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Did you guys consider video games? I think that's already a viable alternative form of entertainment. I would argue video games already killed Hollywood, they just never pulled the sword out. $50 for 100+ hours of content vs $10 for roughly 2 hours? No contest.



I don't think video games are a full substitute for TV or movies. They are completely different experiences - one is purely passive, and the other is active and participatory.

There are lots of game fans that would claim that this distinction is what makes games superior, but for a lot of people I think that's what turns them off. The passivity is a virtue in many places.

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There's no reason you can't mix the two, though. At my startup, we're building narrative driven games (like the old-school graphic adventures), reworked to feel more TV-like. So we're really trying to be careful about the whole passive vs active issue.

Our take is - let the viewer be as passive as they want. We're making a narrative-heavy experience, just like films and TV. But we're adding an interactive twist so the viewer can change how the story unfolds. And there's no reason we can't let the viewer just hit play and watch the story unfold as-is. We encourage them to jump in, of course, but that's it - otherwise, the story goes along it's glide path till the end of the episode. And when they're done, maybe they'd like to watch it again, but make a decision part way in to see how it effects the story.

A more mainstream example would be some on Nintendo's most recent work. They've done a great job embracing the casual audience, and really pushed it in the most recent Super Mario Bros for the Wii - it actually included the ability for the game to play itself when players get stuck:

http://wii.ign.com/articles/994/994640p1.html

Passive vs Active is tricky balancing act, and we're probably going to need to iterate on this a few times before we get it just right. But we definitely think the balance can be struck in a way that'll resound with a casual audience more apt at consuming TV then video games.

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If you haven't played it, you should take a look at King of Chicago by Cinemaware for the Amiga, which was pretty much the first game to let the gamer be arbitrarily passive (playing pretty much like a movie if you didn't do anything, but allowing you to decide every action if you wanted).

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I'm unfamiliar with "King of Chicago". But now that you've pointed it out, I'm going to try and correct that. Thanks, vidrh!

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Cinemaware in general produced awesome games, and some of the real classic in terms of bridging the gap between movies and games.

It's worth loading up an Amiga emulator (WinUAE or E-UAE) and getting hold of them - getting legal copies would be tricky, but copies abound...

I mentioned King of Chicago in particular because it was the most movie-like of the games - as I mentioned, if you just start it, it will run like a movie, complete with rolling movie like credits, but their other games have much of the same feel to them though you had to drive most of them forward by taking actions. E.g. Rocket Ranger, Defender of the Crown, It Came from the Desert, Wings are some of their best known titles, all heavy on narration and heavily inspired by movies.

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It also gets boring to watch my wife play her 20th hour of Assasin's Creed Revelations. Video games aren't good entertainment for those not holding the controller.

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As a 30 year game industry vet I have to say I agree with you... but... maybe games that depend less on the controller will capture BOTH of your attentions.

I'll give you an example. At a board game company, I do those too, I proposed a card game where playing the cards moved the story along, and each section of the story formed pages in a comic book format. At the end of the game you could take pictures o the "pages" and put them for others to enjoy. Then mix the cards up gain, and since the play order would be different, a slightly different story resulted. I say slightly because if it was a murder mystery a replay wouldn't make it a story about horses.

I think that games are ready for the next evolution and that will continue the killing of movies and TV.

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It depends on the game. The e-sports community is making headways, with things such as the "starcraft bars" and stuff. It's not the same, but there is effort being made in the field.

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I could watch competitive Starcraft with a good shoutcaster for weeks. And I don't simply say that as a former Blizzard employee, though BlizzCon helped me see how fun progamers can be to watch at their peaks.

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Actually, I have almost as much fun watching as playing. And if they're any good, sometimes even more. I often let the kids play and just help them with advice (this is how you loop your skills to make them boost each other, or here's what you can build with a mob spawner, or here's how to make a pump stack reaching down to the magma sea), letting them do all the work.

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i'll take a point hit here, but how dare you complain of such things.

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Agreed. Even if there are some people who prefer watching others play a game, it doesn't mean that this applies to most movies/content.

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parallelize

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I'm really not optimistic on getting people to stop watching TV or movies. Maybe there's some way of producing and financing them that's smarter but I wouldn't bet on changing behavior that drastically. People have been consuming stories about other people forever, and they're going to keep doing that.

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But you don't really have to stop watching TV or movies. You just have to move the production of such content away from the big media corps.

It reminds me of one of freddiew's Behind the Scenes video, in which him and Jon Favreau were talking how it's so nice when someone provides the toys/funds, but at the end of the day it's the actual artists who call the shot. Why not apply the same kind of contracts movie studios make with directors and actors (base amount, and maybe some % of revenue), in reverse, so the artistic driving force between the project negotiates the same amount of deals with the financier. It would be like a VC deal, where some people/companies would have preferential treatment at getting the money back and all that.

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> "I'm really not optimistic on getting people to stop watching TV or movies."

