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Video Games, NWN, and the Free Market


Standing in the shower one day, I kind of began to think about video games, and how they are, to put it mildly, excellent. I never realized it before, but not only are they fun, but they are also form an industry which would make Adam Smith very happy. As I see it (and remember as you read this that I am as far from an economist as one can be), the video game industry relies on the quality of products and infusions of new ideas to keep it an incredibly competitive one. On top of that, video games seem to be a major reason of the success and continued development of the home computer. I am writing to this site because I believe that Neverwinter Nights and its upcoming CRPG brethren are a perfect example of everything I am talking about.

Which brings me to my next point. The video game industry is beyond thriving. Consoles sales alone are expected to overtake the movie industry’s box-office revenue within the next couple of years. With so many new consoles (Xbox, GameCube, PS2) coming out, the console software business is expected to become a $100 billion industry within five years!

And you can’t forget about PC games. But PC game impacts are a little harder to judge (I’ll get to this later). In my opinion, the industry is thriving so well because of one fact – competition is intense. As any free market advocate knows, the best ones have much competition and few dominant companies. I can’t find an industry that more resembles this model than this one.

The real beauty of this is that the players/consumers benefit from better and better games. No one company can rest on its laurels. Advancement in computer game technology is progressing at a ridiculous rate. Heck, the geForce 3 is out, and I bet not many of you can max out your geForce 1…But it isn’t just the rate of technology that is so wonderful: games are constantly improving in quality, expansiveness, and customizability. They simply can’t contain only the features introduced yesterday and survive. If a game isn’t innovative or revolutionary, it often disappears mighty quick. And that made it right behind.

But it is just these changes that keep the industry healthy. In the 70’s, American car companies produced junk because nobody could offer anything better. But when the Japanese companies did in the 80’s, the American companies had to catch up and make a better product. In the realm of video games, everyone is catching up to everyone else all the time, which means better and better products appear.

However, the impact of better PC games really can be seen in the advancement of computers themselves. By making more and more demanding, high-tech games, the industry has forced the home desktop companies to continue creating newer, better computers to keep up. Lets face it – that annoying little paperclip guy in Microsoft Word doesn’t exactly require 256 megabytes of RAM. But do you know what does? That’s right, Neverwinter Nights.

NWN and the entire crop of CRPGs (Dungeon Siege, Morrowind, Pool of Radiance, etc.) that will be floating around in a few months are the epitome of this free market, technology pushing, game-play advancing world. Several companies are coming out with (relatively) similar games at a (relatively) similar time. Which ones will succeed and avoid falling by the wayside? Whichever company makes the most advancement from the previous slew of CRPGs. Whichever company pushes the bounds of technology. Not which one has an immense advertisement campaign or a better PR firm; rather, which one simply makes the best game – and that is the whole point.

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