We all know that the other creative industries are closely linked with the music industry, but has the evolution in technology helped or hindered the relationship? We spoke to Brian Baglow from Scottish Games Network about the gaming world and its relationship with the music industry.
It seems that opportunities for composers and artists looking to get into the gaming industry are more accessible now more than ever.
1. The music industry has evolved a lot in the last decade, has the gaming industry changed at all?
The games sector has changed hugely in the last ten years. It’s an industry, which is constantly evolving, driven forward by new technologies, new devices, new routes to market and even business models. However, the last five years have accelerated this evolution even more rapidly. For the last couple of decades, games have been created for dedicated devices – home consoles or gaming PCs. As technology advanced, the expectations from consumers became higher and the costs associated grew.
Then devices started to appear that were multi-purpose. They could play games, but that was not their primary function. They were mobile phones, social networks and even web browsers.
Now, the vast majority of game development here in the UK is for non-dedicated devices – smartphones, tablets and so on. These devices created entirely new types of game, new experiences and introduced new business models. This evolution has disrupted the games sector like nothing else in the history of the games sector.
Now developers cannot rely on the old retail model – getting the money upfront before the player can play the game. Games are no longer ‘dead’ products – finished and static, but they’re now ‘live’ services, continuously updated, with new content, additional elements and ongoing opportunities to engage with players. This has enabled entirely new business models such as free-to-play, where the player can download and play the basic game for zero money, but can then buy new content on an ongoing basis.
All of which have changed the developer’s role hugely. From huge studios with all of the skills represented in a single company, the games sector has fragmented into micro studios, bringing in skills as needed. Developers no longer need to work with the major publishers for distribution, manufacturing or marketing, but can do all of this themselves.
However, this has highlighted a number of issues for game creators. The primary one being that simply creating games is no longer enough. There’s a huge amount of competition out there with 1.2M apps on the Apple app store alone. Developers must now understand audience acquisition, marketing, community support, and revenue streams – all of the business aspects of game creation.
2. From your own experience, how would you say that most developers find music for their games and what stage of the development does music come in?
The approach to music varies hugely, depending upon the experience of the developer in question. It can go from micro studios looking for free music sources online, to working with individual musicians/composers, or some of the more established audio experts in the games sector. Similarly, developers can bring audio support in very early in the project, or in some cases, only contact audio providers once the game is close to being finished.
Historically, audio has always been a secondary consideration in the games sector, lagging behind the push for greater and greater visual fidelity, but this is changing. The audio capabilities of the new non-dedicated devices such as smartphones and the realisation that audio can offer a far more direct and simple way to register player activity (through ‘success’ tones, user interface selections, etc.) mean that more and more development studios are recognising the value of bringing in audio experts earlier in the development process.
3. What are your views on using commercial music for games trailers and demos and what would you say are the benefits in terms of marketing for both developers and artists?
Licensing music commercially is an expensive option for developers. It was traditionally the role of the publisher to do this, for some of the larger console games – especially those based on film and TV properties. There are opportunities for developers to work directly with bands and musicians to bring existing tracks into games, as the exposure for the bands can be significant – if the game is a success.
For many game developers, working with third-party music providers is their preferred option, as it gives them access to a wide range of audio options and is faster and cheaper than commissioning new music.
The benefits to both the composer and developer can be significant if the game succeeds commercially. The exposure to music in games can be far greater and more extended than in almost any other medium. However, both parties have to seize the opportunity and actually tell the world they’re working together.
4. In your opinion is it difficult for developers to find the right audio for their games and demos? If so, what are the main problems?
It can be very difficult for developers to find audio for a couple of reasons. The first is a lack of understanding of the audio industry. They don’t know who’s out there, or what they offer. They may not have worked directly with professional audio companies before and they may not have allocated any budget or resources for anything beyond the most basic aspects of the game’s audio.
Despite this, it’s getting easier and easier to find audio providers. More and more musicians, bands and companies are recognising games as a valuable new channel for their expertise and getting in touch with developers directly. Or via platforms like Music Gateway, or ScottishGames.Net
5. Knowing that you can find music, sound effects and voice over artists on our platform, in which ways do you see Music Gateway changing how game developers and music professionals work together?
More and more game developers – individuals and companies – are creating more and more games around the world. They’re recognising the need to stand out in a saturated marketplace, one of the key criteria they need to focus on is excellence. Grabbing random sounds from free online libraries does not provide the sort of quality, variety or consistency that can really make a game sound professional. As such, developers are looking for partners and providers. They need to know they’re expert, professional and can work to timescales and budgets. Platforms like Music Gateway give developers access to the global market place and allow teams from all around the world to work together more effectively.
6. What’s your favourite game and why?
It’s a toss up between the Half Life series, since they pretty much redefined the first-person shooter, the very, very old school rogue-like Nethack for it’s depth and complexity, or the original Grand Theft Auto, since I worked on the game (and wrote lyrics for a few of the tracks).