video games

A Celebration of Video Game Animation

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This year's E3, or Electronic Entertainment Expo, wrapped up yesterday. The event offered an opportunity for game developers to show off their upcoming titles, recent technology breakthroughs, and so much more. Fans descended in droves upon the convention, and millions more tuned in online. Interactive entertainment has grown into a massive industry, and forms one of the most visible components of the animation industry in general. With E3 so fresh in our minds, it's worth taking a look at video games and celebrate the unique qualities that make it such an important part of the animation field.

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For one thing, video games are most likely to be consumed by general audiences within the United States. Animated feature films and animated series are often discounted as primarily family-friendly media, or else as crude adult entertainment. There are precious few PG-13 or TV-14 productions in animation. However, people who might turn up their nose at animated films and series often are happy to play a video game.  It could be a complex historical simulator, or a simple puzzle game. It might require a top-notch PC, or it could run on your phone. It might take twenty hours to complete, or twenty minutes. People of all types and all ages find video games that they enjoy. It's boosted the domestic industry to a  worth of $18.4 billion as of 2017. That's over $18 billion of animated works reaching players just within the United States! Compare that to a domestic film industry worth of $38 billion in 2016. While that's higher, only a fraction of that includes animation.

The video game industry isn't just incredibly lucrative though. The structure of the industry also allows smaller publishers to compete with larger ones, especially when it comes to PCs. In all media industries, distribution can lead to gatekeeping. Movie theaters only have so many screens, and thus have to pick and choose which films will draw the biggest audiences. Television channels only have twenty-four hours to fit programming into. With video games though, there are very few restrictions about how many titles can be put into a digital store. Personal projects are free to compete beside the prestigious AAA titles, the "blockbusters" of the gaming world. Platforms such as Steam allow anyone to sell their work, and sites such as itch.io tout plenty of indie titles. Promotion may rely on social media, paid advertisements, or sheer word of mouth. Some of the most popular channels on YouTube, for example, feature people playing video games. Being featured in a video often drives up business for people who may not otherwise have the budget for a marketing campaign.

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Because the gates to success are so much more open, and because the audience is so wide, a spectacular variety of video games may emerge - and they have. You have the colorfully energetic Super Mario Odyssey which won over players last fall; you have the photorealistic Detroit: Become Human that's winning over players since this past May. All kinds of styles can be seen on display. There's even room for experimentation. Pop-culture sensation Undertale used a pixelated style that hearkened back to the old arcade games of the past. Last year's Cuphead caused a stir with its hand-drawn animation, an endeavor that its creators mortgaged their house to create — and a gamble that thankfully paid off. If you can think of a visual style, there's a game out there that uses it. And if you can't find it, you can make it.

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One of the most remarkable things about games though is the way that they blend art and science. Some of the first computer games were text based, essentially codes-for-fun. As computers became more and more powerful, text became replaced with visuals — and that's where animation began to get its foothold in a powerful new industry. Improved codes allowed for more intricate gameplay, and improved computer animation allowed for more immersive gameplay. The result has yet to be fully explored. Entire classes can be found that focus on the psychology behind video games, how they work, and how they can be made more fulfilling. Developers are always looking for ways to get players to keep coming back, through both artistic craft and scientific understanding.

Animation for interactive media is such a unique part of the industry, and it's a part of the industry that's growing more and more. Major studios are funneling hundreds of millions behind big-name projects, and individuals are putting out new work every day online. As technology grows, video game animation will grow with it, and we'll be here to see it. All eyes are already turning to E3 2019, to see the newest chapter unfold. 


Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production.  We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.

Rooster Teeth, Other Texas Animators Growing Strong

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Several states in the nation offer incentives to media producers. Texas is one of those states. Through the government's support, a thriving industry has sprouted up within Texas — especially a thriving animation industry. In fact, the state itself provides a hotline for animation jobs available in Texas. Animation has become a strong part of the Texan economy, both through direst employment and also through indirect effects.

One of the best examples is Rooster Teeth, based out of Austin, Texas, and has been around for fifteen years. Originally the producers focused on video game reviews, but began to branch out into non-game content around 2003. They produce animated series for Internet viewers: popular titles include Red vs. Blue, RWBY, and Camp Camp. They even have divisions dedicated to producing games and podcasts as well. Live-action content is part of the mix too, providing a diverse portfolio of content that has garnered them incredible success - success that is only growing.

