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Professional Practice: Console Gaming

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Understanding Media -

Professional Practice In The Media Industry

As one of the fastest growing sectors in the media today, console gaming has come a long way since the days of the very first home console; the Atari 2600. Console gaming is big business, with profit margins higher than some of the biggest Hollywood film studios. Because of this, the production size of each game and quantity of employees within each company has grown accordingly. As with other sections of the media industry such as print, television and film, console gaming has a structured system in use in regard to owners, employees and finance. If we are to fully understand the console gaming industry we need to examine the four key areas within it; publishing, development, distribution and the manufacturers of the hardware on which the games are used (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony). In some cases these four areas work exclusively as separate entities to create a product, or, as with some major Hollywood studios, are vertically integrated in their production processes. As with the "Big Five" studios of the golden era of Hollywood cinema, we have a similar situation in the console gaming industry with the four main console manufacturers. These four companies all own and have complete control of various development houses, publishers and distributors. In the case of these "in house" productions the sources of finance vary but are mainly internal. When internal finance is not possible, there are other various means for the companies involved to acquire the money needed to complete the production process. The most common way for a company to get financial assistance is the use of sponsors. For example; a racing game could use billboards featuring the sponsors logos placed alongside each race track.

I have already mentioned the methods used by vertically integrated companies to create and distribute games, but there are many occasions when a separate company is used for each stage.

Publishers are the most powerful, and, perhaps the most important of the four main areas in console gaming. They are responsible for commissioning, funding and publishing, and usually have a great deal of control over the end product. Once the development process is completed, a publisher would also be responsible for the marketing, PR and manufacturing the finished product. They will decide on the type of product they want to deliver to the market, set targets that need to be met by the developers in order for the initial finance to become available and publish the end product, hopefully making a profit on the sales of said product. Ironically, the most important section of the console gaming industry is also usually the most overlooked; development.

Essentially, the development of console games is the creation of the product the publishers agree to fund and publish and/or distribute. A development team would typically consist of a large number of programmers, designers, writers, sound engineers and producers, along with many other members of the company. If a developer's pitch to a publisher to create a new game is successful, the development process would commence, with regular payments being provided by the publisher to enable the game to be completed. Once the development process is complete,



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