I enjoy reading your articles on the probability of a video game industry crash because it’s so easy to look around and see the writing on the wall. Multiple studios closing. Games like the recent Tomb Raider, selling 3 million units and still being a financial loss, the whole Xbone debacle and so on but hardcore gamers won’t hear any of it. They’re too busy celebrating PS4’s “record sales.” I’m interested to see what happens when the holiday rush ends as well.
But another sign I see, is the decline of gaming related websites and magazines.
Most would attribute the decline of gaming magazines to the rise of the internet. I will admit that for a long time I found game magazines way more enjoyable to read than Internet blogs and articles. Game magazines had to focus on reviews and previews due to the fact they had to condense a month’s worth of news into a magazine so there was less space taken up with puff pieces, top tens, not to mention no comments sections with incompetent ramblings of people who can’t spell or use punctuation. But during the last generation a lot of the gaming magazines ceased production. Ironically, the only one anyone seemed sad about was Nintendo Power. Game Informer loves to brag about being “#1 Game Magazine” but everyone knows it’s only because Gamestop employees shove it down your throat if you want the discount card at their stores. I was actually happy when they said we could get it digitally sent to our email because then it goes straight to my spam folder and I’m not adding more trash to the landfill.
But ok, everyone attributes the end of gaming magazines to the internet. Fine. They said the same thing about newspapers. But when you look at a lot of the most popular game related web sites, the signs of an industry crash are really apparent. IGN now focuses a lot on reviews of TV shows and movies. If gaming was doing so well, they wouldn’t need to have sections devoted to other media. Gamespot recently revamped their site to a format no one likes, oddly enough they rolled out these changes after the Xbone announcements enraged the gaming community. Gametrailers has this idiotic thing called the “GDEX” that supposedly tracks what games and consoles are being talked about most on social media. Not what’s selling, or what people are actually playing. Then again that should come as no surprise from a site that decided to give Micheal Patcher a weekly show. Other sites like 1up have shut down altogether and so much of this reeks of desperation to keep traffic up. Don’t even get me started on how annoying their ads are getting.
The sad thing is, these sites had a chance to get more viewers when the Wii exploded. If Nintendo reached out to a larger audience, then surely these websites could’ve. But no, they decided to be like the boys in the tree house with the handwritten “no casuals allowed” sign opting instead of write pieces on how the Wii was “destroying gaming.” I almost feel bad for the folks who work on video game websites because when this crash occurs and they’re out of work, I have a feeling they’re going to have a hard time finding gainful employment. They’re definitely not going to be taken seriously as journalists. What publication would hire someone who’s career consisted of writing blogs about video games?
I don’t think there will be an Industry ‘Crash’ like Atari. I see game development getting more expensive and society having less disposable income. I don’t see how the game industry can defy macro-economic decline. The only way would be people receiving some sort of ‘financial assistance’ from parents or government (or whatever) where they have SO MUCH free time that they look to video games to satisfy it. Are beer sales up? Could that be to more unemployed people drinking as they sit on the porch? I don’t know. Every industry is in decline, so I don’t see how the game industry can ‘grow’ beyond that negative trend.Currently, the game industry thinks the ‘decline’ was because of the long cycle of game consoles. This is why Sony says PS4’s lifecycle will be much shorter. There might be truth in that, but it seems a stretch. What exactly is the PS4 doing differently than the PS3? Or the Xbox One from the Xbox 360? Anecdotal evidence from college, I know lots of guys buying the Xbox One when it launched. One guy put it on credit. He did admit he regretted it. “I should have bought a gaming PC.” I’ve been trying to convince him to make a gaming PC instead. Every gamer should have at least one gaming PC. Another guy bought a Xbox One at launch but immediately had to sell it because he found out his fiance bought one at launch (and waited hours in line) to give to him at Christmas. So now he agonizes how he has to go without a game console until Christmas.What I’m sensing from gamers is that the trend of buying game software all at front has transferred over to the hardware. If this is correct, then there will be a huge fall-off in PS4 and Xbox One sales going forward. I expect news media to blast ‘These consoles are the new Wii!” with their impressive launch numbers, but then we see the massive decline as the hardcore sales become frontloaded. With the Wii, it was simply sold out for years in America no matter how much hardware Nintendo pumped into the market.
What I am not hearing about is the software. Gaming revolves around games, not hardware. I don’t hear any excitement about any game. From the people around me, they seem to buy the hardware and then get Battlefield 4 as something to play on it. But where is the excitement about the games? All I sense is excitement about ‘new hardware’. But that isn’t enough to sustain high sales.
We’ll just have to wait and see. Usually, all the cool video games come out during the last few months of the year. I don’t see why gamers are trying to analyze the new consoles without months of sales numbers. Now is the time to play the cool games. When the inevitable drought comes in early 2014, we’ll have the time and data to ‘analyze’.