Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)
The other day, I was reading this Newsweek online article called "The Coming Energy Wars" by Rana Foroohar. It was a very stark picture of what the world would look like if oil hit $200 a barrel — pretty scary. Nations would be forced to pull away from the global economy, many legendary companies, carmakers in particular, would go belly-up, and of course, the violence that would arise from such an economic hit would be hard to contain.
This is the stuff of video game plots, including recent games such as "Frontlines: Fuel of War" and Tom Clancy's forthcoming "Endwar."
The question is, how will all of this real-life strife over resources affect the game industry?
Anything that uses plastics and incurs shipping costs will be subject to higher prices, that is for sure, but will gamers — who are already paying close to $60 for new titles — go for even higher costs at the checkout counter?
When the next round of consoles is released in a couple of years, imagine how much it will cost just to get those machines into folks' living rooms if oil prices continue to rise.
There also have been a couple of tests published measuring Microsoft Xbox 360's and Sony's Playstation 3's voracious use of electricity, more than six times as much as your standard DVD player over the course of a year. That is a lot of change, more than I think we players can imagine during those all-night gaming marathons.
The fight for profits to cover higher production costs has been little-noticed. Many observers, including me, have thought that even with the Wii's extreme popularity, getting the new Wii Fit game seemed unusually difficult. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Nintendo may be holding back to build even more hype.
Well, rumors this week are even more interesting if true. The dollar continues to be lower than the soles of my flip-flops, and many have said Nintendo has been moving numerous Wii Fit games to Europe in favor of getting the higher-valued euro into the bank while it can.
For all I know, we may have a crank-up console or a little rat running on an electricity-generating treadmill to power our next game system. But I will say this, as great as the gaming economy has been of late, the production and distribution systems are ill-prepared for increased costs. The breaking point is probably right around the corner, but as usual, we don't see it.
The solution should be a shift to more downloaded game content, but Internet speeds and storage issues for multiple-gig games are still unresolved.
Maybe we will get games enveloped in paper cases like CDs used to be. That would help with shipping and manufacturing costs, especially if recycled paper were used.
Whatever happens, we need to be prepared and willing to accept some fundamental changes about how we create, distribute and play games, or just like so many others, we will be in trouble.
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