Tackling game classification a vital task
As the video game world moves closer to a digital age, the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) is paying close attention.
Ron Curry, the chief executive of the association, who was in New Zealand recently, said major issues the body dealt with were video game classification and ensuring parents knew what the ratings meant, but another current issue is the rise of digital content and classification of that content.
Many digital offerings don't require a classification and Curry said "it's a grey area".
"The problem is the sheer volume of digital material. We need to look at how to tackle digital classification on an international and global scale," he said. Curry said iGEA was part of an international grading council, which was investigating the possibility of making it cheaper to submit a game, or app, for classification.
Curry said there had been a definite increase in digital delivery and a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report indicated that by 2016, 50 per cent of game sales will be generated digitally.
That doesn't mean retail is doomed, said Curry, but "the market is going to expand and while retail will exist, we believe we'll see a flattening out of boxed product."
However, Curry believes that for digital product to become more popular with gamers, a more reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure is needed - something both New Zealand and Australia lack.
Curry said the association was dealing with interactive issues now that it hadn't even considered five years ago, such as interactive gambling, the rise of cyber bullying, and identity theft.
Video gaming was also a more social activity than it was a few years ago. "A few years ago we didn't have social gaming, we didn't have the Nintendo Wii. Gaming is now more mainstream. It has crossed a generation," says Curry.
Curry agrees that many in the mainstream media still don't take video games seriously as an entertainment source. "Even the name 'game' means some people don't take them seriously" - and New Zealand is punching above its weight in the video game development industry.
"The challenge for New Zealand and Australia is keeping talented staff in the region and not have them lured away overseas. That's the good thing about digital 'development'. It can be done anywhere: Kids on smart phones, for example," says Curry.
A recent change that Curry had noticed was retailers were adapting and now selling digital content. "Retailers are selling a code to a customer who is then going home and downloading that content. I think people still buy at retail because they want to talk to someone about a product. It's a reinvention," he says.