Why do we need to?

I hear this sentiment from gamers sometimes, where passive (story told to you) entertainment is almost used in a derogatory way, as if the fact that the audience is not actively participating makes it worse. It seems to me a kneejerk reaction to years of everyone treating gaming as an illegitimate artform.

Why do we need to change this behavior? What is wrong with consuming stories about other people?

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I didn't say we needed to. I like TV and movies. I just don't like Hollywood's political agenda.

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It sounds like you're pushing for for the webseries model.

There's some great work going on there - the big difficulty isn't the producing or financing, though. I'm part of the Seattle webseries community, and the big difficulty I keep seeing is - how do you get your series in front of people?

So in a sense - I think marketing is the killer if you're going to compete head-to-head with Hollywood.

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> how do you get your series in front of people?

A simple answer would be 'social proof'. Mashable provides a TopTen list of the most watched shows. That's a good start but the site is too distracting for Average Joe, in my opinion.

Also, web series are too short for true passive entertainment. I guess what your communities would need is a sort of Google Adsense, so you could plug-in advertising to be able to produce longer streams.

That would at least provide you with some money. When one show hits it big, that'll make news, and more people would start looking for shows like that. More eyeballs, more advertising, better chances of another hit, more news, and there you go.

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I disagree - it is distribution. You have a device in your room that is a push channel for Hollywood to stream its (and only its) content to you. It's the cable box. Ditto for cinemas.

You don't need to out-market Hollywood (though achieving parity may be part of the equation). You need to create a more efficient production cycle, from artist to costumer.

I'm thinking lean start-up. How can we reduce cycle time between artist conception of an entertainment pitch and consumers evaluating it?

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I can't say I agree. That said, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "a more efficient production cycle, from artist to consumer". And I'm not sure how "[reducing the] cycle time between artist conception of an entertainment pitch and consumers evaluating it" is related to distribution. Could you elaborate?

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Presently, from an artist getting say a film concept to the first audience seeing it, is a gap of several years. A lot of this is necessary, e.g. time for plot refinement. Other stuff, like negotiating with unions for lighting or going through bureaucratic licensing and distribution hurdles, is not.

Lean Start-up says reducing this cycle time should make the system fitter.

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So, find a way to make video games more passive. People like to watch other people play video games. Maybe live streaming of hardcore gamers playing.

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Good idea! (http://twitch.tv)

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OnLive does a great job of this, too. Since the entire system is built around streaming out media, They get this pretty much for free. And they've done a good job of embracing it, too. I know a number of gamers that "veg" by watching other games playing on OnLive.

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Well nothing is a full substitute for TV/movies, just like nothing is a substitute for novels. But the question is, is it an overall stronger form of entertainment? I'd say that video games definitely have the potential to be, the industry itself is already bigger than Hollywood and rapidly approaching the book industry [1]. And the market for games just keeps getting bigger that there is no point in trying to dissect why games are not a fit for certain people. It's still unexplored space as Minecraft, GTA, WoW, farmville and the Wii have shown. Make the right game and you can potentially gain a new audience.

And I'm not dodging your assertion either, because games can also be passive. I've spent god knows how many hours watching Starcraft II games - well more than I'd like to admit. That's a game that was built with spectators in mind. I probably enjoy watching the game more than playing it, as wonderful as it is. Apparently so do other people, TwitchTV is evidence enough.

1 - http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Video_game_industry

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Although video game is not meant to be created as a passive entertainment, I think it is going that direction. With the combination of plot and amazing graphics, I don't see why a video game cannot be watched. Take for example Onlive, which allows you to stream game play of other total strangers. Or streamed Starcraft2 games. I know for a fact that a lot of my hard core gamer friends watch live stream from South Korea all the time.

From my personal experience, I used to actually play all the video games I thought was fun. However, ever since college ended, and when I have to use my time more wisely, playing a demanding video game counter intuitive as a stress relief. However, watching my roommate play video game is both entertaining and lacks the necessary attention I would need to attribute if I were playing the game. Of course, after watching my roommate play Skyrim twice might get a bit old. But then again, who watches the same TV show for over 30 hrs straight? I don't care how good mad men is, if I were to do two or three consecutive marathon of it, I would get tired of it too.

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I think video games is one of the reasons Hollywood is dying in the first place. What other thing in the last 30 years has really been a direct competition to Hollywood. The Internet is definitively on the list too.

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The video game industry is not necessarily distinct from Hollywood. Check out Vivendi, for instance.

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Video game industry is nearly as bad as Hollywood.

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I think the indie scene is shaking up the status quo, so hopefully that is also changing.

Maybe an easier way to distribute indie movies to a wide audience?

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But I think indie games are more visible, they even get some space on Steam (yay!), so maybe all is not lost.

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Facebook is a good replacement too. Watch the idealized movie of your friends' lives.

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I mentioned games explicitly in the RFS.

