Thursday, October 7, 2010

Video Game Industry Review #1: Mircrosoft's Xbox 360 Application "Game Room"

So my first "Review" of something in the Video Game Industry is Something from Microsoft.

Unexpected, even from my end, but I got some things to get off my mind.

"Game Room" is an application for use on Microsoft's Video Game Console, the "Xbox 360" (Shorthanded as "360") and for the "Games For Windows Live" (Short. "GFWL") on Windows PC. It was created and currently handled by Australian Video Game Studio "Krome Studios" who have previously created the "Ty the Tasmanian Tiger" Series and revitalized the "Spyro the Dragon" series after being sold by VG Studio "Insomniac Games".

What it does is allow you to purchase video games (At $.50 to try, $3 to buy on "360" or "GFWL", $5 to buy for both), from the "Atari 2600" Video Game Console, "Intellivision" Video Game Console, and some Arcade Cabinets all in digital format and use on the "360" or "GFWL". Once you purchase a game you can place a digitalized version of a cabinet for the game you purchased in your own Digital Arcade Complex. Think of it as buying a song on iTunes and playing it on an iPod, only in a more interactive way.

The "Game Room" application also has many other features, such as: customizing your Arcade Complex's look (i.e. a new wallpaper and seating arrangement in a Living Room), Leaderboards to help keep track of who is the best at each game (For the Statistics lovers), as well as a Challenge system to challenge other friends for a high score or to see who can last the longest, and "Acheivements" for using every nook and cranny of the application.

The main meat of "Game Room" though is the games, and while most games can be found on Compilation Discs, there are some that are being made available for home use for the very first time. But there are other issues.

There are many technical bugs for the application, and is most prevalent on "GFWL" (Making use of "Game Room" on a PC almost a gamble). Leaderboards not being watched for scores that abuse glitches on the games. And the biggest issue of all, price.

$3 for a game is pretty cheap on average of games as a whole, an average price for real carts of games on "Atari 2600" & "Intellivision", and an absolute steal for the Arcade games (Unless you break the law and Pirate some games).

And in direct comparison to the application's main competitor, Nintendo Wii's "Virtual Console" Shopping Center, they average about $2 to $5 CHEAPER than the Big N's offerings.

But then you look at the cost for almost every game licensed of games for the "Atari 2600" & "Intellivision" on Compilation Discs like "Atari Anthology" for Sony's "Playstation 2" Video Game System that has over 80 of the game in "Game Room" for only $10. Or how about the "Intellivision Lives" Compilation Disc for many video game systems at only $5. You can see that some may be upset at the pricing.

But let's take out the discussion of the games being Quote Unquote, "Used Content" and look exactly where the $3 being spent on "Game Room" games is going to.

Quite literally, it's being split 3 Ways, $1 to "Krome Studios" for maintaining and running the "Game Room" project, $1 to Microsoft for maintaining the server to keep "Game Room" running and storing all public data, and then $1 to the owner of the license of the game being bought.

Now look at it's competitor Nintendo, varying prices based on video game system and/or availability in region ranging no less than $5 and, so far, no higher than $12. And that money is being split straight in half, so at the very least, the licensee gets at least $2.50 per game sold with Nintendo than $1 per game sold with Microsoft/Krome. Who do you think the licensee is going to go with? By the evidence of only Atari, Intellivision, Activision Blizzard, & Konami being the only publisher to work with "Game Room" out of the many publishers and licensees, it's quite clear.

And that's just covering 1/3 of the pricing issue, here's the bigger 2/3 of the problem, making money back on licensing the content in the first place.

Reportedly, it took Krome & Microsoft to pay about (roughly) $1000 per game to license the game for use on "Game Room". Both obviously made the purchase at a loss in hope that it would be a huge success, but that would mean each game would have to sell, about an average, of 500 purchases to break even and more to be profitable.

One way that video game fans (and other publishers) can tell if something was a success in any industry is to read or listen to a company's finance report, and if something isn't mentioned or is even pointed out as being a failure, you know it did badly. Another way is seeing a report about the company working on something having to do layoffs, and earlier this summer "Krome Studios" had to cut about half of their staff due to financial reasons, so it looks like "Game Room" ain't doing so well.

I'm interested to see where Game Room goes from here, because as we can see it can provide great entertainment at a cheap price, but if it ain't selling, it ain't selling. "Game Room" is a few weeks away from presumably exhausting all their licensed games for use in game room.

We'll see if "Game Room" sinks into obscurity among the lines of the "Virtual Boy", or another publisher steps up to plate and keep "Game Room"'s heart pumping with a game transfusion.

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