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29 Jul 2013

The current generation of games could be called the "online" generation; that is, the first time games consoles had robust online features as a standard part of the package. Certainly current-gen consoles have done a lot more than that, but I'd bet "online" is the key thing the history books will look back on.

With the announcements by both Sony and Microsoft that their next-gen consoles will support self-publishing, I predict we're about to enter the "self-publishing" generation, in a far bigger way than anybody really recognizes. Both companies have sort of downplayed these announcements relative to their main selling points - more power, and bigger and better games - but unless they totally screw up the implementation, self-publishing is now positioned to engulf this industry like wildfire.

Consider the iOS and Android markets, where we’ve seen this kind of vast democratization in action for a few years now. Consider crowdfunding — Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and the rest — and how radically they’ve changed what can get made, and how. Multiply by the two biggest players in the mainstream console space, and I'd bet good money we'll barely recognize this industry three years from now.

I have no idea what it’ll look like. Six months ago I’d have predicted a future of soulless, mass-produced free-to-play titles. While that trend does seem to be going strong, the coming self-publishing explosion could very well drown it out. Will we just end up wading through a sea of crap, or will we make the discoverability breakthrough(s) necessary to manage such a rapid increase in the breadth and depth of the medium? Will the glut of cheap products — a long-running trend already in the iOS and Android markets, not to mention in self-published indie fiction a la Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program — hold prices down so low that a creative career becomes unsustainable?

The games industry — and entertainment media in general — suddenly seems to be moving very, very fast.

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business video-games