Every time a new computer game breaks previous sales records we are told that gaming is a mainstream activity that can no longer be thought of as a niche market. This week's proof of that was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It sold 1.23 million units on its first day of release in the UK alone, grossing about £47m. The combined gross of the US and UK sales on day one was £187m in what the CEO of Activision, the game's publisher, called "one of the largest entertainment launches of any media of all time".
There can be almost no one left in the country who hasn't at some point played something that could be classed as a "computer game". In the 31 years since Space Invaders was released, the rise of technology has been relentless. Little did I think, when I was spending 10p on Asteroids at the dodgy arcade near my school at lunchtime, that years later my 77-year-old mother would own a Nintendo DS on which she plays Brain Training and a laptop on which she plays Scrabble.
Games like Call of Duty get all the media space — in part due to the numbers they sell and in part due to the inevitable arguments over their content (and also, of course, because of their huge marketing budgets) — but, just like at your local multiplex, aside from the blockbusters aimed at young males there are lots of other audiences being catered for.
The maturing of these audiences, the normalisation of games as a leisure pursuit, the increasing number of platforms and the ease of manufacture and distribution (on platforms such as the iPhone, for example), mean further growth is inevitable.
The blockbusters may still be aimed at young males but gaming must now be seen as a culturally, and certainly financially, significant industry – one that contributes more to the UK's GDP than the movie business. This time, the game is definitely afoot.
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