Many of you out there remember big-time skateboarding in the late 1980s: Tony Hawk vs Christian Hosoi, The Bones Brigade, Vision Street Wear. In the early 1990s, the sport collapsed, and most of the big companies that were minting money went out of business. The skaters themselves took over the industry, and while little money was being made, the sport went through an experimental phase that included ridiculous oversized pants and useless undersized wheels. Ugly (but highly technical) tricks were invented as only the hardest of core still skated. By the mid 1990s, though, skateboarding started to recover, and eventually grew back into a beast with the likes of the X Games (and of course, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater).
Video games today are a bit like skateboarding in 1992, going through that same experimental phase. “This business has not been in a state of transition like it is right now since the video game crash of the ‘80s,” says Cliff Bleszinski, the closest gaming has to a celebrity. It’s true: mainstream gamers are no longer buying $60 games, publishers are shutting down developers daily, new business models are floundering.
The lesson here is that no matter how brutal this transition is, those that love games will stick with them, even if there’s less money involved. The decline of retail is giving gamers more power to define what they want. So who cares if some of us are wearing yellow pants that are way too baggy? Cliff says: “I just want to see what happens. In regards to the industry, it’s like the Super Smash Bros. of business right now, and I want to see if Peach or Mario wins.“ But now is the time to stay in the game. Invent some weird tricks, find something fans love, and pretty soon the industry will make a gamer-approved comeback.