"2009 sucked. I can tell you that officially," EEDAR president and CEO Greg Short announces during his Gamasutra-attended keynote kicking off Australian game conference Game Connect Asia Pacific 2010. But he says it so cheerfully that we know there's a "but" coming.
A native of the Australian Gold Coast, where this year's conference is being held, Short has spent enough years in San Diego that his accent wavers uncertainly between two continents, but his upbeat confidence in his message never falters. Striding onto the stage, Greg paints a picture for the future of gaming that is as rosy as his cheeks.
And why shouldn't he? He has data on his side.
Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) services, in Short's words, "over eighty-five per cent of the top twenty publishers."
His company possesses the world's largest database of games, as certified by Guinness. EEDAR employs staff to take on the impossible-sounding task of playing every game that is released; whether this includes every painful iPhone copycat, Short doesn't say.
Each game is dissected and cataloged, and this information is then combined with sales, marketing and review score data to construct the epic database, which can then be mined for the benefit of EEDAR's clients.
"Is a shotgun in a shooter game going to help you sell more units than a pistol? Those are the kinds of questions we answer." Inquiring minds need to know.
So then, back to that year that sucked:
"More than 11,400 people [in the game industry] worldwide lost their jobs from October 2008 to December 2009," says Short. "That represents just under a third of all people employed in the video game industry."
This belt tightening was applied to more than staffing, says Short, showing the audience a graph that demonstrates the flat-lining of original IP development, as publishers began to eschew risk in favor of milking existing franchises.
All of this sounds pretty gloomy, so where's the silver lining?
"Even though we saw a ton of people lose their jobs, guess where they've gone? They've taken their expertise ... and they're building awesome games and they're self-publishing."
Once you factor in the rise and rise of game sales through digital channels, and the higher profit margins these channels provide developers, the industry looks to be in healthy shape - "recession-resistant", he says. Online sales won't replace retail any time soon, says Short, but online is definitely going to swallow a larger and larger chunk of the market.
"Cloud gaming is, I think, the biggest innovation that is going to impact our business in the next ten years." Once the infrastructure is in place, services in the mold of OnLive and Gaikai will sweep away the hurdles that make setting up and playing games a hassle for many people, says Short.
"No installs, no driver compatibility issues ... now it always works." For Short, gaming's future isn't just bright - it positively sparkles.