The Game Industry is not just in a ‘transition period’, it is in serious trouble. The macro environment has changed. Economic growth has turned into economic depression in the West. Population growth is no longer there. With the rise of even more development costs, gaming will only be done by a few big companies (EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Console companies) and everyone else will be a $1 game making peasant of either iOS games or ‘Internet transactions’. This is what an industry collapse looks like.
Gaming will become less special. Games will become commodities. Game developing will be seen as a joke of a career. (My advice to anyone in the Game Industry is to create an exit plan because you will likely be using it.)
If someone wishes to argue that the Game Industry is growing and getting stronger everyday, please attempt to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. I invite people to try because no one is even pretending the Game Industry is having ‘good days’.
Soon, very soon, I expect the Game Industry meltdown to gradually turn into a war against gamers. Gamers will be increasingly blamed as game studio after game studio implodes and as game developers keep getting pay cuts as they can only make ‘F2Play’ or iOS games.
Of course, they could get a real job. But that would admit that a life full of playing games is a wasted life. At least they would join the mainstream of society then and become ‘normal’.
I know these words offend greatly. But it is reality. I’m not going to lie and say the future of the Game Industry is ‘troubled but should be OK’. If you wish to live in that fantasy, you can always go to Kotaku or Neogaf or IGN and enter a world of make-believe.
Let’s rewind back to the start of the Seventh Generation. Nintendo said the Game Industry was in big trouble because all the ‘growth’ wasn’t actual growth but riding macro economic trends such as population growth, gamers-getting-older-and-having-more-disposable-income, multi-console ownership, additional territories to sell to thanks to globalism, and so on. Gaming stopped growing in relationship to society around the NES Era. Since the macro economic trends wouldn’t continue and costs would keep rising, gaming would inevitably decline.
Nintendo offered a turning point to the Game Industry. The Game Industry could keep doing what they are doing and enter decline OR they could change their ways and enter actual growth or, in times of macroeconomic decline, stability. I think the choice is obvious. When the Seventh Generation started, I assumed that all game developers would choose the better profitable path.
I was wrong.
Why was I wrong? I forgot that the vast majority of game developers have never had a real job. The reason why they are game developers is not because ‘this is what society needs’ but ‘this is what I want to do with my life’. A real job is something that society needs. A policeman, a soldier, an oilman, a trucker, a farmer, a doctor, and there are many more that escape my mind at the moment, but society would collapse without people doing those jobs. However, society doesn’t need gaming just like it doesn’t need novelists (they don’t get paid squat).
I was wrong because I thought game developers would look at the bigger picture concerning the relationship of their jobs to society. The Golden Age of gaming, especially the Arcade Era, was marked by games being made for blue collar workers (many are people who have real jobs). Today, that link has been severed. Games are increasingly made for people who don’t have real jobs. Iwata complained in 2005 that the Game Industry was just making games for itself.
Taking a page of the NES past, Nintendo’s proposition of the future was to make games for normal people as opposed to the obsessive freaks (which Game Industry’s marketing has propagandized as ‘hardcore gamers’). It made much sense to make games for normal people. Normal people did not care so much about the ‘graphics’, for example. Therefore, costs could be kept down or in check instead of going bankrupt trying to sell to the freaks.
Nintendo’s Growth Proposition, symbolized by the Wii, was declined by the Game Industry because game developers don’t want to be connected to normal society. They don’t want to make games for normal people. They want to make games for people who are outside normal society, people like themselves. I recall Kojima being greatly offended by Brain Age. Apparently, the game developer didn’t see their jobs as ‘making games’, it was only ‘making games I wanted to make’. In no other industry is this allowed. Bus drivers don’t get to choose where they want to drive. Oilmen don’t get to choose where they want to drill. Soldiers don’t get to choose where they are to go. And unless you have capital to burn, movie makers, writers, and musicians only get to make things that sell potentially to the mass audience. The only other industry I’ve seen that said, “I don’t care about selling to the masses,” was the American newspaper industry before they went into freefall.
Gamers have the moral right to laugh and cheer the Game Industry’s collapse and even game developers losing their jobs because those same game developers chose to attack the common man. They smeared the normal person as a ‘casual gamer’ as if games were supposed to take priority over the real world, as if families and those with real jobs were to be excluded.
