Would you like to play a game?
Of course you would. Video games are not just for kiddies anymore. The modern world of gaming is all grown up and as sophisticated as the movie industry — if not more so.
Video games and gaming machines are big business and better than ever. According to Port Washington, N.Y.-based marketing consulting firm NPD Group, for 2004 annual retail sales of video games, which includes portable and console hardware, software and accessories, were $9.9 billion. Even though this reflected a 1 percent decline from 2003, it was the first year that portable-software sales exceeded the $1 billion mark, and total software sales hit $6.2 billion, an increase of 8 percent.
Where were the declines? In the hardware category. Like the PC industry, competition and commoditization are forcing industry leaders like Sony and Microsoft to slash their profit margins even as they improve system quality. The result is that, despite inventory shortages over the 2004 holiday season, it is now pretty easy, not to mention pretty inexpensive, to pick up a PlayStation or Xbox.
But just as the computer industry is fighting back by spinning out more expensive, state-of-the-art products for those customers who demand the best and are willing to pay for it, hardware makers are also creating gear for the well-heeled, discerning gamer.
The battle for gamers' dollars isn't just taking place in the home. New portable machines let you take high-intensity 3D graphics absolutely anywhere, and can do double (or even triple) duty as movie players, phones, what have you. Likewise, home game consoles have integrated themselves into the home theater experience, and they beg for cinematic, big screen treatment.
So join us as we survey the best of the modern video gaming world: