Reuters recently issued a report saying the video game industry may be as "recession-proof" as some in the sector have claimed. So far, sales have been relatively high and it looks like the industry is insulated from some of the problems facing the broader tech field.
"I think it's going to hold up a lot better than other industries," Mindy Mount, chief financial officer of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division told Reuters. "We remain cautiously optimistic."
Nintendo feels the same way. The company's president, Reggie Fils-Aime, told Reuters that as he looks towards the holiday season and the industry's performance, "cautiously optimistic is quite appropriate."
So why all the hope? Because the video game industry is one of the few sectors of the economy that may have the ability to turn the tide and come out on top even though other areas are suffering.
And although the reasons for that forthcoming success can be tied to numerous areas, like the popularity of the Wii and gaming finally competing on the same level with film, I think we miss the core reason for gaming's success today and during the holiday season: children.
I understand that saying children are the key to success this holiday season seems a bit awkward considering the average age of a gamer is around 30 years old, but if we think clearly about the dynamics of the industry, I think children are the real driving force behind the industry's upswing.
Years ago, the average gamer was a teenager. During that time, that teenager's parents couldn't have cared less about gaming and didn't quite understand why their child was willing to sit in front of a television all day and make a character jump on screen when they could go out and do something else.
But as those teenagers grew up, gaming grew with them; it didn't stay in the past and only cater to children. Instead, gaming has become an activity that appeals to the thirtysomething who has been gaming since the 1970s, as well as the kid who never knew what the 1990s looked like.
But as those teenagers grew up, they started families and started having children of their own that now share their interest in gaming. Years ago, they had LAN parties with buddies from school and challenged their friends at their parents' house. Today, they play multiplayer titles in the comfort of their own living room with their sons and daughters in a new era of gaming.
And now, as households are filled with two generations of gamers instead of one, it's the child that has been the backbone of gaming's incredible rise in popularity. Sure, the gamers were always there, but now those gamers have a new generation to share their interest with and sales have shown that.
But in order to drive home the point that children are the driving force behind gaming's impending success this holiday season, we need to go a step further. We need to realize that as those older gamers had children, their children suddenly came first in their lives. And as each holiday season became less important as the years progressed, they had meaning again when their children were born. For the first time in years, average gamers who were more concerned about hanging out with friends than Christmas Day, cared about Christmas again because their kids cared.
And yet, we find ourselves in a predicament. The days of prosperity are behind us for a few years and parents need to tighten their belts and be more prudent this holiday season. Sure, they'll buy a nice sweater for their mothers and get a cheap gift for their secret Santa, but when it comes time to spend most of the money they have saved this holiday season, they'll be trying their best to make their children as happy as possible.
And just as they did when they were kids, their children will ask them for some games this holiday season and maybe a new video game console that they just couldn't afford a few months ago.
Will it be a little expensive? Sure. But maybe as parents, they'll decide that they really don't need that new pair of shoes they've wanted because they would rather make their kids happy than see them upset. And maybe by buying that video game console or those three new games, they win too: they get to do something they've enjoyed all their lives and at the same time, they'll be doing something they enjoy with the people in their lives that matter most.
Call me crazy, but this holiday season, I think parents will go "without" so their children can have what they want. And although the average gamer is older, their children are the real reason gaming is popular today and why it will only grow as the years progress and more generations welcome video games into their homes.
So you're right, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and the rest: this will be a big year for gaming. But not because of the usual suspects.