Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The importance of a Game Industry course

I taught a course last year called Game Industry Survey, sort of a who's-who and what's-what of the industry. Recent events highlight why such a course is inherently useful.

See, there was this game called Guitar Hero, and if you haven't heard of it, it became a surprise hit, originally launched in 2005 with a sequel the following year. The original and sequel were developed by Harmonix and published by RedOctane. Then, things got complicated. RedOctane was purchased by Activision, and development on Guitar Hero 3 was handed to Neversoft (of Tony Hawk fame). Meanwhile, Harmonix is focusing its efforts on Rock Band, an iteration on the same basic concept.

What needs to be understood about this mess?
  • There is a difference between the Developer and the Publisher. (Briefly: Developers make games; Publishers make money.)
  • Intellectual Property is often tied to a specific Developer or Publisher, but it can also be its own separate entity, as is the case here.
  • Ditto with the code base for a game series, which is often tied to the IP (and the Developer) but not always... as in this case.

Why is understanding these things useful?

  • A lot of people in the game industry are following this unfolding story with great interest. A lot of us like the original games, you see. So, if you're talking to a developer and you don't understand this stuff, you're likely to have a foot-in-mouth moment that could cost you a job opportunity.
  • Even if you're not interested in joining the industry, if you're just an avid game player who likes the series, understanding these things lets you make better purchasing decisions. "I likes the first two Guitar Hero games, so I'm guaranteed to like the third one" is no longer given if the people actually making the third game are different from the ones who made the originals. If you follow the developer and not the publisher, you'll usually find more consistency in product lines.

My thanks to the industry for making my job easier. For once.

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