Prolonging the Magic: The political economy of the 7th generation console game

David B. Nieborg

Abstract


This paper draws on critical political economic theory to discuss the implications of the dominant mode of production and circulation of “Triple-A” or blockbuster console games. It is argued that the seventh generation Triple-A game is a highly standardized cultural commodity giving way to two distinctive "formatting strategies", which taken together, draw attention to the console game’s hybrid nature; being a physical, disc-based artefact that is digitally extended via DLC (downloadable content). This hybridity invites questions as to the commodity form's techno-economic particularities vis-à-vis publishing strategies of non-software based cultural commodities, such as movies and TV series.

 

The popular Call of Duty series of first person shooters serves as case study to demonstrate how game publisher Activision Blizzard not only formalized and institutionalized the annualization of the serialization strategy, the publisher also upped the ante in terms of post-launch content, theorized as "branched serialization". The Call of Duty series demonstrates that the rules of play for Triple-A games are as much governed by a game's internal ludic properties as they are structured and alternated by a distinctive and very explicit market logic. In this sense, the Triple-A game never seems truly finished; it is marketed by game publishers and positioned by critics as an unfinished commodity.


Keywords


game industry, political economy, serialization, Call of Duty, unfinished commodity

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