Being present at two pop culture events 8203 miles apart (miles!!! Yes. I’m in USA now) in the same year; both generating the polar opposite emotional response in a manner representing their geological diversity along with distance quoted above, could also be classified as event itself. While the former was tepid, same, boring with few exceptional burst of joy (check the blog here), other was stuffed to the brim with nostalgic, modern, novel and absolute maddening fan service events to the point of bursting out.
Above para also explained the dormancy of my blog for so long. First event I mentioned was ComicCon 2017, Pune, India while the other is PopCon 2017, Indianapolis, USA. Last week I got chance to visit the same during my probably long future working sojourn in USA.
Before I proceed further, first check out below amazing display of Cosplay culture presented by visitors. Please bear the fact that it was such classic display of geekiness which acts as an energy induced plasma to make the fun event more energetic besides professional Cosplayers.
Merchandise galore; what was more prominent was the milieu of artists and writers of the pop culture world with their latest and best. With pack line of famous artists and TV stars available for signing events along with chit-chat with their devoted fans to you-tubers and twitch channel artists marketing their prowess in digital world what made the PopCon event true to its name.
If I have to describe the event in single word, I would shout “Nostalgia”. Rows of Arcade machines staked up for young generation to gobble up retro-feeling in large area was one of the prime attraction. Stores selling old Gameboys along with prized old titled cartridges along with comic vendors selling old comic runs 1$ each was meant for collectors and aficionados alike. In one large corner I saw rows of players getting their hands on most primeval way of gaming: Board-games. Hexagonal dice and character sheets of Settlers to D&D to civilization, played equal part role with massive rooms dedicated to competitive gaming on large with CoD, Overwatch and many more to entertain the mass. It was enchanted amalgamation of old and new.
For me, event reached its nerd peak when I found the store of Troma movies along with none other than Lloyd Kaufman himself (I also picked up two movies personally signed by him). Troma movie is the satirical mixture of overtly used grindhouse, splatter, sex, nudity, violence and other 50’s themes in almost superficially farcical way.
The event regarding to pop culture won’t have Star Wars fans is always unusual and hence a whole Star Wars section was dedicated to their fans to get their universe together. Separate section was having Yo-Yo tricks competition for kids and young ones. Indie game developers also got their chance to showcase upcoming or in-development titles to get instant user feedback.
I would like to end reporting on such spectacular event on its most prominent note which make it unique; uniqueness itself, whether among people who make them differ to established social norms or artists who made their own niche against usual career approaches. These people are rare and unique. Most of the time hiding their instincts against pressure of outer world and due to aloofness but when come to such event they found out that there is lot many like him/her. Let’s not differ. Let’s celebrate. Kudos to fan’s CosPlay for such boldness.
“More of the Same.” is befitting summary to this years’ Comic-Con, Pune 2017. As if venue and layout almost matching to the last year’s event, there was no variety in terms of shops and merchandise also baring few surprises.
Comic-Con is always celebratory conglomeration of the geeks, nerds and all the fantastic not-so-fit-in-social-conceptions individuals. At the same time Comic-Con is social event all in all. It is fun and frolic event as any other. It can be enjoyed equally by comic enthusiast as well as all of those who believe in superhero fantasy; children and adults alike. Not wasting too much time in establishing the Comic-Con’s reputation as it will always be regarded as celebration with likes of the festival by its devoted fans. Though I would rate this year’s Comic-Con held at Pune, India as lukewarm.
Binge-watching on rise in India
Apart from new attractions such as this everything was same old.
Start was made as ideal as it could be for any Comic-book and DC fan with free giveaway of DareDevil poster for each entrants at ticket pickup counter. Considering the sitcom and binge-watching on rise in India, AXN has grabed the opportunity with both hands to market it with life-size billboards propped at every corners. And usual flair continued then onwards.
VR experience …….
of Bahubali at best
Outside the dome same colorful Maruti Alto who is official sponsor of Comic-Con, India displayed which was surprising for those who were first-timers but failed to excite me. Same large Comic-Con peculiar poster to get yourself photographed for future memoirs was also present. Inside the dome, I had deja vu of shops selling same merchandise for fans such as t-shirts, masks, fancy accessories and all other “not so easily available superhero stuff”. Surprisingly, very few shops dedicating to actual comic books which was disappointment for me. In fact only single shop by Crossword book store selling famous DC comics. It was small section and frankly there was no variety in collection also. I could see all those titles which I already owned or read before. I was hoping to lose myself in comic shops this time to find some hidden gems. Alas, no such opportunity presented. Indian comic-shops also selling the same old comics with no new-arrival announcements. Somehow I had the feeling that everyone was going through their zombie-routine to finish the act and not interested in catching the attraction of the audience.
