The freelancing discussion was more interesting. The panel was a little slow to start, but the moderator engaged them perfectly and within the first ten minutes they were rapidly exchanging opposing views on the subject. Unfortunately, the moderator's otherwise flawless start was marred by switching to audience questions when there was still a very healthy debate going on between the panelists. Frankly, the questions were off base in comparison, and we could have all done without them.
The important concept of the discussion was the business of games and how that is shaping up as the revenue from games ($10B/year) surpasses that of box office receipts domestically ($9B/year). There was much talk of moving to a "Hollywood model", wherein loose confederations of freelancers get together to do a title and then split up again when it is done. However, a couple of essential pieces are missing for this approach, including the funding of early projects by the publishers, which is something that doesn't happen in the game industry very often. Right now, almost no publishers are willing to take chances, because they are too concerned with not losing to attempt to win with something new and different from an unproven team.
With that said, further concern was raised that the model may approach something more like the "music model", wherein otherwise useless intermediaries sap the life (and the profits) out of the artists and workers by making them take all of the chances producing the early versions of games and then just green-light the projects after their initial prototypes.
This is a bad model for the industry and the gamers, since the only money to be had will either come from established studios (of which independent ones are becoming fewer and farther between) or from outside capital sources (which are even fewer and farther between).
American McGee, though, believes strongly in the ability for the next great games to come in with lower production values, but better gameplay. Capitalizing on internet distribution and word-of-mouth, or viral, marketing and still provide an avenue for innovation.
It's going to be interesting to see how the money and the pressure change this fast-paced industry.