business strategy.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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