I’ve been making games for 25 years, I remember when all this was fields.

I’ve worked on games from web wars for the Vic 20 (back when webs were strictly spider related ), syndicate wars at Bullfrog to GTA IV for ps3 and 360.

I’ve owned and ran a games studio for 5 years working as Lead Programmer/CTO.

I’ve experienced 4 studio shut downs including my own ; MuckyFoot, Visual Science, Pandemic, Krome Studios.

I feel it’s time to do a post mortem on the games industry (lets not wait until the victim is dead).

So the games industry 1984 to 2011, what went right.

Growth. We overtook Music and DVD sales at the high street apparently)

We became cool (thanks ps1)

We became rich, well somebody somewhere did. Maybe it was just John Riccitello.

We helped create a market for Home Computers Sinclaires/Commodores/Atari’s/Mac’s/PC’s.

We drove a relentless need for faster hardware.

We transitioned across many console wars Nintendo versus Sega, Sony Versus Nintendo, Microsoft versus everyone, Nintendo versus Sony the re match

Console dev opened up from the evil clutches of Nintendo monopoly to the point joe blog can ship an xbox indie game.

We spread from TV’s to dedicated handhelds, to phones, if it has a cpu and some display output it can run games, it HAS to run games.

We single handedly generated a market for 3d rendering hardware and  an amazing GPU arms race.

Making games got easier, no longer do you need to write cpu based perspective correct poly draws, infact you can even use jit’ed languages to ship games! Dynamic, GC based languages, can game dev get any easier?

Opportunities for small scale dev blossomed, flash games, iphone games, PC indie games.

Notch made minecraft, a million would-be indie devs looked on enviously, and no doubt not a few publishers looked at their failed $30M games and shook their heads.

Social games came to facebook, even your mum is playing them…

Valve quietly and relentlessly corners the market in PC downloadable games.

Blizzard become the most profitable developer on the planet, so big they do not get bought by a publisher, they merge.

Moore’s law isn’t dead,  we have 3d tri gate transistors we have IBM pushing light based cpu’s, we have quantum computers on the distant horizon, memristor memory technology.

Soon PC’s/Consoles will be so powerful we will even be able to ship games written in python.

The games industry 1984 to 2011, what went wrong.

In the early days of the games industry everyone in dev was on royalties, basic salary and potentially big royalties (I saw a royalty cheque once, for someone who worked on Barbarian at Palace software, it was more than a years salary for me at the time.), later this got replaced with bonuses, later this got replaced with canceled bonuses, later this got replaced with redundancy cheques. (My biggest bonus cheque was actually a redundancy cheque, ahh bittersweet).

Employees somehow agreed to work for free, we worked longer and longer hours, because we had to compete with the other studios who worked longer and longer hours for free, the required feature set of games increased the quality bars rose the market grew, the staff got burnt out and exhausted , some of the publishers got rich, some of the developers closed down. Some of this can be put down to developers making games out of love and passion, which left us out in the cold when the money pie was sliced up.

AAA game developers embraced c++ and proceeded to make game dev twice as hard, but fortunately for programmers, also require twice as many coders.

Wii came out, Nintendo created a raging success, Nintendo got richer, nobody else profited.

Next Next Next gen came out (360/ps3) ,dev teams got huge, the number of AAA games in production dropped by a factor of 10, dev studios closed or got bought, small publishers got acquired, game dev becomes more complex, middleware thrives, originality ran in a corner and hid, sequels took over, all games became WW2 shooters, and still we don’t run games at 60 fps as standard.

In California some publishers got sued for not paying overtime, apparently this resulted in lots of promotions of junior staff to more senior positions that aren’t covered by the overtime laws.

iPhone came out, a huge success, a few devs became rich, the market over saturated, a race to the bottom ensued, everything sells for a $1.

Android came along, sold even more phones than apple, devs failed to make money, phone hardware is fragmented, marketplace is fragmented, race to the bottom ensued, everything sells for, well , free.

Everyone moved to Canada, actually this is only bad for the rest of the world, or devs who don’t want to work in Canada.

Zynga completely owned the social game space, and what they didn’t own they bought, but are they actually making games, or have just managed to push the right psychological buttons to get people clicking? Cow clicker style…

The future

Attention spans continue to get shorter, apps start selling for 10 cents, AAA game teams get bigger, but the single player game gets smaller, all become subscription based.

Everyone on the plantet with access to electricity releases an indie game, each game sells one copy to the authors mum.

PS4 comes out, its an uzi with hdmi output, only plays ww2 fps shooters.

Zynga buys EA and Activision, WOW becomes a point and click mystery detective game on facebook, fifa actually gets better.

The internet starts broadcasting adverts every 7 minutes simultaneously world wide, but tailored to your search history, google starts selling premium advertless internet subscriptions.

Google/Apple/MS/Zynga merge, release chip that bolts into your head to replace reality.

Lion Head ship a game where you really can do anything.