Just last week, Rooster Teeth made headlines when it announced that none other than Michael B. Jordan will be joining forces with the studio for gen:LOCK, a new anime-style series. Jordan has built up his reputation as an actor lately, and just this year appeared in Marvel’s smash hit Black Panther as the main antagonist. He commands a lot of starpower, and hints at the increasing prestige of Rooster Teeth as a studio, as well as online animation as a medium.

Rooster Teeth doesn't just attract the attention of top-notch Hollywood talent though. It has also gathered a base of devoted fans. Across their YouTube channels they’ve gathered up to 38 million subscribers according to The Wall Street Journal. Besides this free audience though, they also have two hundred thousand people who pay a monthly subscription for exclusive content, and early-access to the rest. In fact, every year Rooster Teeth hosts RTX, an annual convention devoted entirely to the studio. The event draws sixty-five thousand people annually to the Austin area. That brings people to local venues and shops, thus giving a boost to the local economy in general.

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Now not every studio in Texas has the kind of celebrity that Rooster Teeth does, but they still form an integral part of the local entertainment industry. Hundreds of jobs are created at animation studios, especially plenty of stable jobs. The Texas Film Commission has only limited resources to give out, and those resources are determined by political winds. Live-action productions might receive funding, but because of their quick turn-around time, work is finished quickly and then funding may be denied thanks to new attitudes in the state legislature. Animated productions inherently take more time though. Once the state has agreed to fund a project, then that funding persists through the duration of the production. As a result, animation is more insulated from shifting political attitudes, and more stable as an industry within Texas.

Texan animation does have some stiff competition. Besides Hollywood, Canada and Georgia have stronger subsidies for studios. However, Texas does boast lower living costs coupled with vibrant metropolitan areas. It's a strong area to consider for animators seeking employment. With such a well-established animation community already in place, the state looks to be a hotbed of excitement in the near future.

The Business of Animation Looks Rosy

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People love animation. In fact, people love animation so much that it's a $254 billion industry! In fact, it's due to grow 6% over the next two years to $270 billion, according to a new report from Research and Markets. It covers animation, visual effects, and games around the globe. While the lengthy report is stuck behind a paywall, several of its key findings are available to view. Here are some quick highlights, and some thoughts about them:

  • VFX Growth: Audiences are watching films and movies — Infinity War is due to cross the billion dollar mark after only a week! According to the report, audiences are looking for more "engaging visual effects and realistic animation." As a result, most productions are spending 20-25% of their budgets on the effects. With film budgets now hitting $300 million or more, that's a lot of money being spent on animation! People are looking for more spectacle, the kind of spectacle that only animated effects can create.
  • Streaming: Audiences are continuing their drift over to streaming platforms. Netflix and Amazon, as well as Facebook and YouTube, are becoming an important channel for animators to consider. In 2017, streaming animation was worth in $2.4 billion, but is growing fast at eight percent a year. More and more major studios are hopping onto streaming services, especially the Walt Disney Company. Especially as more and more people worldwide get connected to faster internet, streamed video content will become even more popular.
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  • Video Games: Video games alone were worth $92 billion in 2017. New services are allowing publishers to better analyze players and tweak their games to maximize satisfaction. The report also mentions "availability of low cost micro-payment systems" for digital content, calling them "the key for online games market to grow." This part should be taken with a grain of salt, though, considering recent controversies over microtransactions. Some countries have placed restrictions or even outright bans on these microtransactions, and a few states are considering doing the same. 
  • ESports: Connected with video games is the continuing rise of eSports tournaments, which feature players competing at huge events. The report mentions that the industry is growing at a massive rate of thirty percent annually, and will be worth a billion dollars next year. With spectators and fans flooding these events, eSports may very well dramatically change the culture of gaming and how it's seen — and embraced — by the general public. That means a changing market, and potentially even more room for growth and expansion.

These are just some key points to be found in the report, but there's so much more to unpack. One thing is for certain though: animation as an industry continues to be strong and vibrant, with lots of new opportunities in the near future!


Eric Miller Animation Studios is dedicated to crafting heartfelt stories and compelling visuals through 3D computer graphics, offering design and VFX for advertising, gaming, TV & film production.  We work with the best animation talent in the industry to deliver visually stunning imagery. Big or small, we can bring any character or story to life.