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In game world change is constant

The computer gaming industry changes at such a rapid clip that it sees in just one year the equivalent of 10 years of change in other industries.

And this speeded-up pace of change has been going on for a long time, said Ted Valkov, a The Dalles resident who has been making computer games for five years.

For example, it has gone away from being the province of the “hard-core gamer,” the stereotypical young man who lives in his parent’s basement, endlessly playing first-person shooter games.

Now, that person — which tends to be in a very specific demographic: a male age 15 to 25 — represents just a small percentage of the market share, he said.

Today, the vast majority of game players “play games to relax, play games after work for a little bit, play games with their kids. That’s composed of hundreds of different types of games. Most of these are what you call casual games. They play games for fun but it’s not a major part of their lifestyle,” Valkov said.

He likened it to reading a book once in awhile, and maybe not finishing it.

“Another big change is the advent of mobile gaming on tablets and mobile phones,” he said. That brought game playing to the masses.

He estimated almost half the people in the developed world play games of some kind, and most of them play casual games.

And while the notion of “a gamer” brings up the young man ensconced in his parent’s basement, “the reality is there’s no such thing as stereotypes,” Valkov said. “There are several hundred niches or market types. They are defined by the platform on which people play.

The games Valkov makes are downloadable casual games, which are more basic, and mid-core strategy games, which are a step up in terms of complexity and cost.

His games get distributed right off the bat in PEFIGS, which stands for “Portuguese, English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.”

Later, based on the interest, you can get versions in different languages from Russian to Chinese. One of his games, a casual game called Bubblenauts, was published in 11 languages. “That’s fairly typical.”

“The more languages you get, you can get more money on the investment,” he said.

“I do not sell games directly to consumers,” he said. Most casual and mid-core games are distributed by a handful of large distributor/publishers.

The distributors that are used depend on the market and the game.

While computer games used to come in a physical format, those days are long gone for all but the top-of-the-line Triple A games, like Call of Duty.

“I will not be surprised if five years in the future there’s no physical medium at all. The consoles will be the last to abandon the physical model. Everything will be digitally distributed,” Valkov said.

Fifteen years ago, which is pre-historic in computer game terms, early games were physically mailed to customers, Valkov said.

And while many predicted computer games would be the death knell for board games, he noted that board games have enjoyed a revival.

“If you go to the toy store you see a significant fraction of shelf space is devoted to family board games. That’s one market that computer games have not been able to cross successfully, the family types, because board games are played in a family setting.”

Valkov also doubts the notion of an “educational” computer game. “Here’s the secret: nobody makes educational games. Everybody in this industry tries to find a formula to make money. Some people try to masquerade themselves and say we’re going to make educational games and that’s how they brand themselves.

“The reality is games are games, there are products you do for fun. I don’t think anybody has successfully managed to make a game that is more than a game. There are a lot of successful games, but that’s what they are: they are a product for entertainment.”

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