Last week the NE Games SIG hosted it latest event, which featured some great networking and a discussion of the impact that the current economy has and will have on the games industry. Moderated by Michael Cai of Interpret, the panel included James Jones of Hasbro, Kai Bond of SwitchGames.com, and Hank Howie of Blue Fang Games. We’d like to thank Michael and our speakers for a very informative and compelling discussion.

We’d also like to thank attendees for coming out, even despite the snow storm last Monday! And for those who couldn’t make it, below are a few bullets summarizing some of what was discussed. These are just some of the notes I jotted down, so if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments. We’ll also be posting a video from the event soon – stay tuned!

  • Nowadays, consumers are looking for new ways to buy and consume games – not just relying on retail purchases. They are looking to get a bigger bang for their buck, so used games are becoming more and more popular.
  • Casual games are actually doing really well, as they have a lower price point to the consumer, and lower development costs, compared to some ‘AAA’ titles.  At the same time, the casual games market is cluttered with lots of options for consumers, but, unlike some more traditional titles and with MMOs, there is a huge untapped audience for casual games.
  • Having games based on an established IP, and with existing brand awareness in the marketplace, makes a huge difference with the success of a title in a rough economy.
  • We are seeing a variety of different business models with online games – free-to-play, monthly subscriptions, ad supported, download to buy, and microtransactions. Regardless of business model, compelling content is what will lead a game to succeed.
  • PC shelf space at retail has diminished significantly, but retail game cards for online games are selling very well (especially with kids that don’t have a credit card).
  • Consumers are spending more time at home, but are still spending money on entertainment – the number of TV viewers has skyrocketed recently (evidence of this trend).
  • Due to the economy, the panel predicted that the next generation of consoles will not come out until at least 2011 – a cycle that is a lot longer than in year’s past.
  • In the coming months, the real innovation in the industry will not necessarily come from graphics or technology, but with distribution and marketing. Companies will have to get really creative in their marketing, to break through the clutter and gain mindshare.
  • In closing, the traditional game market is definately feeling the effects of the current economy, but there are and will continue to be many opportunities particularly with mobile, casual, and online games.
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