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It’s All Fun and Games

By Gerald McGrew on November 14, 2013 in Other

Photo: Dennis Rutland

Photo: Dennis Rutland

Here’s a little digital pop-culture quiz for you to try: What was released recently that cost $280 million, took five years to create and broke the Guinness World Records for the fastest entertainment property to gross US$1 billion (taking just three days) and the highest revenue generated by an entertainment product in 24 hours?

It’s the new video game GTA5, or Grand Theft Auto 5 to the purists. And to be accurate, it’s broken another five Guinness records since launching in September. I’ll try to put this into context for those of us whose gaming experience extends to occasional bored sessions of Angry Birds on the daily commute.

Let’s start with the cost of making and selling the game. Avatar was perhaps the last of the big budget SFX movies, and it came in at a relatively svelte $250 million. In fact, Wikipedia informs me that on the list of the most expensive movie productions ever made, GTA5 would come in at second place if it was a flick. Top of the movie list was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End at $317 million. And what an expensive piece of shit it turned out to be!

Of course, any ‘entertainment product’ that racks up a billion bucks in sales in a few days changes the game in ways that the movie industry finds unimaginable. While there are about twenty movies that have grossed more than a billion dollars, they’ve taken years to do so – with Iron Man 3 being a recent notable exception. It took the big metal guy a few months to crack the billion dollar mark – roughly 25-30 times as long as GTA5.

One thing is obvious: whatever slim hold Hollywood thought it might have on the meatier parts of the entertainment dollar has been shaken loose by the commercial results of GTA5. And their woes don’t end with this latest video game. Very soon the new Xbox One and PS4 game consoles, the first new models in 7-8 years, will be under plenty of Christmas trees. To coincide with the release of these new consoles, there’s a slew of games ready to sell that will take full advantage of the cutting-edge graphics, Internet connectivity and the other myriad features on offer in these latest and greatest Xbox and PlayStation models.

To be fair, it’s not just the Hollywood folk who are crapping their pants about their steadily declining share of wallet. An Xbox or PlayStation console that also accesses pay TV, lets you download regular television shows and movies, streams music to your stereo, synchs with your smartphone, pushes you personally targeted adverts and allows you to search and use the Internet is a threat to just about everyone else involved in media, advertising and technology.

The reality is that while it may look like there’s a fight between game developers to make you buy their latest multi-million dollar game offering, the real battleground is your lounge room, and whoever gets their console hardware plugged into it is winning.

I do write about this topic with slightly misty eyes, as an avid gamer from a very young age (anyone else remember Impossible Mission on the Commodore 64?). In fact, I’m starting to seriously regret my decision to not replace my busted gaming television… two and a half years ago!