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Random House's New Digital Obsession Includes a Video Games Division

random house games

Random House has announced it's diversifying to offset the failing profits from the traditional book publishing biz, but its target market is fascinating: Video games. So will video games benefit from a publisher, or more the other way around?

Random has set up a dedicated team inside the company with the purpose of generating original story content for video games and to provide advice to games writers already in-mid development. Two original projects have already been started: a fantasy adventure and a horror thriller, complete with story lines, character lists, and a target gaming audience sketched out—Random is looking for buyers. It's also signed a deal with Stardock Corp. to help with the production of the $5 million Elemental: War of Magic game that's due soon.

Though it may sound like a bit of a Rube-Goldberg hotch-potch, bolting a video games unit to a book publishing house, there are actually two business events behind the move that make it sensible. Firstly, Random's business planners have looked at the future, and seen that the traditional print business is about to undergo a revolution. It's one that may result in slipping revenues: E-publishing. And an excellent way to deflect a downturn in your core business is diversification, so that's what Random's doing.

Meanwhile, the tech behind video games is rocketing ever upwards, with sophisticated dedicated silicon in consoles like the PlayStation 3, and with ever-more powerful graphics cards in normal PCs, huge storage space on hard drives, and ubiquitous home broadband for live cross-planet interactive gaming. Paralleling these technical advances, games themselves are becoming more sophisticated and creative. And a more sophisticated, story-led game needs a skillful writing team to come up with the plot lines, characters and dialog if it's to deliver a good experience to the players.

So, Random will use its stable of authors to help generate high-quality dialog and plots for games, and the 15-man in-house games team will do all the industry liaison. Random gets a new revenue stream, developers like Stardock get improved in-game content, and players who've long complained about crappy dialog will benefit from more satisfying characters. And where Random's beating this path, you can be absolutely certain that other publishers will be following over the coming years: We've come a long way from "All Your Base Are Belong To Us."

[Via Wall Street Journal]