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Industry reports, briefs issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

Video Game Industry's New Trend: Functionality

Video Game Industry's New Trend: Functionality

June 29, 2009

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"Serious games," which refer to games that not only provide entertainment value but also have other educational, medical and training functions have attracted increasing interest in recent years. This term was first used in a book titled "Serious Game" written by Clark Abt in 1977, and the idea of incorporating various functions into computer games gained real traction during the "Serious Game Initiative" organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2002.

The commercial success of the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS exemplify the growth potential of serious games. In November 2006 Nintendo released Wii, which introduced the element of physical activity into computer games, enabling it to overtake its main rival, Sony Playstation, and make up for its previous failure, the Nintendo Game Cube.

Serious games still remain a niche market, with the size of the US market around US$1.5 billion to US$2 billion in 2007. However, the move toward serious games is picking up speed as large game developers join the fray. For example, Electronic Arts and Carnegie Mellon University have joined in a collaborative effort to develop educational programs that use "The Sims," a popular strategic life-simulation computer game. In 2008, Microsoft initiated studies on serious games by establishing the Games for Learning Institute, in partnership with New York University.

The rising popularity of serious games can be explained by three factors. First, users of computer games have expanded from teenagers (the main demographic target in the past for video game companies) to people of all age groups. The "native digital" generation, people that have been acquainted with digital technology since birth, enjoy video games even after reaching adulthood. Furthermore, as the number of "digital immigrants" (people of middle-age and older who are not accustomed to computers but nevertheless attempt to adapt to technological change) continues to increase, the use of digital games continues to expand across age groups.

Second, there has been progress in the development of virtual reality technology. For instance, Nintendo Wii provided its sports games with a sense of reality by incorporating analogue sensors that measure acceleration. Also, Microsoft opened a new horizon in game interface technology by unveiling Project Natal, a motion-recognition technology using a three-dimensional camera.

Third, the development of serious games has been driven by increasing support from international bodies and governments worldwide in their bid to solve social issues through video games. The addictive nature of video games can help to increase social awareness among teenagers indifferent to social issues such as starvation and the environment. In addition, governments are using video games for instructive purposes in their attempt to prevent teenagers from indulging in violent and lascivious games.

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