3 eras of game discovery (Topic)

World Of Topics » Games » 3 eras of game discovery

3 eras of game discovery


For a lot of people, games are a long way off, and for good reason. Video games, like many things in our life, were gradually opened.

The author of the Gamasuta portal, Simon Carles, identified three eras in the history of video games, during which they changed and became something new:

  • The era of retail [1980 - 2005]
  • The early digital age [2006-2013]
  • The peak of the digital age [2014-2019]

The author met each of them, as he developed games in the 90s that were released only for retail, then wrote for Game Developer / Gamasutra magazine and ran IGF during the second digital era, and still works in game development.

The Age of Game Retail

This period was pretty easy to understand. You created your own game (often written in your engine), partnered with a publisher or were part of a publisher yourself, and then your game hit the shelves of retail stores.

It used to be that the publisher paid you for the game in advance and you didn't really lose anything. As a developer, you didn't need to worry about the publicity of your project, but you should have rushed to conclude a contract with the publisher for a new game, since between projects you had to pay your employees a full salary.


The publisher at this time negotiated with the retail network and knocked out space on the store shelf. Using their credibility or the success of past projects, they could negotiate various advantages for selling a new game, such as a favorable percentage of royalties.


Equally important, back then, the number of games a player could buy was limited compared to today, and prices were more aggressive than they are today. On average, one title cost about $ 50, which is $ 80-100 in today's money.

What surprises us today : today it may seem to you that the publisher will cooperate with the developer only for the reason that the publisher himself will allocate space for you on a certain site, advertise the project, and cut 30 % for cooperation [more precisely, he will do it with a lot of "but"]. This is not so, today in the flow of information and a huge number of new projects, your game should stand out from the rest. And also you yourself should always promote it so that it breaks through among others.

At the same time, you can become your own publisher today, and fully retain all the profits.

Early Gaming Digital Age

I associate the beginning of this era with the advent of the Xbox Live 360 Arcade on the Xbox Live 360, and of course, the appearance of Steam. This marked the beginning of a true "golden age" for indie and discovery. The retail market was still strong and operating in parallel. Digital games began to be in good demand, and they also cost no less than physical media.


Thanks to the new market, we have games like Castle Crashers, which sold millions of copies, which confused developers with its unusual genre. But still, at first there were not many projects ready to boast of similar sales. But games like Counter Strike have a huge user base ready to try and buy new inexpensive indie projects that appear on Steam.

At the end of this era, you may have noticed that almost a large part of the industry went digital. The production of discs became more expensive, and such things as a digital copy of the game were more convenient both for storage and for purchase. In addition, consoles' hard drives have become powerful enough to handle heavy workloads. At the same time, Sony and Microsoft began to give preference to large-budget projects.


Towards the end of this era, the Unity and Unreal engines became ubiquitous and inexpensive. Thus, making games for one or more platforms became much easier, and the number began to grow again. And because of the presence of electronic stores, you could release your project yourself.

What strikes us today: Most likely, it is with this era that you most associate your gaming life, since it is highly likely that it was then that you started playing games or even developing them.


At the same time, the first successful indie developers debuted, about which the film "Indie Game: The Movie" was shot. Many indie projects debuted and competed with the more traditional games produced by big studios, and brought their creators a good amount of money. Those guys became millionaires, but this is unlikely to happen to you.


Alas, these market realities and the large moat between retail and digital have led to a gap between supply and demand. Five years ago, you could have released a game on Steam and, most likely, you would have received $ 100,000 guaranteed from the sale.

However, this was when one game a day came out on Steam. Today this number jumps between 25-30 per day. In addition, people's tastes and love for genres have radically changed.

The peak of the digital age of gaming

We are now in the digital peak era. Steam went through Greenlight (which increased the number of independent games), early access, and is now at a stage where it is enough to pay the incentive about $ 100 to get your game published. This further enlarged the already overcrowded idney dump.

On the other hand, games services on PC and consoles have spread like never before, and no matter how ridiculous it may sound, the PlayStation and Xbox electronic stores operate on the principle of retail stores. Their windows are filled with exclusives or big games, but the number of indies is very small.


Finally, the simplicity of Unity & The Unity Asset Store in particular, and the relative lack of capital investment required to create games (you need a computer and that's it) means the Cambrian explosion of games of all shapes and sizes is finally taking place.

Many of these titles are good - I mean, REALLY good, original and interesting. However, this argument is leveled against the backdrop of that "mountain of shit" on Steam. Now we have to search for good games in a bunch of not very good ones.

What surprises us today: Today we came to the conclusion that you can say: “Hey, I made a cool, interesting and high quality game. But it is not for sale, why? ”


The most banal answer is incredibly simple: there are too many games. A more complex version of this answer could be expanded to: “You didn't tell anyone about this game until a week before it came out,” or perhaps “You didn't understand the demographic characteristics of the online store where your game debuted,” or , perhaps: “Your game is selling well in the context of the mass of games that will debut in 2019. You just didn't take it into account when planning. ”

And how did we come to this? This is partly a supply and demand issue. More precisely, it is a matter of the gap formed in the second era. But you end up competing with a lot of busy developers who have privileges in some way.

Perhaps they have other contract work, perhaps they have spouses who work and provide for their development, or they are supported by a family, perhaps they work in a country with low GDP.

You are also competing with a bunch of people who are losing money because their game is absolutely financially unsuccessful.

But the good news is that you still have a chance, because everyone has a chance! Is this a good point to end?

The Topic of Article: 3 eras of game discovery.
Author: Jake Pinkman