Belt-tightening in games industry good for gamers

Gears of War 2 is one of Microsoft's big hitters this Christmas - but do you have the time to play all the AAA games you would like?

As the games industry hits its busiest time of the year over the next month, many are wondering if the trade is somehow 'credit crunch proof', with yet more record sales planned for Xmas '08.

"Gamers are so cocky," writes Aleks Krotoski in The Guardian this week. "After all, it appears that the only market continuing to rise is theirs."

And gamers really do have something to be cocky about, what with a slew of superb titles on the shelves this Christmas including such interactive gems as (in no particular order) Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead, Gears of War 2, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2 and (*cough* its for the kids *cough*) Animal Crossing on Wii.

Both the UK and US markets are predicted to have their busiest financial quarters over the holiday periods, now that the latest generation hardware is well installed.

However, glancing over the list above, 'cash rich, time poor' gamers are struggling to get through two or three of the season's big hitters, never mind the ten to fifteen titles they probably would want to play, if they had a spare month or two.

Not rosy in the gaming garden

But not all is rosy in the gaming garden, as Krotoski notes. "The industry is battening down its hatches. Already the big names like EA, NCSoft and Midway have started culling jobs. In Japan, the industry's litmus market, sales are down."

So the pressure to turn out an Xmas big hitter – both for developers and for their publishers – is greater than ever, with the looming threat of cost-cutting and jobs being lost on the horizon, should the units not move off the shelves come January.

Somewhat ironically, this could all be good news for the gamer though as Krotoski claims that the so-called "indie scene" is boosted, with "an influx of redundant developers and more distribution channels than ever."

Open source handheld gaming

TechRadar is looking forward in particular to the release of two new open source handheld gaming consoles in early 2009 – the Pandora and the Gamepark Wiz – which should also boost the handheld homebrew and emulation scenes.

Plus, let's face it, there are only so many 50 hour+ epics that we have the time in our lives to handle each Christmas, no matter how intense, polished and 'seminal' they are!