Top 10 Reasons The Video Game Industry Is In Trouble
Yes I will do it! I’m the bearer of doom and gloom. Someone has to do it. While most publications are rife with BEST this and that about the industry, few are looking at what ails it. I intend to rectify this with my list and hopes for the fixes of my favorite hobby. Without further ado…
Yes, the industry has gotten sick with it. Following Hollywood tit for tat video games, for the most part, have become wholly un-original. Before you come stampeding my way with torches, let me explain. I don’t mean original as in a new genre or way to play a game (ducking Wii-motes). I mean original as in a new IP (Intellectual Property). What happened to getting excited over new characters? All of the gaming icons we know were once new. Instead of creating new characters, we get the same ones for the fifth, sixth, and eleventh installments. I subscribe to the financial reasoning of betting on a name that people know, but it also smacks in the face of how that character became popular in the first place. No! I don’t want to play as Dante anymore, at least not for a while. I’m tired of hopping around with Mario, can I get a new character? Everyone talks about how this year was so great for gaming, but virtually every game on the Best Sellers list is a sequel - GTAIV, MGS:4, DMC 4, GHWT, Rock Band 2, GOW2, Res: 2, Mario Kart, etc etc (You know these titles so well I can abbreviate them) How about a year without any sequels and totally new IP? Wouldn’t that be refreshing…
9. Too Many Sku’s
Sweet Jeebus. I know the consumer likes choice but this is going way over the top. I’ll give it to the Nintendo peeps. They’ve stuck the course for a pretty long time now. 1 Price, 1 System. (But we all know the skittles colors are coming. When? I’ll tell you right now. When the system starts to loose steam. “Introducing the Wii in your favorite color to match your carpet, wall, or rainbow brite shoes!” Mark my words, but I digress…) We’ve had to deal with multiple sku’s this gen more so than any other time in history. If I was a clueless parent walking into a store I know what I would do. GET THE CHEAPEST ONE. Guess which one that happens to be? (until recently) Yup the Nintendo Wii. I just single handedly explained the phenomenon. Will little Timmy and Sam be happy with their Wii? You bet ya. Until they go to Justin’s house and see Resistance 2, or Mark’s house and see Gears 2. Then Timmy isn’t so happy and asks why didn’t he get a PS3 or XBOX360. The sole answer was Microsoft and Sony confused the hell outta his parents. Good thing we’ve past the days where you didn’t know whether the one you bought had HDMI, a hard drive, or was wireless (have we?). But the damage has already been done. I don’t want to choose between a $250, $300, $500 version of a system. Because I know the cheap one will be gimped. And those prices were crazy to begin with. Which one do you have? The 20, 40, 60, 80, or 160 gig PS3? The arcade, basic, pro, Halo 3 edition or Elite?
8. No Mascots
Who decided that platform gaming was dead? Who? Please tell me? The icons of the genre sold hand over fist and generally garnered great reviews. Sure we had the duds like Blinx and Vexx, but that hasn’t stopped endless versions of nameless, soul less, super soldier shoot em ups from coming out. Who killed the platform genre? Tell me so I can hunt them down. Not only were these games fun (and what I call a game and not a real life super realistic war/flight/driving simulator), they also gave birth to some memorable stories. Of course you had Mario and Luigi… but I’m gonna take the time to give a shout out to all the other doughboys. Sonic, Bonk, Conkers, Jak, Ratchet, Sly, Conker, Banjo, Spyro, Tak, Ty, Crash, Rayman, Raz and a bunch of others that I can go on for ages. R.I.P. and No i’m not gonna go back on my word about sequels, don’t bring these guys back. Give us new ones! They were all new at one point!
7. Neglected Genres
Once upon a time if I were a gamer I could got into a store and have a multitude of quality choices of genre. With consolidation and the inexplicable killing of genres, the pickens are slim for some out there. You already know how I feel about platformers, but other genres have been shortchanged this go around as well. Top of my mind? RPG’s! Now I’m not the most super duper role playing gamer. I literally got put onto RPG’s (other than Zelda but thats another story) with Final Fantasy 7. Square shot to my radar with the then (and still in some ways) awesome CG cutscenes. Now-a-days with the graphics on these powerhouses supposedly all the rage… why can’t we get some good rpg loving? Final Fantasy 13 you say? Once again Sweet Jeebus! I remember when Final Fantasy’s came out every year. Now? It’ll be lucky if it makes this gen! 2010? Aint that when the new systems are coming out? Damn straight a new Nintendo system will be out by then, and Microsoft won’t be far behind. But RPG’s don’t = Final Fantasy. There were many other gems from years past; the Chrono’s, Xenogears, Persona, Kingdom Hearts, .hack even! and many more. To date the best “Next-Gen” RPG has been Lost Odyssey. Come on guys give us the EPICS!
*Note maybe I should call it Japan RPG’s because America is trying it’s best to hold it down with the likes of Fable, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3, but we all know where the RPG kings come from.
