Video games and politics have a relationship that is much more intertwined than many people might realize. It was the outcry of politicians that led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which gives us video game ratings. It was the Supreme Court case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association that declared video games were protected under the First Amendment. Both of these led to positive outcomes that further strengthened and legitimized the industry. And now President Trump's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership may lead to a stronger front for domestic games.
All you need to know about the #TPP and video games is that withdrawal from this trade agreement may result in a tariff — a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports — that could increase the cost of imports by 5–10 percent, or how ever much the #Trump administration would impose. So if you think your favorite game by Square Enix is expensive now, think again.
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So How Might This Help Domestic Developers?
With a tariff imposed, developing games domestically may prove more financially viable for some publishers.
The tariff may create more competitive pricing for console games, which has for years seen at an industry standard MSRP of $59.99. If the price of imported games were to go up, it would be in the best interest of domestic developers to keep the price of their games status quo. For example, if the rumor that the next Tomb Raider is being developed by Canada's Eidos Montréal proves true and a new Uncharted game were to come out around the same time — which almost did happen back in 2015 — guess which one consumers are more likely to buy? The cheaper one, which would be from California-based developer Naughty Dog.
Some of these domestic studios include:
- Naughty Dog (#Uncharted, The Last of Us)
- SIE Santa Monica Studio (God of War)
- Sucker Punch Productions (Infamous, Sly Cooper)
- Valve (Half-Life, Portal)
- Blizzard Entertainment (Overwatch, StarCraft)
While #Sony's Santa Monica Studio endured a string of layoffs back in 2014 and with a surge in domestic developed games, staff cuts would be much less common as gaming publishers will need a healthy domestic workforce if they wanted to avoid the tariff.
Collaborations Between East And West
What isn't clear is whether or not games that have a portion of their development in the States would be hit with such a tariff. If we assume this will not be the case, then great things could come of this, with Eastern developers likely encouraged to open up or hire studios in the States to create or assist in game development.
This isn't something new. If you view the credits for many a Western game, there is often a Japanese studio or developer listed in helping with the game's creation. The same cannot always be said of Japanese games having Western developers play a part, outside of translation or voice acting. This would all likely change if avoiding a tariff for your game was as simple as developing part of the game in the US, which would have the bonus of creating more American jobs in the gaming industry. And who wouldn't want to see that?
Collaboration between the hemispheres has the potential to create games that are more appealing to a worldwide audience, with developers from different parts of the world privy to what their respective audiences want. Other positives of this outcome may even be global release dates, thus reducing the risk of spoilers and leaks, and quicker localization of foreign games — looking at you, Persona 5!
More Attention To Indie Developers
Indie games have been receiving more attention of late. The current space for #indiedevelopers to create and publish on sites such as Steam, along with popularity of titles such as Five Nights at Freddy's and That Dragon, Cancer — the later of which won the Games For Impact Award at The Game Awards 2016 — shows us that indie titles are moving on up. Check out the trailer below for That Dragon, Cancer.
However, we may see more titles come to the fore in the console space. Should less Japanese developers decide to make or even localize games in the US due to recent presidential decrees, then it would become increasingly likely that Sony and #Microsoft would become more involved with indie gaming. This may encourage deals with Western indie developers to fund and assist in the development of such titles.
While we don't know what the exact outcome of withdrawal from the TPP will hold or the percentage of a future imposed tariff, one thing is certain: Expect plenty of change.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think that US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership can possibly help domestic developers?