E3: Videogames are the new blockbusters

An exhibitor plays a video on the T-Mobile LG G-Slate tablet at the T-Mobile booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

JEREMY HOBSON: Nintendo has unveiled its latest gaming system -- the Wii U. It won't be available for another year. But even more so, analysts aren't sure it'll be enough to win back gamers from rivals such as Sony and Microsoft. The unveiling happened at the Electronic Entertainment Expo -- also known as E3 -- here in LA.

Our tech reporter Steve Henn has been hanging out there -- and he joins us now. Good morning.

STEVE HENN: Good morning.

HOBSON: Well, first set the scene for us Steve. What's it like at E3?

HENN: It's kind of a mad house -- fake zombies are climbing the walls, there were real tanks parked in the driveway. I can't play the serious games to save my life, so I've just been creeping up behind gamers like Andrea Leong to watch. Leong's a graphic artist who works in the industry.

HENN: So, I noticed you were just eaten by a lion.

ANDREA LEONG: Yes I was just eaten by a lion, but overall this game actually really fun. And the graphics were really amazing.

HENN: What's it called?

LEONG: Dragon's Dogma.

HENN: So, as someone who works in the industry, is working on a game like this the ultimate?

LEONG: I would say so. It's one of the dreams of anyone who goes into the game industry business -- is to work on a huge project that is almost epic, like a movie.

HOBSON: Well, how does the size of the video game industry compare to Hollywood?

HENN: Well, in 2010, video games for consoles like the Xbox or Nintendo sold more than $10 billion of games. So, that's actually almost exactly the same amount of money as Hollywood. But if you add in apps for smartphones and social games for Facebook, that's probably another $5 billion in sales. So by some measures this is bigger than the movie business.

HOBSON: And when I think of people playing video games I do think of people that are younger -- that can figure out these crazy 3D games. Is that right, or is everyone playing them?

HENN: A lot of people who grew up playing video games are not so young. The average age of a gamer according to the industry is 37. And a lot of the games aren't just about lopping people's head's off. I met a game designer at USC last night that's building a game for XBox Kinnect called "Mother Nature" and it lets you control the environment with your gestures.

HOBSON: Wow. I'll have to wait for that one to come out. Marketplace's Steve Henn joining us from here in Los Angeles. Thanks so much.

HENN: Sure thing.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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