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Does anyone have figures for pokemon red / green (during the first few years of release) vs the whole of hollywood?

But I suspect that game production has been Hollywoodised; you have big publishers and big studios and whole teams of people. It's getting better with the rise of indie gaming, but that's still a tiny fraction of the market.

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Do Angry Birds and Cut The Rope and Plants Vs Zombies count as "Indie" games?

I don't think that fraction is all that tiny any more.

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If movies disappeared (which I don't believe they will as the barrier to entry has lowered so much) I would probably just read books and go out more. Games are great and I fully support them but it's not a form of entertainment for everyone.

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I don't think movies have to dye for this RFS to work just that the business model that Hollywood uses isn't working. Putting a ton of money in a few blockbusters and trying to squeeze every last penny from DVD/BR sells isn't the way to go.

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Isn't that the way gaming is headed too, though? You have massive companies like EA publishing blockbuster hits built by huge development teams.

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On the other hand, the past few years have been very good for indie game studios:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_indie_game_developers

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But that is the result of the cost of making games more "movie like" in the scale and complexity of the art and technology. As more and more of the technical complexity goes away and the cost of the art as well will drop, these big productions will start to face immense pressure from smaller teams.

You already see more and more games use licensed engines, and eventually the power of the platforms we deal with will intersect with rising quality of low cost or free engines at point where most people can start with an existing low cost engine and compete technically.

We started with a situation where off-the-shelf game engines was unthinkable, because game engines were optimized for a specific gameplay and intertwined with the game logic, but already there's a huge market for games made on licensed engines (and as far back as the 80's you had the first attempts at making "game maker" programs that used off the shelf engines and tools to cut the effort of making games)

Similarly on the art side you can expect to see more and more advanced tools that take away technical complexity of working on the art and return the focus to the art process itself and even simplify that.

E.g. consider a hypothetical tool where an artist creating a new character can pick from a catalogue of hundreds of pre-made skeletal structures, choose characteristics of the muscles and size, movement characteristics etc., pick from pre-made physical characteristics as a starting point for alterations, pick from catalogues of clothes, hair, eyes and so on - even other parts like the voice of the character, and have the software fill in the rest in terms of animation and other aspects.

Imagine a cottage industry of artists that design catalogue items for tools like this - you can already license tons of ready-made 3D models, after all, as well as specialized software for things like creating landscapes, plants, trees and a bunch of other 3D structures.

Of course none of this would remove the need for developers or artists, but it will free them to focus on game play and the actual art rather than how to work around technical limitations, and it becomes a massive leveller for smaller teams if you can start with an off the shelf engine, and populate your game with a bunch off catalogue item characters and then customize rather than having to start from scratch.

Incidentally a lot of these changes will eventually benefit independent movies as well in terms of making advanced CGI and postprocessing cheaper and more accessible.

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I understand your point but, multi-player aside, how many $60 games (that's the standard pricing these days for AAA titles) provide 100+ hours? They are very rare. Skyrim is the only recent qualifying game that jumps to mind.

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Why put aside multiplayer? I think I've paid $0.50/hour for my copy of Battlefield 3.

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I do not argue against the fact that multiplayer games have a longer potential playtime, however not all games have multiplayer so you just can't say that a $50 or $60 game will definitely have 100+ hours of entertainment value.

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You are probably looking at the wrong games. Most people who aren't already into games, won't buy the 60 USD games. Casual games will catch them. Think Solitaire or Tetris, which lots of people have sunk more than 100 hours over the years into. Or even evil Farmville.

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I think in a sense you've identified the issue too. For every dedicated player who will pay $60 and be disappointed when he beats the game in 50 hours, there are 99 or 999 who want a game that they don't have to invest as much in.

Players like me want to play on our own terms and come and go as they please. I used to play a lot of WoW but shutting down all my VMs and rebooting out of Linux to do so is now a big disincentive. I have tried to get into some PS3 games but the long mandatory updates the system forces you into just makes me hate it. Oh my god and the loading screens that plague the PS3 are just horrid.

(Sorry I'm not trying to complain, just trying to give you guys some ideas. :-)

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I guess Nintendo serves these demographics pretty well. (Not that there's no space for a competitor.)

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Yes, more than once the kids and I have flipped over to the Wii to play while waiting for stuff to load on the PS3. Sometimes we don't bother to flip back.

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No, I was responding to the comment that $50 games provide 100+ hours of entertainment. I was just claiming that this is not necessarily true.

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Oh, OK. Indeed some games play much faster than that.

To become very specific: Portal is a fine game. And much shorter.

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There are very few, at least in the Western eye. Only two that come to mind are the latest Zelda, and Dark Souls.

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That's changing the playing field. We're talking about money and time, why exclude multiplayer? Especially considering how much time gets spent on multiplayer games, how popular primarily multiplayer games are (Halo, CoD, WoW), and how much money gets spent on them.

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