Such is reality, however, and the games industry cannot bear the brunt of the blame. I read a commentary recently which suggested that decades never truly end on December 31st of their final year - rather, that they come to a close with resounding events which draw the curtain on the culture which has defined the decade. So, the hedonistic culture of the seventies only truly ended when the world woke up to the awful reality of HIV in 1983, while the greed-is-good eighties closed up shop early, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. The culture of the nineties, the author argued, ended with stark finality on September 11, 2001.
It's sobering to read back on enthusiastic editorials from December 1999 and to consider that for the games and wider technology and media industries, the end of the optimistic, bombastic 1990s was only mere weeks away. On March 10, 2000, the technology-heavy NASDAQ index peaked at 5132 - the Matterhorn-like point of its curve looking, today, like the needle that pricked the dot-com bubble. Within a year, the market was trading below 2500. By late 2002, kicked while it was down by the economic gloom created by the 9/11 attacks, it bottomed out at less than 20 per cent of its peak value.
With it went much of the optimism which had fuelled the games industry's predictions for the decade. As the market fell, many of the ambitious companies on which hopes for a digital revolution had been pinned were shown to be wearing little but the Emperor's New Clothes - they burned through their venture capital and went bust, many of them without ever managing to post an operating profit. High Street retail, print media and old-fashioned publishing business breathed more easily - perhaps a little too easily in fact, since their subsequent ignoring of digital media for almost half a decade would frustrate consumers to the extent of driving a thriving and widespread culture of digital piracy.
This is not, of course, a happy thought with which to close the decade - but if the comparisons with 1999 are fascinating, so too are the contrasts. While some commentators today are concerned about the potentially faddish nature of Nintendo's Wii, and the difficulty of getting our newfound audience of downstream consumers interested enough to engage more deeply with the market, there is nothing to suggest that we are sitting on top of a new bubble. In fact, if anything, the industry emerges stronger and wiser than ever before, having weathered macro-economic crises and learned what it takes to sustain real growth even as the world's established industries fall around you.
Our hair may be greyer, but our optimism is more grounded - and it's backed up by a decade of technological R&D which has delivered new tools to the arsenal, new control methods and graphics technologies, fantastically powerful mobile devices and quick, always-on wireless broadband connections, and the social tools and educated consumer base required to make them all work for us. If the 2000s were "only" a decade of growth and development, where the cusps we believed ourselves to be upon in 1999 were not entirely realised, then the 2010s promise altogether so much more.
At the start of this decade, our three steps forward were compromised by the technological world taking two steps back. As 2010 dawns, the growth, the revenue, the audience and the technology itself is real, requiring no optimistic projections or hopeful futurism to justify its worth. Revenue and market growth will continue, keeping executives and CFOs happy - but for game consumers and creators alike, the next decade looks set to be a much more exciting one than the one which came before.
On which note, I hope all of our readers have an enjoyable, comfortable, over-indulgent and peaceful Christmas and New Year - and return in 2010 ready to surprise and delight us all over again with your creations.
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