To show the arrogance, it was commonly said that ‘casual game sales will fuel hardcore game development’. So the only purpose of the normal person was to be blinded by marketing (which the game developer thought the normal person was so stupid anyway especially for buying that ‘crap’ console called the Wii) and buy a cheaply made ‘casual game’. This would fund hardcore game development. What happened is that sweet, sweet, normal person money vanished and now game companies are going bankrupt because they can’t fund the ‘hardcore’ games.
Even Nintendo was no different than the Game Industry on this. They were hoping the normal people who made the DS and Wii a success would then travel over to buy the games Nintendo wanted to make such as 3d Mario, Zelda, and Metroid: Other M. Instead, the normal people stayed with Wii Sports and moved to games Nintendo didn’t want to make such as 2d Mario and Mario Kart. Nintendo actually thought it could make 3d gaming a reality with the 3DS and were shocked that 3d became a huge bust. Nintendo Land being designed to ‘channel’ normal people into games Nintendo wants to make will equally be a bust. Like Wii Sports, the normal people who enjoy Nintendo Land aren’t going to be moving to 3d Mario. After all these ridiculous attempts to impose something like 3d Mario on the public, Nintendo should just throw the towel as they no longer have the money to waste.
The Game Industry had the opportunity to sell $50 games to normal people. They abused this to sell junk to the normal people and the normal people have done more than turned away. They now are making the Game Industry make them $1 games for them or games for free (while bankrupting all these companies).
And yet, game developers keep saying the normal gamer is ‘stupid’. Perhaps they are the smart ones. They’re the ones who are shaping the industry to them, not the other way around. “OK, if you want to try to sell $50 ‘casual game’ junk to me,” the normal gamer says, “Watch how you are now making the same exact game for me for free or for $1 on iOS devices or PC. Welcome to the real world, Mr. Game Developer.” The Game Industry is so deluded that they’re trying to convince themselves that games becoming a commodity is a good thing. The smarter companies in the Game Industry, such as Nintendo, are panicking and desperately trying to fight back against normal people turning games into a commodity.
Remember folks, its not Apple that is making games a commodity. It is not the Internet that is making games a commodity. It is not PCs that are making games a commodity. It is gamers that are turning gaming into a commodity.
You might ask, “Why would gamers do such a thing? Why do gamers want gaming to become a commodity?” I think it is the mirrored response to how these gamers were being treated. The Game Industry treated the normal gamer as a ‘commodity’, as something that isn’t even worth trying to make a good game for, so the normal gamers are responding. The Game Industry was so arrogant to assume that normal gamers would forever be buying crap software. Atari also assumed the same thing in 1983.
Nintendo was incorrect in their context of why gaming stopped growing in popularity. Gamers stopped gaming not because of disinterest but because of actual hostility. They were protesting gaming by refusing to purchase the products. Look at the decline of the 3DS from the DS in the West. “It’s because of smartphones and tablets, Malstrom!” No, it isn’t. It is because the 3DS went a direction people didn’t want. The games that come out on the 3DS are not what the people want either. Somehow, Nintendo thinks the West really wants Monster Hunter (despite it never selling) or Dragon Quest (despite it never selling) or 3d Mario (despite it never selling). And when they make 2d Mario now, everyone is understanding just how LAZY the game was made. Those 2d Mario fans aren’t buying the game because of disinterest, they are in full protest about Nintendo’s direction with the series.
If smartphones and tablets were the cause behind Nintendo’s handheld problems, then why aren’t games profitable on the iOS? Sega can’t even afford iOS today. I’ve yet to hear all these stories about game developers becoming rich off of smartphones and tablets. There might be a few stories, especially early when the iPhone was released, but you don’t see any true money come out of it. Especially not with $1 to $5 price tags.
Whenever you listen to the Game Industry narratives about itself and debates within itself, you never hear anything about gamers except for the freaks we call ‘hardcore gamers’. Gamers are apparently never a factor in the Game Industry analysis.
3DS not selling in the West? Has to be tablets and smartphones which is amazing since gaming is a commodity on those systems. It can’t possibly be that gamers are protesting the system and Nintendo’s changed direction. In Japan, the 3DS sales are very healthy because the 3DS has games the normal Japanese gamers want to play such as Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Animal Crossing, and so on despite smartphone and tablets being popular there as well.
