An interesting wrinkle that I hadn't thought to explore came up today, and it was one that I thought I'd throw my hat in on as well, just ahead of the Christmas holiday. What effect with the elementary school shooting in Newtown have on the investment people place in games? Is this truly the end of the triple-A gaming circuit, with games already having a tough enough time reaching profitability?
The answer to the second question, thankfully, is almost certainly no. Let's consider, after all, Columbine. There were plenty out there who were concerned about the fate of video games as a whole when it was discovered that Harris and Klebold were Doom enthusiasts. But in much the same way that Columbine didn't stop gaming, Sandy Hill isn't likely to either, thankfully.
The logic behind such a premise is, naturally, deeply flawed. After all, when a car gets hit by a train there isn't a frantic rush to ban Amtrak. When a plane crashes there's no call to close the airports. But for those of us who enjoy our video games, a school shooting seems to put us a little extra on-edge for a while, and it's a safe bet that this shouldn't be the case.
Oh, sure, there will likely be some investors out there who don't want their names connected with EA and the like following such an event. Additionally, recent legislation proposed by West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller is set to launch a new study that will help determine just what impact video games have on children in the first place. This also has a few investors on a skittish path; why invest in a company that just might have its market suddenly limited?
Of course, the impact of such legislation is likely to be minimal. The ESRB's ratings system has done its job, and done it surprisingly well. For the most part, games rated above certain age groups are either kept out of those age groups' hands or provided with the sanction of parents involved in the picture. That's not always the case, of course--that's why I said "for the most part"--but considering that the average age of a "Call of Duty" player is, at last report, 29, the job seems to be getting done.
So while there may be some image problems for some investors sticking around, and there may be some limitations to the market, it's a safe bet that large portions of the investor pool will be left quite intact. The market for games is likely to stay reasonably strong--terrible economic conditions really haven't had near as much impact as aging game systems--so investors may head for the exits in the short term, but it's a pretty fair bet indeed that they'll be back, and they'll likely stick around.