I have to admit that back when the original XBOX came out I was a big fan of multi-platform. because there was a clear advantage. The game was almost always better on the XBOX. Better graphics, sound, the whole 9 compared to the PS2 and GameCube. So Multi-Plat was actually single plat for me. But something happened on the way to making sense. The Nintendo version is still the crap of the bunch (Don’t get Mad, Get Money © - Grey) the XBOX version is usually better than the PS3 (Yes they are, don’t hate. Just speaking the facts) and you know what happens. The quality of the whole shibang has gone to shit. The days of devs mastering a hardware platform and squeezing out something so amazing you can’t think straight are gone. Replaced by unruly deadlines and having to construct a title that will not only work on multiple consoles, but pc’s, and handhelds, and phones, and billboards at sporting events. So the quality testing that used to ensure the best game possible is always cut because a date has to be hit. I can go into the movie tie ins and all that but I’m not. I’ll just say all the consoles have dropped the ball in bringing truly original titles to their systems that you can’t get anywhere else. They’ve bagged sequels and went straight to the bank. We as consumers should revolt!
5. Big Publishers
Can’t beat em, Buy em! What started with EA trying to singlehandedly purchase the industry. Continued with a lot of indie houses getting scooped up by larger entities. Whether it be a big company like EA, Universal, or Take Two or going “First Party”, these smaller shops can’t survive without the publishing and marketing muscle those alliances afford. Along the way, gone is the creativity and everything becomes about the bottom line. Want to create a compelling single player narrative? “Where’s the online? People love online, so add a deathmatch!” Want to create a new ip with a totally new character and setting? “Hmmmm let’s insert character B and make it part 3″ Man there’s no answer for this…
4. XBOX Live Marketplace
Microsoft gets kudos for the XBOX Live experience and online matchmaking and stability and updates and all. But micro-transactions? Come on. I don’t want to pay ANY money for icons and wallpapers. It’s just decoration that allows me to show affinity for your game! Why should I have to pay for it. God forbid, I can’t even preview it before i purchase! Want a different gun? Buy it. Want a new level? Buy it. Games not done but need to hit retail? Put a patch and a new multiplayer map and get users to Buy it. Nuff said.
3. Nintendo Conservatism
Some of you may remember my post on Nintendo a few months back. Same issues. Nintendo bring the noise to reward your loyal fans for being just that. Also work on a cure for the acute case of sequelitis that you have and you’ll be straight.
Where do I start? Ever head of Second Life? Nope? Well let me clue you in. A novel idea that was overrun by corporate nonsense and became the defacto advertising coin term. “What are you doing in this new platform, we have to target gamers! They all play Second Life! We must have a presence! Let’s build stores and experiences in the game! We’ll make FaFillion Dollars! © - Dr. Evil” Except they built it but the gamers didn’t come. For every person who enjoys time-consuming games like Second Life, there are about 10,000 that wouldn’t even look at it.
But some big wig at Sony, right about the time when they were getting ready to announce that the Playstation 3 was going to be the mothership to take everyone to Utopia said, “We can make a better Second Life!” The entertainment hub that everyone will die to be a part of. “And the ADVERTISERS WOULD COME RUNNING! We can make FaFIllion Dollars!” Guess what? Yup. For every 1 person who enjoys time consuming games like Second Life, there are about 10,000 that wouldn’t even look at it. Wait you just disabled voice chat? WTF WTF WTF (me texting “What the Franks!”)
Quote from Sony - “The reason for this maintenance is to ease the difficulty some people are having accessing PlayStation Home due to the high demand for the service.”
High Demand for the service? By golly you basically promised that it would be the Mothership to Gaming Utopia you better bet that I wanna check it out! But you’ve gimped me! I can’t even tell others how bad this sucks (Wait maybe that’s the real reason chat is disabled? hmmmm) and its just another example of nothing to do on the system… where are the games…. Don’t keep telling me to wait wait, it’s been 2 freaking years!
And last but not least…
1. The So Called Casual Market
What the flip is a casual gamer? Either you play games or you don’t. You don’t casually play them. Casual def. - without or seeming to be without plan or method. free-and-easy: natural and unstudied. not showing effort or strain. hasty and without attention to detail; not thorough. occurring from time to time. All of those franking definitions are spurring the downfall of our beloved hobby. Along the way developers got confused about what casual meant. Translated it into - EASY. Let’s not make people think, let’s give them unlimited health and allow them to never miss a jump. Let’s make everything we need to interact with shiny and add a neon arrow pointing to it that says, “Push me. Press circle to push. If you can’t find circle then just tilt the controller. If you can’t tilt the controller in the proper direction, just wait a moment and the button will push itself.”
Granted there were always “easy” games. There were always hard games. Almost everyone exclaims, “I Love Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo!” but how many of you actually beat that game? It was hard as SHIT! Oh I love Pac-Man! Again hard as SHIT! My favorite game of all time is Donkey Kong! Again hard as SHIT! Dude remember Double Dragon or Contra? Yea I remember… Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start! Why? Because the game was flipping Hard and you got your 30 men.
Did any of that change your affinity for those games? I would reckon no. But developers have decided that its time to treat everyone with kids gloves. WAIT! I was a kid when I played those games and I still rocked! In a movement to get the Older demo (our parents 50+) they’ve actually made games TOO EASY. During a time where the next generation (players under 12yrs old) are actually better at playing games than we ever were (for the most part).
I am calling to arms all the gamers that are tired of being labeled “Hardcore” or “Casual” because that’s just a bunch of marketing speak. There were always people who played a certain game endlessly until they maxed out the score and always people who played only when the opportunity presented itself. We don’t need “titles” and we sure as hell don’t need companies tailoring games to us. That’s what you have different difficulties for!
There you have it, DaveDaGamer’s Top 10 Reasons the Video Game Industry is in peril.