What is the Game Industry about? It is about games. I laugh at all these people trying to find a scapegoat to the Game Industry’s misfortune to be anything but the games. “It’s the smartphones.” “It’s the changing Internet.” “It’s the moon.” “It’s aliens on Mars.” Or maybe the games suck? “No, Malstrom, it can’t be that. Anything but that. The games are amazing, just look at the metacritic scores.” What was the metacritic score for Wii Sports? Exactly.
Recently, the site runner of Neogaf put up a sticky called ‘System Wars’. I found this very curious since there is no console war going on at the moment. Wii U is the only Eighth Generation home system out there. The PS4 and Xbox 720 haven’t even been announced yet. What System Wars is he talking about? As the Game Industry melts down, game developers are melting down as they see their imagined career vanish like a mirage.
We deal in many harsh realities, whether they’re sales figures or platform health or whether something lives up to the hype. These facts can be heartbreaking at times, but they are not reason to get personal. Address arguments, not people. Have preferences, but try not to let those preferences lead to cognitive dissonance, even if you’re financially and emotionally invested.
This was referencing not the common gamer but the game developer (as Neogaf has many game developers on it). The ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘financially and emotionally invested’ are not about a gamer playing ‘console war’ on the Internet, it is more about the Game Industry meltdown. How is PlayStation All-Stars selling by the way? How is PC gaming sales demolishing the overpriced junk on the Xbox 360 and PS3? Oh no, Neogaf loves meltdowns and teardowns of game consumers and encourages it for entertainment. However, it is the game developers who are melting down today.
“Can’t we all just get along? It’s all about the games, people!” is bullshit, irrelevant anti-discussion drivel. No, we’re here to disseminate and discuss and debate and prove each other wrong and set the stage for the industry at large. Playing games ‘n being quiet’s got nothing to do with it.
Places like Neogaf are more interested in ‘setting the stage for the industry at large’ instead of being interested in the games. I’m seeing countless stories at Kotaku and other areas where the Game Industry writes stories about the Game Industry. “Is there sexism in the Game Industry? Oh noes!” “What does this game developer think about that game developer?” “Let’s talk more about how ‘great’ certain games are that didn’t sell and keep making more like them.” Talk about being irrelevant.
You have to be dumb to not understand that the Game Industry revolves around games (not the developers, the developers are irrelevant and their beliefs and opinions are equally irrelevant) and gamers (the overwhelming number of normal gamers, not the freaks we call the ‘hardcore’).
I think I’m going to enjoy the Eighth Generation more than the Seventh Generation. The Seventh Generation I couldn’t stop laughing at how the Game Industry was befuddled and frustrated by the DS and Wii’s success. In the Eighth Generation, I will be cheering and laughing as game company by game company goes under and applauding how more and more game developers will actually have to get a (gasp) real job! It is too much enjoyment!
“Why are you being so mean?” the reader asks. I’m not the mean one. The Game Industry started with games for normal people like PONG (while Computer Space which the MIT freaks loved didn’t sell at all). The big hit games were all normal people games like Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda (action packed, skill based, and Aonuma free), Super Mario Kart, Warcraft 2, World of Warcraft (which is still going on), Doom, Call of Duty, Minecraft and so on and so on. Why should normal gamers care if people who don’t make games for them lose their jobs? To the contrary, the normal gamers will be high fiving themselves and squeaking with delight.
“But that is mean.” No, reader. It is called a correction. In order for the Game Industry to thrive, it is going to have to do things my way, the way of the normal gamer.
The Game Industry’s response to the Wii eruption was to say, “We will put out junk casual games to fund the hardcore games we want to make.” It is so funny that the Game Industry thinks they can choose their direction. Today, the Hardcore Gamer buys the junk game for full price (or collector’s edition) while the Normal Gamer gets that same exact game for free! hahahhahahahaha The Normal Gamer is the one in the driver’s seat and it is the hardcore gamer who is being leveraged for the normal gamer’s desire.
They had an opportunity in the Seventh Generation for atonement and to change their ways. Now, reality will correct the Game Industry through sheer economic force. The normal gamer holds the economic sword that is carving up the Game Industry.