Research & Writing
Interactive Gaming Overview
By Cassie Carter, PhD
10 March 2000
Interactive games comprise a range from
very simple, low-end web games to the most elaborate, high-end
PC and console games. The quality and sophistication of a
game depends on the technical complexity of the application,
the caliber of the graphics and animation, and the smoothness
of user experience. The majority of Internet games fall in
the middle of this range, and the gap between mid-range and
high-end is a large one. Internet games are a different class
than the games offered on CD-ROM for PCs or for Playstation
and Nintendo. PC and console games boast the highest-quality
graphics, smoothness of user experience, and greatest interactive
experience. While some Java Internet games can be highly
sophisticated, they cannot attain the quality of a PC or console
High-end games are those developed for PC
and console (e.g., PlayStation, Nintendo, Dreamcast).
According to ZDNet, Video games were a $7 billion market in
1999. The console game market share is $4.2 billion;
PC games bring in $2 billion. Sega has sold 1.5 million
units of Dreamcast, and in Japan Sony sold a million PlayStation
2’s during its first two days. As of mid-1999, almost 70%
of all US households owned or rented computer games. Currently,
one in four US households have a Sony Playstation. 
PC games: the current
top PC games, according to Microsoft’s Gaming Zone,
include Rainbow 6, Age of Empires 2, Rogue
Spear, Jedi Night Dark Forces 2, MechWarrior
3, Quake 2, Combat Flight Simulator, and
Links LS 2000.
Development: Age of Empires
cost between $12 - $15 million and took two years to
Console games: popular console games
include Super Mario Brothers, Sonic Adventure,
and Donkey Kong. Development: console games can take
1-2 years of development. The average budget for development
of a PlayStation or Nintendo 64 game is around $2 million.
Development for a PlayStation 2 game is expected to
cost at least $4 million.
High-End Games Online
PC games can be played online via websites that offer
“hosted” games. The host is an individual user who has a
personal copy of the CD-ROM containing the game. The user/host
sets up the game preferences and invites other online users
to play. In some cases, all players must have a personal
copy of the CD-ROM game; in other cases, play requires one
copy of the game for every three players. A chat interface
allows players to talk to each other.
Console games are played using a
separate console. Sega Dreamcast’s console has a built-in
56K modem, allowing for full Internet functionality through
the Sega Dreamcast Network, including chat, e-mail, web browsing
and online gaming. Sega Dreamcast currently has more than
40 titles available. The 2000 Sony Playstation 2, which also
supports audio CD and DVD video, also has multi-player and
Web Mid-to-High Range
On the web, higher-end games tend to be developed in Java
and/or VRML and are extremely complex, offering top-of-the
line graphics and smooth play. They differ from mid-range
game in their complexity of programming and logic (for example,
simulated physics models and increased possible outcomes).
Development time can be in the range of 6-8 months.
Web Mid Range
Mid-range games are the most common on the Web. Usually
developed in Flash or Shockwave, they offer a smooth playing
experience and high-quality graphics, although not as elaborate
as the high-end games. Development time is 4-6 months.
Web Low-Mid Range
The least sophisticated mid-range games maintain high
graphics quality and smooth playing, but present low level
of complexity in programming and logic. Development time
is 2-4 months.
Web Low Range
Low-end games offer less-developed graphics and less smoothness
in user experience. The low-end category may also include
games/presentations with minimal “content” or action. Development
time is 1-2 months. (See http://www.game-land.com/games/pigrace/ for an example of a low-end game.)
Types of Interactive Games
Across the range from low to high, games fall into several
- Reflex/Action games: on the Internet,
these are traditional arcade games like Pacman, Space Invaders,
etc. Less sophisticated ones tend to be minimal, graphically—like
a pong game in which the paddles are simple lines—as compared
to more elaborate ones, like a fully developed golf game
that presents a complete course, varying wind speeds and
directions, and so on. The higher-end games incorporate
3-D graphics, role-playing, and multi-player networking.
- Strategy and board games: these
include games like Checkers, Connect-4, Uno, Jigsaw puzzle,
Tic-Tac-Toe, maze, etc.
- Word/mind challenge games: crossword
puzzles, anagrams, typing tests, trivia quiz, madlibs, hangman.
- Multi-player games: Multi-player
games include card games, like poker and spades (see Yahoo
games), as well as more elaborate setups in which an individual
can “host” a retail game online using a CD-ROM. See http://www.zone.com.
A multi-player game can be a reflex/action game, strategy
or board game, word/mind challege game, an RPG, a fantasy
game, or a VRML game.
- RPGs (Role Playing Games): These
began as MUDs (multi-user dungeons) offering text-based
chat; they are now graphics-based. Sometimes a fee is charged
for online play.
- Fantasy games: Somewhere between
strategy and role-playing games, these include “Fantasy
Baseball” and “Fantasy Politics” games.
- VRML games: VMRL (“virtual reality
markup language”) makes possible richly detailed, interactive,
3D games. They tend to lie on the high end in terms of
complexity, development time, and cost. For examples, see:
Outsourcing vs. Internal Development
Outsourcing is not necessarily cost-effective or faster
than developing games internally, unless game development
is large-scale or includes high-end PC or console games.
Many of the biggest names in game development concentrate
on console and CD-ROM games and do not specialize in Internet
game development. However, many of the developers who offer
internet games also offer PC, console, and hybrid games.
The chart below lists developers in three categories: high-end,
console/PC game developers; mid-to-high range internet and
CD-ROM developers; and low-to-mid range internet game developers.