After so much bickering about down-points, let’s move to good points now. Rows of screens connected to high-end consoles (mostly PS4) for visitors to battle out competitive gameplay either against human opponents or AI was always good sight to behold. Along with usual tropes like FIFA and NFS, Battlefield 1, Titenfall2 and Uncharted 4 were more than satisfactory. Promotional booths erected for just released movies Logan and upcoming Indian epic fantasy Baahubali 2 were, I must confess, novel addition. You could live out your fantasy with available props for a while and to be immortalized in digital photo (especially cool for social media update aficionados). Best part and the real highlight for me which has acted as fuel to warm this event review from completely “cold” to “lukewarm” was 30 seconds short animated VR experience (Setup mojo was Radeon Fury with Oculus gear). AXN booth also held some fun activities such as shooting with blind and passing through laser a la Entrapment imitation to attempt and win goodies.
At last, let’s not forget the most appealing aspect of Comic-Con anywhere in the world; Cosplay. Fans were fabulous again with their Cosplay as usual considering heat already making news here in India at start of summer . I witnessed lot more variants also amidst all-time favorite lot like Jokers, Batman, Star Wars characters and all. As far as special guest concerns, world-famous artist of V for Vendetta, David Lloyd had graced the occasion with his mild presence and signing event.
All in all, I am still having mix feelings for this years’ Comic Con. And my disappointment is purely due to comics themselves were put aside to give more emphasize on commercialization of other merchandise. Which was not bad idea but fans like me still want to scour through multiple outlets completely devoted to comics and emerge with something which,doesn’t matter if old or new, but it must be fresh.
Numbers are dry; drier than the Sahara desert. But at the same time, as all statisticians and analysts agree, numbers are the perfect lenses to observe the trend and future predictions. Best way to click the perfect picture and see what is out of focus and what caught the center of frame for any business trends and market in general. Every year ESA (Entertainment Software Association) come out with data encompassing sales, demographic and usage in terms of entertainment software, in short, gaming. I blogged about it before here with my own insights. After almost 2 year back let’s take measure again and see how deep the rabbit hole is. Let’s start.
Average game player age is 35 indicates that I have a couple of years more before I go out of the league. Though the fact that 26% gamers are 50+ years; almost catching up with younger competitors (Under 18 years-27%) and prime age personas(18-35 years-29%). I have all the sympathy with mid-life crisis sufferers (36-49 Years-18%).
Gender demographic is almost equally balanced with obvious minor lead for male (59%) over female (41%).
52% gamers believe that games are better over Movies, DVDs, Music etc. when it comes to value for money. And I completely agree with them. Take example of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from Polish developer CD Project RED. Even though I pre-ordered and bought all DLC without discounted price, the main game contents itself spanning over 200-300+ hours of game-play excluding DLCs and other tons of goodies. Combine that with AAA quality graphics and RPG engagement and it will be free deal on sale prices.
48% gamers are social gamers. Now that is very contradicting statement when you use “social” and “gamer” in single statement. But I think this is because of lot many co-op and family games available nowadays on console as well as on mobile platforms. It shows smartphones share 36% of all gaming devices with my favorite PC topping the chart with share of 56%.
In terms of co-op, gamers still prefer to have friends at their side rather than family members, parents and spouse/GF/BF in that particular order of receding preference. However anti-social still most of the world believe games are, 51% gamers believe that games help them connect to their friends on regular basis. However anti-educational still most of the world believe games are, 75% gamers believe that games are more mentally stimulant and educational than other “stuff”.
As predicted 2 years back in similar kind of post here, VR is the next in thing for future gaming. Considering 40% gamers ready to buy VR devices in one or the other way, it’s becoming “game” changing scenarios for future developments.
Only 11% M-ratings games compared to 37% E-rating in the year of 2016 also shows how diverse the gaming is becoming. And why the rise of family games. Gaming has stopped becoming geeky-business anymore. There is also shift in accepting the effects of gaming on child’s upbringing. 68% parents believe that it’s positive part of the life. 62% parents themselves participate in gaming sessions with their offspring.
