Mommy I made a hypothesis in my pants.
Games are a niche market. We can say this because “normal people” still don’t play games. Some might play some casual games, but you can clearly see that games aren’t mass market. Specifically, when you look at the “blockbuster” games like Modern Warfare, and ask someone age-appropriate (it’s an M game) on the street “hey did you play that game”, the answer is “no”.
If you asked someone if they’ve seen, say, Avatar, the expected answer is “yes”.
However, the games industry is “bigger” from a money perspective than the movie industry. This means something really quite simple: Per capita, we pay more money for games per year than people pay for movies. Maybe we get value for money, maybe not, but the point is, that $60 odd bucks we lay down for a game is a lot of money.
There are downsides — the industry is clearly playing off our love for video games. They may argue that it’s still value per hour of entertainment. They may argue that it’s got to do with piracy, but really, we know that the games industry makes more money from the average gamer than the movie industry makes from the average moviegoer. I need $16 to watch a movie in the cinema. I’ll need to practically sign a $500 membership fee to start playing a single game. This needs to change.
There are a number of downsides, not least of which is that the industry is monetarily catering for the hard-core this way. The problem with hard-core gamers is that they keep becoming more niche and the industry eventually goes extinct. We can already see this with the number of FPSes around and the number of disenchanted gamers who liked some other kind of game.
Risk reduction occurs not only on the publisher side, but also on the buyer side. That is, I’m more likely to buy a game where I know what I’m getting as opposed to a game where I’m not sure. I’m putting down a significant chunk of cash, after all. There’s been some “good will” thrown the way of some innovative games, but that’s coming from frustration. I don’t think it will last. This also shows that the games community is tight knit (thus paying most of the bills for these innovative games — I don’t believe Heavy Rain would’ve sold so well otherwise).
The worst part is that as a proportion of the available money, Indie games get less of it. If you look at what most of the people in the games industry want to do, indeed what a lot of them do in their spare time, it’s to make smaller more concentrated fun games. These guys will literally make a blockbuster game to pay the bills and release a (possibly free1) indie game in their spare time.
I think as a gaming community we need to spend more of our cash on indie games and actively shun the block-busters. Developers and publishers need to work on making these things cheaper so that more people are bought into the fold.