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Tuesday, December 26, 2000

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Human Head on Gaming Y2K
11:44 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Our CGA partner Stomped has produced yet another of their end-of-2000 interviews, this time with Tim Gerritsen of Human Head, creators of the recently-shipped Rune. Tim's answers are quite lengthy and involved, but well worth reading considering his long history in the games business. Overall he felt this was a positive year, but like many other developers Stomped has questions, he has seen troubling trends in the industry and also notes the continuing stagnation of the "hard core" gaming market. He covers many bases in his answers, and even comments on the "scapegoating" of video games as a way of explaining certain cases of youth violence.

Tim also notes the growth of the mainstream gaming audience, and how this group of gamers may be receiving their information from other sources than the hard-core crowd:

A lot of hard core games fell flat on their face this year, despite their quality. This is affecting the PC gaming magazines as well. The big two usually have fat Christmas issues each year as the big publishers spend lots of dollars before X-mas. However, that didn't happen this year, as lots of hardcore PC games spent big money earlier in the year on full page and two page spreads and still sold disappointingly. Meanwhile, several titles spent no money or very little money in the hardcore gaming mags and made heaps of money on their mainstream titles. It is becoming clear that to make money in the this business doesn't require advertising investments in the hard core gaming magazines and that even good exposure in the big mags does not get you sales. I think this is a bad omen for hard core games magazines, since who the hell spends money in them if it doesn't work out to big sales. Meanwhile, mainstream and more general lifestyle oriented mags are where advertisers are going in droves.

This doesn't mean that PCs are a dead medium for hard core games, not by a long shot, but it does mean that there will be far fewer titles, which will have to be far more polished and have far better marketing plans to make a maximum splash on the market. Meanwhile, the hardcore games based on existing franchises will continue to do well as Red Alert 2, Diablo II and Baldur's Gate II have proven. It's just that the fans of those games aren't as willing to bet their $50 on Hitman or Rune or Alice if they haven't heard as much about it, and since the mainstream gamers aren't reading the hard core mags, they need to get that info from other sources.

Several "hard core" PC game magazines already folded this year (IncitePC and PC Accelerator, just to name two), so Tim's predictions may be correct. Be sure and read the rest of his Q&A for more thoughts on the game industry in 2000.

Tim Gerritsen Interview at Stomped
Rune Review
Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
Westlake Interactive

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