Shooter and action genre still dominate almost 45% of all the genre available on the market. But when it comes to PC, strategy is topmost choice for 34.4% gamers. Notably RPGs also occupying 18.7% share in terms of PC gaming. It’s always difficult to play strategy and RPG without keyboard/mouse combo.
As support to my previous consumerism blog, data shows that 18% gamers buy game titles if it belongs to some continuing series or looks familiar. Though still biggest factor in influencing the consumption is price: 21%. That explains peak buying during winter/summer/autumn sales going on all the time on digital distribution sites. Quality of graphics has lost its charm though with all the new Indie but well-designed and immaculately conceived ideas. No need to have life-like graphics to get immersion.
Total consumer spend in the year of 2015 is 23.6bn $. No need to say that digital format is the best deal for distributors. Comparing to 2010 where physical format was having its golden days with 71% market share, now, in 2015 it’s reduced to mere 44%.
Magical future still awaits. No one has predicted that future holds such fantasy as living and playing out your dreams literally.
“Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.” – Wikipedia.
I was rifling stacks of digital shelves teaming with gaming titles in my Steam library along with GOG to choose next best gaming title to be installed after completing SOMA. Honestly, it was and is becoming most “stressful” decision-making process. In upcoming years, it’s going to get worse as I realized my “to-be-played” game list is ever-increasing tail of snake in that classic old Snake game we used to play longingly on our handhelds. Only exception is, no “Game Over” in sight. Even though I somehow able to run through all titles bought by me on current date basis for single play through, there is much more fodder to chew upon for next few years. Forget about second runs. Co-op and multiplayer also not counted. Is such consumerism good for Gaming industry?
I am no economist. On a chilled winter night, having discussion with one of my colleague-cum-friend, he raised the topic of consumerism and impact of the same on our daily lives. If I count myself conservative for consumer goods, I am extremely likely opposite of it when games and books come into picture. Currently Gaming industry is booming billions dollar business globally. In USA and European countries along with few technology-forward Asia-Pacific countries like Korea and Japan, buying games is quite mainstream. But in developing countries like India it’s still in lower gear, accelerating gradually. Credit goes to digital distribution model and inclusion of local currencies. Steam has almost claimed the market with local currency model and all the deals cropping up on regular basis. Other digital distributor also going to follow the trend soon. Still Consumerism won’t hold the same meaning when we are talking about Gaming Industry as there are some peculiar features which can only be applicable to Gaming. Here I would like to focus on PC and console gaming which is comparably more expensive than mobile or F2P model.
Pricey Affair: First and foremost, though user base is quite diverse, Gaming is considered as prime hobby, kind of expensive which could only be claimed by upper or upper-middle class. Average price of the high-end Consoles are approximately 35-42% of per capita income if we consider latest figure of 93,000 Rs. To build high-end gaming PC would cost much more than that. Price of newly launched Console title costs around 4000 to 5000 Indian rupees which is almost 5% of per capita income. So, gamers are reluctant to buy new title right away if price is on higher side. They tend to wait out till some discounted price is on offer. And that is quite good approach when it comes to gaming as though shelf-life is short, lifespan of a typical title lasts very much longer. There is always something else on offer on lower price tag to satisfy the itch. And that’s when hoarding starts. As a Gamer you want to acquire titles during sale even though you didn’t have time to play as tempting slashed prices are too good to ignore. As soon as you see title with 50-60% price of the original, you right away make your mind to play the game at later date and buy it now. Series and franchisee loyalty also play big part in buying the title. For publishers, new IP is always difficult decision. It takes some time to get traction.
Value for Money: It’s always debatable topic that when should gamer be satisfied in terms of value for money. In gaming, user or consumer is active part of the value. In simpler terms, I might be perfectly happy with short but quality game-play. On the other hand others might not feel satisfied with hours and hours of content. Genre also play the bigger role here. One don’t want to have RPG of 10-12 hours of total gameplay. Contrary to that, 10-12 hours of FPS gaming is more than enough. In short, Gamers are specific buyers. They know their genre well. To draw new consumers is entirely different beast. Though genres also applied to other media like movies and books but they get advantage of peer-review and mouth-to-mouth publicity. Also you don’t have to invest yourself completely to experience them. In Gaming, you won’t take others word for your experience. There are examples of flawed gems where patchy designs actually enhances the gameplay so much that these titles are now considered as cult. STALKER series, Deadly Premonition are few to name.
