Thinking about how the game industry's employment models relate to the film industry's models (I'm not sure the two are similar enough to use the same methods), I got to wondering if the game industry could make use of a theater system or something similar.
Ultimately, films end up on DVDs, iTunes, TV, etc. That's where long-term profits come from. But the film industry relies heavily on short-term sales in the form of movie theater tickets. Generally speaking, films are not available as ownable copies until after they have had a run in theaters.
Could games use a similar financial model?
Right now, games go straight from development to ownable copies. It could almost certainly be different, but should it be? What are the alternatives?
Theater gaming could work. Whereas 50+ people can view a movie in a theater, far fewer can simultaneously play a game (currently, anyway). That said, more and more multiplayer games can support 16-32 simultaneous players. I expect charging that many people for an hour or two of playtime on a giant screen in a dark theater (perhaps with rumbling seats, scoreboards on the back of seats or on the walls, permanent theater records, etc) before a game's release to discs and downloads could prove profitable. How many people would pay to join a theater tournament for a new game, ala Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, for both the experience and for a chance to hold that particular theater's permanent records for that game's competitions? Many, I'm sure.
What are some other possibilities?