Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On the Verge of a Renaissance

I saw this article this morning, which highlights the new frontier of electronic self publishing and the potential it has for amateur authors.  Aside from getting me excited about the prospect of reviving my own literary past, this article made me realize that we are standing on a precipice in media history, with a whole new world looming down below.

Twenty years ago life was simple.  If you wanted to send a message, you sent a letter.  If you wanted to read a book you read a book. If you wanted to play a video game, you bought a cartridge or floppy disk from Babbages. Now we have more divergent options than ever, and more widely accessible tools than ever.  If you want to send a message you can Tweet, email, Facebook message, Text, BBM, Skype, or Wuphf.  If you want to read a book you can download it to your Nook, Kindle, iPad, or Browser.  Want a game?  Buy one online, download one from the cloud, buy one on your phone, or play a ton of games for free on the internet.

These new distribution options have led to a revolution in market accessibility for amateur content creators.  A few years back we saw a wave of overnight wealth generated from Facebook games and iPhone games, brought on by the complete removal of previous barriers to entry.  We’re seeing the same thing now with books through the Kindle self publishing program, and may soon see it as a result of the fantastic (and cheap) tools provided by programs like Unity.  All of a sudden, anyone with passion and talent can break into their industry of choice overnight.

What does this mean for the long term prospects of these industries? I predict that as the tools for creation become more widely accessible and as barriers to entry drop, these markets will continue to be flooded with content, both good and bad, changing the very nature of the market.  Big studios will lose ground against more agile small developers working collaboratively.  Distribution services like Steam and iTunes will thrive as consumers struggle to sort through the sea of mediocrity (and large lakes of quality content) to find the right content for them.  More importantly, the mediums will shake off their years of stagnancy and mature (and maybe we’ll finally learn how to tell a story in a video game without letting it get in the way of gameplay!).

Overall, look for a more competitive market with larger selection, greater diversity of genres, evolved design, and a healthier outlook for the future.  Prepare yourself for a renaissance!

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