Sliced: This brings us to sale and discounted prices. And consumer market is same as for other consumer goods. If particular title on discounted price, there is always chance of picking up the sale. And all consumers are attracted towards slashed prices. Gamers no different. Though it’s always difficult to perform valuation in the first place. Softwares or services tends to have various business models and choosing the correct one makes all the difference. Weather to go for F2P or premium package or MMO with gradual contents or go for low-investment cost mobile gaming, are just basic inception ideas Publishers/Developers have to face. Though most of AAA studios back their breads on many burners, kick-starters and Indie developers had gained much appreciated welcome to introduce their own quality flavor. Economic model and value chain of Gaming industry itself is vast topic. I would take that up in future series of blogs.
No Pay, No Gain: I have already put emphasis before on the fact that you need to fuel the economic engine by paying up fair if you don’t want your favorite entertainment to be vanished from market. Paying up for indie development also encourage more quality and passion-driven projects. Game lovers like me do this often. Long list of “to-be-played” games are fair proof of that.
In this great era of technological advancement, any new “EUREKA” in digital world has very limited and in fact, short lifespan. Ironically, these are the days of dying and reviving, fading into the gloom and coming up again with new enlightenment, dissolving into the dust and ashes and reincarnating with new form. Who would have thought that once popular valve based Radios, once forgotten with latest arrival of Walkman and digital music playing media, could possible again get the attention by masses with introduction of Smartphones in new accessible version? (And Walkman itself will fade in to the gloom). Who would have thought that once dumbed down as “Idiot Box” with its CRT filled body could do workout on technological treadmill to get the slim avatar of absolute “High Definition” clarity? (And with introduction of 4K TV, entirely new experience is awaiting for us). Still concentrating on “Short Life Span” definition for digital medium is true in terms of how longer particular digital media/gadgets will remain in conscience of masses with its usability and attraction factor. Usability will never be issue if one can really understand the real urges and requirement expected from the investment. But if attraction and presentation factors are playing along with social competitiveness of “catching-the-attention-of-public” compulsion, there is no limit to stop at something one owned. There is always new in the market. There is always something better out there.
Point of raising this introductory thought is to raise more profound question in terms of Gaming. Here gaming is used in most generic way possible, covering all those gadgets and games pertaining to it i.e. Computer, consoles, Kinect, Move, Online, Handhelds, Mobile, Tablets, future Steambox etc. Gaming has come a long way after its initiation and we can say with close approximation that it’s at peak of popularity and spread. Is gaming come to that part of curve where only possible way for that curve to proceed further is downwards? For me answer is definitely NO. Commercially and economically it stands tall on biggest and broadest shoulders of giants like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Considering Valve also pitching in with its idea of home entertainment in terms of SteamBox, future is much brighter for gaming on the whole. So evaluating strength of commercial and economical pillars and placing them aside, what else required for this king of digital entertainment to retain and spread its root of popularity among audiences. Let’s get through that various underlying currents and measure the force of these currents in terms of gaming. Mass Appeal: Considering the fact that almost every second home in US holds at least one gaming console will leave no scope for second thought to appeal of Gaming as entertainment. The fact is most owners have more than one gaming console or dedicated gaming devices. Even though this appeal is widespread in US & Europe, Japan, Korea, China etc., lot bigger potential market is still unexplored in terms of developing countries like India. With online and co-op gaming this appeal is on the rise, infecting everyone like viral with only difference is that there is no cure for this contagion. Spread: Surprisingly, Sales, Demographic and usage data published by ESA(2013) shows almost equal distribution of percentage among age groups of Under 18 years (32%), 18-35 Years(32%) and 36+ years (36%). Even gender demographic will blow some established nuances regarding to females in gaming with hefty 45% share of females while male counterpart barely managed to do better with 55%. Gone are the days when gaming had so little to offer that it was gender dominated. Now gaming has so diverse things to put on the table that everyone can find their share of entertainment value (More on this in next point). True to analogy of viral infection spread for this gaming virus is just going to be bigger in the future years to come. Diversity: Here approach is to tackle diversity in terms of how diverse the classes of gamers and games are. It’s true that Gaming is expensive hobby in itself especially if you are catering to dedicated gaming needs. Still nowadays gaming consoles are well within grasp of middle-class households. Apart from this Gaming just spreading its arms and clawing out of that lonely, singled out, dark room of the teenager boy and getting its prime seat as main attraction of the family in the drawing-room. With Wii, Kinect and