Gaming the recession

If you think video games are recession proof, question your assumptions. Because there is no single “video game industry” with one platform, distribution model and customer set.

I mean, you only have to look at companies such as unrankedsmurfs.com who are thriving in the gaming world. Their job is to help gamers who want to up their rankings without doing any of the work. They are able to provide services to avid League of Legends gamers who have league accounts, and these companies exist for almost every game out there.

Another prominent example is that, with the return of the powerhouse MMORPG that is Classic World of Warcraft, old school players could be wanting to get back into it but without the extended grind time, therefore they might be wondering from where to buy wow classic gold to gain the extra edge when beginning from the start once more. Companies exist to provide a service for these players, and this model exists in other MMORPG games like Runescape Classic and Final Fantasy XIV: ARR.

In-game services aren’t the only factor to consider. There are many independent studios that handle processes involved with the industry such as QR testing, bug testing, art asset creation, and so on. There are even fully-fledged developers removed from the AAA industry that often slip between the cracks of consideration when it comes to recessions.

In a guest commentary on TechFlash.com, I’ve outlined my thoughts. And I’ll stress test them when I moderate a panel of game industry execs at the Washington Technology Industry Association dinner Wednesday in Seattle.

It’s hard not to want to agree with people like Big Fish CEO Jeremy Lewis, who compared the appeal of his company’s casual games to Charlie Chaplin’s films during the Great Depression. Chaplin’s escapist entertainment was cheap; the medium, novel. The same is true of many games today. And they’re far better than video games available during the last deep recession of 1981-82. Yet that recession ended with the 1983 collapse of the era’s video game industry. Not necessarily a great historic precedent.

So makers of confident pronouncements should be wary. Any recession proofing could be relative depending on how far the economic tide recedes — and which players are left stranded on the bottom.