Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 9, 2013

Email: Hardcore fix?

I think I have a fix for really the entire video game industry, but I’m not a money or financial guy, I want to see what you think and what I’m missing out of all of this.

I’m hardcore gamer material. I’ll play a lot more of the games you regularly disparage because it’s the kind of stuff I grew up with and enjoy. But I learned something a few years ago about playing them. I loved the first No More Heroes game for the Wii, which was a $20 bargain-bin pick-up. It has its flaws, but it wasn’t hard to overlook them because it was a lot of fun for the price. When it was announced No More Heroes 2 was coming, I was ready for it. Splashed down $60, took it home, played the hell out of it, beat it the next day. Disappointed as hell. The time and the flaws in the game weren’t worth the extra $40, and I felt ripped off. So it got me thinking.

You can sell Call of Duty for $60 plus DLC because 20 million people are going to buy it every time, you can sell Pokemon for a full $40 because you’re almost guaranteed to hit 10-15 million people with it. But there’s a lot of good but not great games that if you could just lop $20-$30 off the price-tag (and maybe adjust graphics or assets to compensate), you could have a much stronger return and potentially build-up to those premium $60 console/$40 handheld games.

You constantly reiterate that our society is getting poorer, and it just boggles my mind that it looks like the gaming industry isn’t adjusting to compensate. Maybe there’s too many people making too much money in the industry or some other reason why they’re not adjusting downwards.

Thanks for the read

I think the video game industry is caught up with competitive practices and locked into sustaining technologies. Games keep getting more and more expensive to make mostly because they need even ‘more’ graphics as if we need to see each blade of grass.

Just as the computer revolution has cheapened intellectual labor, it has cheapened intellectual property. Nintendo is struggling with this dilemma. There are many ‘cheap games’ such as the Free-to-Play or iOS variety. How do you create value, though? Some companies like Blizzard created value in their products by giving them a very large skill ceiling, where you can play one game forever (such as a Starcraft, a WoW or a Diablo). However, I don’t think that is going to work for them going forward. I don’t think it will work for others emulating that style either.

One thing that Minecraft and Terraria, to an extent, point out that gamers want control. In a way, it is somewhat obvious. With Super Mario Brothers, the game wasn’t ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ exactly. You had control. You could go to a Warp Zone and go to a harder level if you wanted. That was Miyamoto genius. I don’t like these ‘bonus levels’ that are hard or ‘DLC’ that is hard and the rest of the game being ‘easy’. I just want the game to give the player control.

The games I thought were really, really fun have all allowed the player having control. In Warcraft 2, you could play on easier maps that had no water. Tougher games were all water maps. The map design allowed control (along with the included map editor). Lode Runner allowed ultimate control to the player with the editor. Super Mario Brothers allowed control with the Warp Zone. Minecraft allows control with the editor, but it and Terraria allow control by allowing the player to go to harder content when they wish. Metroid used to be this way too (Metroid and Terraria have some strong similarities.) Classic RPG games are loved in large part because of the control. You went to harder areas when you desired.

When I ask kids why they keep playing Minecraft, the same answer comes up: “Because we have control. We can do what we want.” Now that I think about it, Tetris allowed you to pick which level you wanted to start at. Games like Unreal Tournament went beyond map design to include modular elements in it to alter the gameplay such as ‘instagib’. Even the original Wing Commander allowed the game to vary depending on your actions. Super Mario Brothers 3 allowed you to choose your own route in the world to skip entire levels altogether! Civilization allows different maps of different sizes and different civilizations.

If game companies want their games to have more value, allow the gamer to have more control over their experience. Stop forcing their crap ‘movie’ experience on the player. The question is not hard or easy, it is giving the player control. This does not mean ‘menu options for difficulty’.

And I would like a game console that allows me to choose which controller I wish to use.


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