Thursday, August 16, 2007

Online Gaming Paper for e-marketingclass by Marc Kellner

The history of online gaming originates in 1970 when a number of computer researchers created the first interactive online game called “ADVENT.” The game was very basic and was in text form, with simple commands controlling the navigation. The game took place in an online “forest” and the user commands a character and chooses different commands to perform different actions. The significance of this game is that it helped create the concept of networked gaming. The basic principle behind network gaming is that it allows users to play simultaneously with each other rather than just against a computer. This game and others like it were ran through bulletin board systems where results of users were posted. Eventually, once programming capabilities had grown to the degree that the computer could handle the task of running the opposition MUD’s (Multi-User Dungeons) were created.

The first MUD was created in 1979, and was designed by two programmers from Essex University. These games began to display what we know as a true multiplayer game. The games were virtual online environments where players would control characters, and based on predetermined parameters the character would react to different situations. The breakthrough with this game and others like it is the players could interact with other players while playing the game simultaneously. Keep in mind these games aren’t what we would expect to see today, but this timeline will show a progression of breakthroughs in technology.

Next on the timeline are first person shooters. The first of this type was developed for the Macintosh system in 1989. The game was called “A-Maze-ing” and is considered to be the first three-dimensional first person shooter. These are the games that players of this era will relate to. In 1994 a company named ID software released a game called “Doom.” Set in a different world a soldier is left stranded to combat numerous aliens on a multitude of levels. With great graphics, the possibility of playing with up to four players simultaneously, and several sequels, Doom is one of the best selling online games of all-time. After the Doom craze was “Quake.” Now with the possibility of playing with 16 players simultaneously the Quake craze is still booming with the recent release of Quake III. The advantage to Quake is that no internet subscription is needed to play online, once the game is purchased, a simple click on the multiplayer icon and a player is “up and running.” The real time strategy games I had mentioned that were played on bulletin board systems also got a facelift around this time as well. Blizzard Entertainment had released three games all around the same time: “Diablo,” “Starcraft,” and “Warcraft” all very popular hits among the online world that involve strategy and real time playability while delivering 3-d graphics any solid gamer craves. The real bonus for a user in these games is a player’s user ranking. In each game there is a certain way to tabulate scores at the end of each game, and that score is made public. The players scores are kept for a virtual season and then reset, this allows new users a chance to compete with the old, and also keep the game competitive for longer periods of time.

With the type of games Blizzard has created has inspired programmers to go one step further with “Massive Multiplayer Games.” An example of such a game is “Everquest.” Similar to the real-time games like Starcraft, which are held in large worlds, these games take 3-d one step further with much smoother graphics and many more players. These games run most efficiently on high-end graphics cards with strong processors to stream through all the extensive programming. These massive multiplayer games require multiple servers to support the numerous users. Everquest for example is run from a series of computers that all sit in an office in San Diego, California. The game has over 30 servers which each run an independent version of the game. There are an average of 18,000 people registered on each server and at least 15,000 people online at all time across all the servers.

Gaming is still gender biased and is marketed as such. Most gamers are young males who have at least a little bit of tech savvy. Recently however, to break through these stereotypes programmers have created games that reach other target markets. “Dance Dance Revolution” fun for all ages and genders has been a huge hit and a marketer’s dream because of the health benefits from game play. A new guitar game has recently been released with the same principles; sales will tell if this game will have the same success.

Video games have been, and judging by current trends, will always be popular and part of a highly profitable market. Online games especially have an advantage because these games are played on the largest and cheapest advertising medium: the Internet. Many games have their own web sites and are affiliated with other companies to advertise other similar games that players would be interested in. These companies have used several business models to stay afloat among the years and the Advertising Model seems to be used more and more with the rising popularity of the Internet and increases in technology. Some companies have used television commercials to try to find new consumers, campaigns for “Quake” and “Fight Night” have been successful on t.v. and have actually brought gamers to buy each individual system to play these highly sought after games.

Why do these players spend so much time with these online games and are there any benefits? Everyone has their hobby and some argue that playing a video game is a waste of time, however these online games are a way for people to interact. They inspire competitive natures within players and for some, these games are a source of confidence. Some also argue these games can cause an addiction and even a decrease in intelligence; however it is still case by case whether or not these statements are true.

Until recently online games were thought of as only able to be played through a computer with an internet connection. Recent technological advances for example with the Playstation 3 have allowed users to play without a computer. Sony has fused wireless “Bluetooth” technology with these advanced 3-d systems to allow gamers to play a vast number of games through their system. The sky is the limit with what’s to come. The next thing to expect could be virtual reality; only time will tell when and where these new advances will come.