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Digital Dreams and Tangible Things part two: The Second Renaissance

Omar Jeter

In the second part of our four-part series we look at how companies and creators survive, strive, or become extinct as well as the casualties of Untamed Wilds of the digital Whirlwind.
Once again as a community we are always looking for the satisfaction of a simplistic lifestyle. It is in our nature to try and make life as easy and stress-free as possible. This can be summed up in many different ways such as saving space, saving time, and saving money. It is undeniable that things in a digital format present an opportunity for all three of these categories to be utilized in a very positive way. In all types of format whether it be music, video games, books, comics, and other recreational methods, no matter how good something is we always want it to be better.
In the case of video games, we have made the migration from having a bookshelf filled with video games to a simple hard drive small enough to fit into your pocket containing 10 times the amount of games that would normally be stored on average players display. In a recent online study in 2009 digital copies of video games represented only 20% of total sold versus the 80% of physical copies sold, a little under 10 years later, that number has changed drastically with now a whopping 83% of total gross games purchased being of a digital format versus only 17% of actual physical copies of games being sold. This causes great concern for corporations such as Gamestop who is quite frankly the last of the red-hot Dragons out living EB games, Funcoland, and other now-defunct gaming stores and arcades. The simple ease of just cycling through an external hard drive library of games versus having to get up and actually change out a cartridge or disc has turned convenience into a corporate killing monster. From a creativity standpoint, video game programmers and creators have never seen such a huge cash flow come in as they are experiencing right now, with 7 out of 10 games on a weekly basis being considered independent games which means the programmers had little to no help from huge companies such as Ubisoft, Square Enix, BioWare, Bethesda, Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo. They developed and program these games on their own sometimes from the comfort of their own home and once the game creates enough Buzz they sell a portion of the rights to their games to some of the big console juggernauts.
In the case of books and novels, we see similar numbers although not quite as severe from a corporate standpoint but still enough to cause concern and to have companies such as Barnes and Nobles, Books-A-Million, and small independent coffee shops frantically trying to develop a plan B which most of the time consist of converting to meet their customers needs on a digital level. As of 2018, a whopping 72% of digital novels were sold with an estimated physical currency amount of 1.02 billion in the U.S. alone. And while these businesses can still cater to their customers providing such Services as Wi-Fi, snacks and drinks, comfortable reading environments, and other research necessities and accessories, the meat and potatoes of their revenue are on a declining ride. Once again this is an Avenue in which the writers do not suffer very much in forms of generated physical Revenue because of the simple fact that they can charge just as much for somebody to download a digital copy of their work as they would for someone to purchase a physical copy.
While movies went through a period in which bootleg copies of films were being sold on the black market for as little as five bucks on VHS and DVD, the introduction of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney plus, Tubi TV, WWE Network and others looked at digital formats as an unclaimed gold mine. They welcomed the death of physical copies and the franchises that sold and rented them such as Blockbuster Video and other movie rental places and they simply decided to become their own masters by creating what is now known as streaming services. If you think about it from a business aspect if one store purchases a copy of Gone with the Wind for $35 but continuously Rents It Out for $4, the tape will pay for itself in just a few rentals, which leaves the studio company who created the movie not making any extra profit, but if you take a company like Disney Plus who put their entire Library on a streaming service with a constant rotation subscription, it is guaranteed for people to stay on to see what will be added next. Subscription services are like guaranteed money that the companies will get at the first of the month, in this case, it was a corporate killer from a rental standpoint, but it was beautiful photosynthesis on the part of the studios themselves.
For now, hobby retailers such as comic book shops do not suffer too much and remain unscathed as well. there are Digital streaming services to read entire libraries and collections from companies such as Marvel, DC, an independent books from streaming services such as Comixology and webtoons, but these places are watching the market very closely to prepare for a Siege on their castles, for now, their sales of physical copies of comic books remain on the upside versus the digital download of comic books. With only 34% of people in 2019 reading comic books on a digital device, it is the collectability aspect that will always be the calvary as far as the protection from the storming of their respective keeps. Throw in the action figure Collectibles and apparel Market which is at an all-time high, and for every attack, they can stand on top of their Castle raising their flags in Victory. With comic books being one of the most collectible aspects of pop culture on a monetary and nostalgic scale out of all the different formats of the nerd community. It is not so much luck as it is skill and merchandise that keeps these fantastic places in business for the foreseeable future.
One of the biggest assassination attempts has to be in the form of music, this is the one particular area where everybody suffers and just like the dinosaurs you have to evolve or perish. Up until the creation of Napster, musicians could simply survive on the sale of physical copies of cassette tapes and CDs and they would look upon other sources of revenue such as t-shirts, book bags, television and movie appearances, and autographs as a bonus, a very huge big fat bonus. But now with this being the most notorious and villainous of streaming sources most of the time on a non-profit level in which music is being downloaded or at times described as “stolen” for free, musicians had suffered the most from the digital attack as what was considered as a healthy bonus can now be perhaps their main if not only source of Revenue. Making a small profit from streaming services because of the simple fact that the profits have to be split between thousands of other musicians who have their music available on those platforms such as Spotify, Google play music, and Pandora. With almost the entire populous using one or more of these streaming services, physical copies of music including vinyl records are now only sought after as a collector’s item, or even referred to as a relic at times. An object from times of old.
The funny thing about evolution is that it can be voluntarily done or forced out of necessity and survival. And as we look to make things more simplistic over the next decade, we will see more and more of these changes taking place. The most important thing to remember is not where we’re going and these optic wildlands, but where we have been that has led us to this point. It is okay to make things more simplistic and to make life easier as long as we are having fun in the process. After all, if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.

oajeter45@gmail.com

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