Montgomery College’s game development program is part of a massive wave of degrees in the US, with more than 380 colleges in all 50 states offering courses in game design, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
With more than 30 percent of gamers playing on smartphones, much of Montgomery College’s program centers around working on smaller, digital games. WaterLife: Where Rivers Meet the Sea, a recent collaboration between former MC students and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is entirely browser-based, making it easily accessible from many devices.
Publishers are starting to see the potential, as well as the high profit margin for smaller titles on platforms such as the PC and iOS, which is great news for graduates of MC’s game design program. “PC games or mobile games are good way to start. Mobile, especially, is exploding, and startup costs are very small for those platforms,” said Professor Deborah Solomon, of Montgomery College’s game development program. “If you’re creating a console game that you need a console kit for, that’s going to be an expensive startup cost.”
The trend isn’t confined to the business and design side of things, either. The overall number of gamers has decreased in the past year, while the number of mobile and digital gamers has actually risen, according to the NPD. There are an estimated 211.5 million gamers in the US, which is down 12 million (five percent) from 2011. Of that overall amount, only mobile gamers (up 9 percent) and digital gamers (up four percent) saw gains in the past year while family+kid gamers saw a sharp drop off (to the tune of 17.4 million).
"Given the long life cycles of the current consoles and the increasing installed base of smartphones and tablets, it's not surprising to see a slight decline in the Core Gamer segment," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "It's the revenue contribution of the Core Gamer segment that continues to outpace all other segments, and remains vital to the future of the industry."
As the industry as whole moves away from dedicated gaming systems and disk-based games, students graduating from development programs like Montgomery College’s will have more opportunities to get their ideas into the hands of consumers. Platforms like the App Store on iOS and Steam on PC are breeding grounds for fresh new games at a far smaller cost than their console counterparts, which is great for both consumers and developers, who see a larger portion of the profit on those aforementioned platforms.
By Brooks Clarke