Here’s the article: http://gamasutra.com/view/news/174972/AAA_games_What_lies_ahead.php
NOTE: I’m going to talk for a brief while without mentioning this article. But this post has to do with the overall state of gaming and its marriage to Business. The article will be relevant further down.
I am going to be the first person to mention that when it comes to business I know absolute squat. I’m a consumer. I can only look at corporations and business from my side of things. So if I were to re-express previous opinions such as, “DLC is a penny-pinching way to cut off content we should have anyway,” then it would be recognized obviously as a consumer complaint. The main goal, as a consumer, would be wanting more for less.
However I don’t completely misunderstand the business world. Business is the establishment by a person to deal goods to the other people. In the whole wide world, there is no such thing as a business that isn’t looking for profit. Certainly, some businesses may not be looking for nearly as much profit as everybody else (think of your local gaming store) but no business thrives without profit.
So do I still hate DLC? Absolutely. Do I misunderstand why it exists? No. Do I blame the businesses and developers who make the stuff for wanting to make it? No.
In that sense, they are living up to their definition of business just as I am living up to my definition of being a consumer. Its an inevitable split that will always result in the type of battles we have evolved with throughout the industry.
But there is an obvious trend, one that seems to have been thrown all-out into the face of the game industry recently that very clearly shows that current trends in the business model are not working, in fact, it seems that all of this evidence is piling up to suggest that video games are about to take a crash in the near future very quickly.
Perhaps I was oblivious when I was younger, but it seems like the greed of large industrial leaders has been a bit more on the forefront in this generation of console gaming than the last ever where. There have always been expansion packs of course, but it was this generation that thought to sell the expansion packs a single piece at a time. Older consoles had tricky dealings, Sims games on Gamecube had the distinct notion of always requiring a larger memory card, certain games required graphics enhancers for the system, all that sort of jazz. In one way or another, it has always felt like consoles have been grabbing at the money in our pockets, but has it really been as bad as it seems now?
I mean just a brief glance at the sheer number of studios with promising game releases that have been terminated or fallen off seems to be mounting to a head. Recent closure of Radical Entertainment, the company that released the two Prototype games, were closed when their games were quite popular and sales were, at least to a bumkin like me, quite good.
EA has stated that it needs to sell five million copies of Dead Space 3 to continue the franchise and has shown they are willing to kill genres in order to do so. Dead Space is a relatively popular franchise, the original is considered one of this generations classic horror survival games (despite following the more actiony Resident Evil 4 formula (read: not scary)) and EA has apparently decided to add co-op and liven up the action aspect in order to sell more.
Is this what it means to be AAA nowadays? If you are going to require a sequel to sell more than its predecessor, even after you basically make it like every other action shooter out there, are you really fighting for the games survival or are you trying to kill the IP?
If the future of AAA gaming is to make everything as close to Call of Duty as possible, then the future really is looking bleak.
Ahem to address the article in question, in order to boost the AAA market, game companies are finally looking at closing this game generation and releasing the next set of consoles.
So in a nutshell, the AAA industry’s plan of reviving their industry is…
1. Spend a whole lot of money shipping out a new product that must be equipped with more powerful and more expensive technology than current hardware.
2. Create a bunch of games that fit on this hardware (presumably better hardware means the games cost more money and thus need more investment)
3. Hope that people rush out to buy new systems with limited libraries as opposed to keeping their old ones with vast libraries of games that are still capable of online play.
Though I point out these limited and mostly satirically written flaws, the other question is “when would the right time for a new generation be?”
Gaming and technology in general has evolved a lot over the past seven years. At the start of this generation, our gaming consoles were probably some of the most advanced technologies we had in our home, now odds are we’re carrying more efficient operating systems in our pockets. I have at least five games on my iPhone, I can’t imagine how many you can fit on your iPad.
So the correct answer for my above question is probably NOW. Like right NOW.
But is a new console generation going to solve the AAA market’s problems? No I don’t think so. As the linked article points out, the new consoles will be a risk, “one that could kill the AAA market as we know it.”
However isn’t this all really missing the bigger point here? How much money do you truly need to create a game nowadays? Do we really need games with the most glossed over graphics and the most generic definition of the term beautiful attached to them? I’ve always said that graphics aren’t important and anyone who disagrees with me should count the number of indie games they have on their hard drives. Shadow of the Colossus was made on PS2 and its probably the most beautiful game out there.
Which leads me to yet another question: Is it really going to be bad if AAA games crash?
Now the immediate arguments that pop into my head is, “Yes, we will always need big market moguls, its like saying do we need Hollywood to make movies? Someone must push the money for development.”
But if we lack a AAA market we won’t have threats of IPs being terminated because they couldn’t “reach a wide commercial audience,” we will never see horror games evolve into action shooters, we won’t get the repeat copy formulas of loot grind (Diablo 3) fps (Call of Duty) or whatever else out there, is being forcefully made by teams of developers nowadays simply because the check book holder wants all of that wasted money back and we blew it on the special effects budget.
If anything, what we need is a negative generation, a step back into older graphics, something not quite so sophisticated, so that we can focus on what is really important: advancing the medium through classic gaming qualities, not blockbuster video games.
See the reason Hollywood works and AAA Video Games don’t is because we don’t buy as many video games as we go to see movies. So when a movie is made for 100,000,000 dollars they could reasonably see that profit back. Considering a group of maybe thirty million people are active gamers we cannot put 100,000,000 dollars into ANYTHING.
Hell putting 10,000,000 dollars into a game is already rediculous.
Am I saying I don’t want anything to be Skyrim? Am I saying I never want another Call of Duty 4? No. But if the current game industry is going to drive itself into the ground by throwing money at an ever expanding black hole, then maybe we should just go back to playing free flash games on the internet.
Or maybe that’s what the social gaming movement is actually all about.
Here’s the links to other articles I mentioned or references for data
Here is where EA is quoted as needing 5,000,000 copies of Dead Space 3 sold.
Radical Entertainment’s closure.