Legacy of Joy • Page 2

PlayStation's legacy was more than games - it created a new generation of gamers.

Sound familiar? Of course it does - it's a dead ringer for the Wii in many respects, and it's no coincidence either that the PlayStation era brought with it plenty of hardcore gamer refuseniks who would loudly proclaim how little interest they had in Sony's console and how wonderful the N64 and the ill-fated Saturn were by comparison.

While it's clearly something of a reach to suggest that the Wii's impact will be as powerful or as long-lasting as that of the PlayStation, Nintendo's present detractors would do well to recall that similarly minded gamers were equally quick to dismiss Sony's newfound mass-market appeal in the late nineties.

The rapid expansion of the market seen during the PlayStation era - and subsequently carried on by the PlayStation 2, which remains the high water mark for game hardware success - is also notable for the fact that it lasted. The new consumers who were attracted by Sony's marketing did not, as more pessimistic pundits suggested, play FIFA and Tekken for a few months and then disappear from the fold. They stayed; they played more and more games, they integrated gaming into their media and entertainment lives, and they now form the backbone of the games industry's core consumers.

There's a resulting argument which says that once a consumer becomes used to interactive entertainment in some form, the barrier which prevented them from engaging with the medium falls. Today's Farmville players and Wii Fit aficionados may not be tomorrow's hardcore MMO raiders or trigger-happy FPS junkies, but equally there's no precedent to suggest that their conversion to gaming will not be a lasting one. If there's one important lesson to be learned from the PlayStation's legacy, it's that one.

The present transition represents an even more fundamental shift in how we perceive the games business - if the PlayStation provided depth by making existing types of games appealing to a wider audience, today's new platforms and delivery systems provide breadth by expanding the definitions of gaming and applying game design concepts to an ever-increasing circle of products.

As we face into that transition, I believe that there's also something important to take away from that creeping sense of being old which comes from remembering the PlayStation's launch all those years ago.

The extra 15 years of life experience which our industry's leading lights have accumulated count for a great deal. They mean that a vastly larger percentage of people in the business now have partners, families, and everything that comes with that - the responsibilities, the pressures and, of course, the joys. Those experiences feed into game design - whatever you feel about Heavy Rain as a game, ask yourself if a narrative that relies so heavily on the sentiments of fatherhood could ever have been made, let alone been successful, 15 years ago?

Moreover, they feed into basic business choices. If games are turning into shorter, more intense experiences, that's not so much because long games are expensive to develop - many enormous PlayStation-era games achieved their notorious length fairly cheaply - as because their creators no longer live lives that allow them to spend many dozens of hours on a single-player game campaign. If an increasing number of games pitch themselves clearly as kids' games that adults can also enjoy (the LEGO Star Wars games and their ilk are perfect example), it's no doubt because an industry where more people have children of their own is an industry that can recognise the true value of such experiences.

If the industry is growing old, in other words, it is also learning in the process - learning how to make games that fit into people's lives better, games that make sense for people who are no longer teenagers or college students but who still want gaming to be a part of what they do. None of this detracts from the experience of core gamers or younger gamers - there will always be development studios fuelled by the kind of youthful enthusiasm which powered the earlier waves of game creation - but it provides the medium with a breadth of experiences which vastly broaden its appeal.

None of this would be possible without PlayStation. It was the right product, in the right place, at the right time, and with the right team and titles behind it - a perfect storm of a console, one whose impact is still writ large on our industry. Yet let's never forget that in the 15 years since PlayStation launched, the games business has done a lot more than just getting old. "Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional" is a common slogan of those facing down the advancing decades - but in the last 15 years, the games business has slowly discovered that growing up has its benefits, too.

If you work in the games industry and want more views, and up-to-date news relevant to your business, read our sister website GamesIndustry.biz, where you can find this weekly editorial column as soon as it is posted.

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