Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Return of Arcade Video Games: Tetris Sells 100 Million

This is just astonishing:

Tetris has sold 100 million paid downloads on mobile devices since 2005, making it the most successful mobile game of all time, EA Mobile and Blue Planet Software said Thursday.

100 million copies.  Five years.  That is an absolutely astounding number.  People today want arcade games.  They don't want $30 million interactive movies.  They want arcade video games.

The game industry doesn't want to make video games anymore; they haven't for at least a decade.  That much was obvious during the Dreamcast era.  No, they want to work in Hollywood now, and create interactive Jerry Bruckheimer movies.  They've managed to secure a small, rabid base of "hardcore" gamers, but the production costs are staggering, and there simply aren't enough nerdy 30-year-olds to sustain this business model.

Meanwhile, Nintendo completely dominates the console market on a scale not seen since the NES era.  Wii Sports sells 50 million copies.  Wii Play sells 25 million.  Wii Fit sells 20 million.  Mario Kart sells 20 million.  Wii Sports Resort is at 13 million and climbing fast.  And New Super Mario Bros. sold 10 million copies more or less instantly.  Heck, Wii Music and Animal Crossing: City Folk sell 3 million copies each, and they're considered "failures."

There's no secret to this success.  Nintendo makes arcade games.  Arcade games are fast, quick, easy to play, hard to master, and accessible to everyone.  You can play an arcade video game for a few minutes, or make a party with friends and family and stay up all night.  They're bright, they're colorful, they can be understood very quickly, and - this is the most important element - they have a "hook."  Every successful video game needs a hook, something that makes you sit up and say, I wanna try that!

This brings us back to Tetris, which has now sold 100 million copies in five years on mobile devices.  Who doesn't love Tetris?  Who hasn't wanted to give it a try over the years?  What does it say that we're still eager to pay good money for this game after all these years?  I'm still willing to play Tetris.  Has anybody in the game industry examined this idea?  Or are they still trying to recreate Tomb Raider for the millionth time, only this time with more explosions and Hollywood cliches?

Arcade games never went away because the public grew tired of them.  Arcade games went away because the game industry would rather do something else.  But that demand is still there, and that demand will be met, sooner or later.  Nintendo will meet that demand.  Apple will meet that demand.  Cell phones will meet that demand.  That's the future of video games, kids.

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