There has been a debate for a while now over whether video games can be artistic. I think it’s safe to say that quite a few games, like Journey, have made the argument quite favorable for the games as art side of the debate. However, can artistic games be successful both financially and artistically?
Jenova Chen, the founder of Thatgamecompany, thinks that they can. His company created Journey, a game which took home eight awards at DICE and became the best selling PSN title. Unfortunately, his company had to file bankruptcy despite this success.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Chen said, “So my resolution this year is: I’m not a money guy, but I want to make our next product a commercial success, so that people will say, ‘Hey, there’s a huge market out there. If you make a high-quality games that can touch people, it’s going to do great business.’”
Looking for Inspiration
Chen looks to companies like Blizzard and Pixar for inspiration in this struggle. Blizzard managed to take the niche RTS series Warcraft and turn it into a mammoth success with World of Warcraft. Pixar makes financially successful animated films which prove that cartoons don’t have to just be mindless entertainment for children.
Chen says that his business pitch is this: “Our game is meant for average people to play, not just gamers.” This calls to mind Nintendo’s approach of marketing to the casual audience with the Wii, which was successful initially but ended up tapering after the casual audience lost interest. However, as Journey shows, you can appeal to both audiences equally.
I am rooting for Chen. If Thatgamecompany proves Chen correct and can turn out more games like Journey that are artistic, fun to play, and commercially successful, then we will most likely see other companies try to follow suit by making their games a bit more intellectually stimulating.