Move on the move no one in the family will want to opt out from filling his/her share of happiness from this ever flowing eternal fountain of entertainment. Also it has a lot to offer. Gaming doesn’t need to know what you play it just needs the tiny little urge within you; if you give in to play or not. Currently roster of games has covered everything one can imagine to play. To name the few game types includes FPS (First Person Shooter), TPS (Third Person Shooter), RTS (Real Time Strategy), RPG (Role Playing Genre), Adventure, Point and Click, MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG), MMOBA (Massively Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), Action RPG, Turn Based, Tower Defense, Open World Exploration, Puzzlers, Platformers, Brawlers, Simulations etc. (And also variations with fusion of two or more of these types). So it’s not that one would not like gaming, it’s just one has never found out correct entry point from these many possibilities to enter this amazing universe. Morphism: Morphism is nothing but the art of evolution in technological way. As said above, it’s very difficult for any new technological advancement to retain its position for longer period. Only way of doing that is by morphing into new phase and improves upon the originals by aligning with new technology. After 3D gaming, currently gesture based gaming is new wave. With Oculus Rift introducing virtual reality based 3D gaming; gaming has proved that this genre is here to stay for long long time through art of morphism. Niche Audience catering:Gaming is not restricted to strict classification as entertainment medium nowadays. It is considered as art by many enthusiasts. Some games are designed as just interactive experience encapsulating abstract and philosophical ideas rather than clearly defined goals or quests. (Gone Home, The Path, Dear Esther are some of the examples). These games can leverage on directing gameplay on specific experience with limited budget and targeting much smaller or niche player base; deviating from generalized gameplay mechanic. It means that gaming is covering up that small percentage also in terms of player base. Nostalgia and Fan base service: Biggest advantage Games have is loyal fan base and supportive player community. There are very few new IPs in the market every year. Generally more that 80% games are kind of either part of some series, revival of old games, reintroduction of old series, have some other popular media tie in, based on book, universe/world sharing, gameplay mechanic or game engine tie up i.e. some or other way fans of the original media continuously support it and in return game developers and publishers are bound to perform fan service with of course setting their eye on that increasing profit percentage with new player base. As previously evident, more than 60% of player age is more than 30 itself shows the loyalty and fan base service. Even publishers trying to milk this situation through powerful nostalgia factor by investing in games with old school gameplay nowadays. Indie factor and modding:One biggest improvement came in Gaming world from last few years is the introduction of indie game development. With Steam and GOG like digital distribution services’ support, Indie developer got much more recognition and scope to shine on international level. Indie developers and small development companies are opting out for Kickstarters to fund the project with much more clearly defined scope, reducing the large budget involvement of giant publishers. This kind of set up has allowed many development and art skills to be transformed in successful indie development. Biggest advantage is to retain the original view of the game-play initially conceived by designer/game developer without interference of publishers and they can have free reign to achieve the final goal. In fact, nowadays these kinds of games are achieving more applause and critical acclimation with much wider scope of player recognition than before. Game toolkit made available with original games keeps gaming community buzzing and experimenting with mods which allows the product to stay in the market longer than its intended lifespan. (Who wants to forget the classic sandbox game tool experiment called Minecraft and out of the world dedicated player creations using the toolkit). Reward system (feedback measurement): In simpler terms its nothing but value for money. Again taking the help of ESA survey and put the matters into statistical figures; 43% game players believe that games have much higher value for money than other entertainment media like movies, DVD etc. And why shouldn’t be? Nowadays minimum average game-play time of the games is considered around 10-15 hours, with RPG games eating 25-30 (if it’s from Bathesda than 50 hours also not enough)hours of your life. Considering replay value which is generally high when it comes to gaming, all those numbers get doubled. And it’s not possible to count all those human hours spent in MMORPGs altogether. Games, when done masterfully, are triumph in this way as giving the long exposure time no other media can retain entertainment and interest of the user with such diligence. (Who wants to stop playing without spending less than 50 hours from say Skyrim?)
At last putting all these aside, it’s better to wrap all these up with simple economical figure, which is $14.8 billion. This is what consumer spent on gaming contents (including retail and digital distribution) in the year of 2012. Considering the dedicated Hardware and accessories this figure will rise to whopping $20.77 billion in a single year of 2012. Gaming is here to stay for long time and if somehow one managed to keep away, it’s not long that this virus will surely infect him/her sooner or later.