HIGH-END GAME DEVELOPERS:
PC AND CONSOLE GAMES
600 Galveston Drive
Redwood City, CA 94063
| Develops, publishes and markets interactive
entertainment for multiple platforms including the PC,
PlayStation® game console, Nintendo® 64, and the Internet.
|| Army Men
3100 Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica, California 90405
| Leading publisher, developer and distributor
of PC and console games. Founded in 1979. Partnerships
and alliances with Marvel Enterprises, Viacom (Star Trek),
Battlezone II, A Bug's Life, Cabela's Big Game Hunter
III, Dark Reign II, Interstate '82, QUAKE III, Arena,
Space Invaders, Shanghai: Second Dynasty, Soldier of Fortune,
Spider-Man, Star Trek: Armada, Star Trek: Hidden Evil,
Star Trek: Vogayer - Elite Force, Star Wars: Episode I,
Racer, Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace, Teen
Digital Diva II: Cosmic Edition, Tony Hawk Pro Skater,
Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption
| Aegis Simulation Technologies
|Ultra-realistic first-person combat games.
Can custom tailor games for use in a location-based entertainment
environment. Founded in 1997. PC games only.
BFRIS: Zero Gravity Fighter Combat
P.O. Box 18979
Irvine, CA 92623
|Established in 1994. In addition to developing
PC and console games, Blizzard owns Battle.net, a free
online game service.
||www.blizzard.comDiablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, Rock 'n
Roll Racing, The Lost
Quayside, Bridge Street
Cambridge, CB5 8AB
Ph:+44 (0) 1223 272000
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 727001
|Games and online virtual worlds, including
Creatures Village, Creatures Adventures, Creatures Playground
| Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts Inc.
209 Redwood Shores Pkwy.
Redwood City, CA 94065
|The world's largest interactive entertainment
software company. Includes online game development; strategic
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Golf, NASCAR, FIFA,Soccer, Knockout
PO Box 10307
San Rafael, CA 94912
|High-end PC and console games
Star Wars, Indiana Jones
USA Media Contact
H A S B R O I N T E R A C I V E
50 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
|Develops PC, console, and online games. Joined
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
|Microsoft owns many of the most popular games,
including several developed by companies in this chart.
Microsoft also runs The Zone, a monolithic gaming site.
Asheron's Call, Pandora's Box, Pinball Arcade, Baseball
2000, Links™, LS 2000, NBA Inside, Drive 2000, Golf 1999
Edition, International Soccer 2000, NFL Fever 2000, Age
of Empires®, Close Combat™, Combat Flight Simulator, Flight
Simulator 2000, Midtown Madness
2000 Alameda De Las Pulgas
San Mateo, CA 94403
Tel: (650) 287 6500
Fax: (650) 287 6598
|Sony Playstation games. Founded 1984, acquired
by the Sony Corporation in 1993. Partner relationship
with Activision (and others). See also: Labrysmm.co.uk.
Wipeout 3, Formula One 99, Drakan, Colony Wars, Metal
654 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105
|Custom, unique, interactive, animated 3D content.
Founded in 1994 and produced successful CD-ROM games.
Focus shifted to Internet in 1997; the Pulse Creator™
and Pulse Player™ were completed in 1998.
Greeting cards, Virtual Jay Leno, MTV’s Dance Amp Lab,Mattel’s
| Red Storm Entertainment
2000 Aerial Center, Suite110
Morrisville, NC 27560
Brad Smith, Director of Sales
Ph: 919-460-1776 x3063
|Founded in 1996 by novelist Tom Clancy, Red
Storm specializes in CD-ROM games, console games, and
related merchandise with tie-ins to Clancy’s novels. Many
games combine full 3-D graphics, seamless action, strategic
gameplay, and enhanced multi-player capabilities. North
American distribution through SouthPeak Interactivewww.southpeak.com.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, Shadow
C/o Hitechniaga Sdn Bhd
Technology Park, Malaysia
Bukit Jalil, 57000
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ph: 603-9660966 x2256, 603-96600880
|Real-time, multiplayer adventure role-playing
& strategy games for PC.
325 317 Canbera House
London, W1R 7YB
Ph: +44 (0) 071-299-3434
Fax: +44 (0) 631-5050
Tim Carrigan, Timc@noho.co.uk
|Ogilvy-owned new media company specializing
in Shockwave and Flash. Web and CD-ROM development.
LOW-TO-MID RANGE GAME
DEVELOPERS: INTERNET GAMES
Gib Chapman, Senior VP Sales & Marketing
Ph. 212-352-2040 x292
| Creative, marketing-driven online games;
offers off-the-shelf and custom designed games. Sports,
665 Clyde Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
| Web-based, real-time, live voice communication.,
|| Online Karaoke, Foreign language interaction, Multiplayer
2727 Mariposa, Studio
, San Francisco, , CA 94110
| Creates animations for broadcast and web
using its proprietary ALIVE Performance Animation software.
|| No games, but check out "Virtual Bill" on Dotcomix.com,
developed for MTV.
Bilderdijkstraat 190-I1053 LE
Ph: 00 31 (0)30 2717206
Fax: 00 31 (0)30 2717206
| Shockwave and Java web games. Games can be
licensed or custom-built.
Toothpick GP, Herman's Slide a '00', Bill Darla Soft Feed,The
Naybors, Bill Xtreme, Snowboarding, Rudolph's Nose Job
505 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07602
Gary Kitchen: ext. 11
Bill Wentworth: ext. 12
| Flash and Shockwave applications and games
with emphasis on branding.
|| www.nabiscoworld.com, www.candystand.com, www.cornnuts.com
| Small World
| Largest independent developer of free online
fantasy sports games. Offers co-branding. Founded in 1994.
|| College Hoops, Hockey, Politics, Baseball
| VRML designers/developers. Produce intricate,
Java-based, real-time, animated, 3-D applets.
Flowerscene, Turtle, Halo
350 University Ave
Westwood, MA 02090
| Internet multiplayer games. Founded 1994.