Is core gaming on the ropes? Jeff Grubb at VentureBeat thinks so in a long essay on the decline of traditional gaming categories. He points the ups and downs of THQ’s uDraw package, a Wacom-like drawing tablet for the Wii. After initial success, THQ doubled down to try and port the tablet to the Xbox and PS3. Fast forward to an investor call, a revelation of more than 1.4 million unsold tablets, and a gap of $100m in earnings, and you’ve got a problem on your hands. Grubb thinks the problem is endemic to how games are made and marketed:
Because who knows that Draw Something is going to create $1 million in revenue every four days before it actually does? Until the industry witnesses that kind of success, it doesn’t exist as far as the executives making decisions are concerned. The traditional publishers believe (or at least they did believe) that a $100 million gamble is worth it for the type of returns that the traditional consoles can produce.
Despite the fact that we’re in a world with Angry Birds and Draw Something, the real money for an individual game development company or game publisher is going to continue to be in making a a game that succeeds on the traditional platforms.
But Grubb points out an nifty idea at the problem — that games are missing a “middle class.” There are expensive console games and then cheap or free mobile games. That’s really about it. We face a similar problem with our year-end High Scores list — there are high production value titles and then there are simple, single mechanic ones. They’re all games, of course, but there is little in the $25-35 range — hence the attempts at the Nintendo 3DS and the Vita. But doesn’t the lack of a spread of diversity in pricing (and frankly in content) indicate something frightening about the future of games?