AMERICAN GAMES PUBLISHER Activision's CEO Eric Hirshberg believes gamers' demand shapes the market and said gamers are playing fewer titles, but for longer.
By playing fewer titles far more consumers are indicating preferred gaming experiences to developers, allowing game developers to whittle out much more specific niches of their own in a crowded marketplace, Hirshberg told Gamesindustry.biz.
While players continue to invest in the publisher's products and help develop their titles, they're also holding them back from adding new features and gameplay elements that rival publishers reportedly are exploiting.
Hirshberg explains that an expanding installed base and increasing time spent gaming demonstrates a growing market and highlights that larger online game worlds with almost endless gameplay possibilities suggests games have much longer lifespans than ever before.
It could be said that these new ideas seem absent from Activision's most popular franchise, Call of Duty. The franchise's colossal success might be down to gamers' continuing dedication, as 2009's Modern Warfare 2 and 2010's Black Ops rank amongst the most played online games across the globe. However, there's stubbornness at work within Activision preventing it from bringing anything new to the table. After all, pushing the creative envelope could upset the cash cow it has nurtured from birth.
And November 2011 could very well be a pivotal month for Activision as Modern Warfare 3 goes head-to-head with Electronic Arts' Battlefield 3, considered by the media to be the first real contender to the first person shooter crown in years.
"Gamers seem to want to spend more time on, and go deeper into, fewer games," the CEO told Gamesindustry.biz. "They're gaming more - all of the metrics in terms of number of uniques, number of hours spent, all those are up. Hardware install base is up.
"If you look at all the graphs, it's hard to argue that economic turbulence is the driver, because people are still buying new Xboxes and PS3s at a record clip. We get 20 million unique Call of Duty players every month. The shift is that the games have gotten deeper, and as we've seen this shift to online connected play, the tail on games is a lot longer than it used to be."
The reason for the extended play of this generation's titles is the industry's ability to release additional downloadable content in the form of new campaign chapters, maps, expansion packs and other online options. This is a factor Hirshberg thinks is vitally important for keeping gamers' attention in a single universe for longer.
"I think that, as much as anything else, has decreased the demand for new [intellectual property]," the CEO added. "Just a few years back, when there wasn't that long tail of connected play, you'd buy a game, roll through the campaign, roll through the various play modes. Maybe you'd do it again, but then you'd be done with it. There'd be very few games, maybe the sports games would be the exception, like the Maddens and the FIFAs, where you'd just continue to play them all year round.
"But now you're seeing that more and more with these DLC strategies and a lot more connected play. This is something we're learning from gamers. Just because it's part of an existing franchise, doesn't mean it's not innovative, doesn't mean we're not bringing new ideas." µ