Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -

I’m about to say something which is incredibly obvious but always seems to need repeating: “The video games industry is a business”. I think most of us are very good at taking this into account when it comes to the discussion of video games, but even in some of the better informed corners of the internet, it seems that the facts about what exactly it means for games to be a business and how that business works at a base level often slip through the net.

Unoriginal, You Say?

 We should know by now why these kinds of games are the norm.

One worryingly common criticism I keep seeing pop up is that developers in the mainstream games industry just aren’t being original enough. When story is unoriginal the problem is said to be that the industry’s writers lack creativity, when the design is unoriginal the designers lack creativity, when the art is unoriginal the art team lacks creativity, and so on. Even in people who are otherwise reasonably aware of the nature of the industry, it seems that this kind of logic can still come about because it’s only too easy to jump to these conclusions.

Time for another obvious point; paying for a studio, employing people from the games industry, purchasing the necessary technology, obtaining the necessary licences and getting together everything else for making a high budget game costs a lot of money, and that money needs to come from somewhere, i.e. Publishers. The businessmen of the industry are generally not interested in making original games, they’re interested in making money, and so when it comes to them deciding what kinds of games they’re going to fund, they’re going to fund the kind of games which are proven to make cash. This is why the market is currently flooded with a mix of “casual titles” and male-centric action games often reusing the same ideas to do what they do, because these are the games which make the most money. We can see from the world of independent games that there are plenty of developers out there with new and unconventional ideas, but for those who need a publisher to make their game a reality they don’t have this kind of creative freedom.

The Resource Game

As most developers have a reliance on the publisher funding them, they also have a limited amount of time and money to make their games and this can be a very limiting factor. It may sound slightly ridiculous that within the multi-million pound industry of video games that this could be a problem, but time and money often collectively translate into man hours within the studio. In general, the more man hours the development team have at their disposal, the higher the potential quality of the final product. More man hours mean more time for planning out the game and more time to find and fix the flaws in it. Development studios work to tight schedules and often times have to make compromises in their projects, because they just don’t have the hours to polish up and fix all the things wrong with their game.

Now that’s not to say that the quality of a high budget game is solely dependent on the resources at the disposal of the developers, far from it; the ability of the developers and the management of the development process are vital. You could give two studios the same resources and one could create a fantastic game, while another could create absolute rubbish, but it still has to be accepted that there are major restrictions placed upon developers beyond their own skills. As we’ve observed release dates aren’t always set in stone, but it’s an undeniable fact that time and money have a deep effect on games development and that business is a huge part of what defines the games we see on sale today. Even independent studios often find themselves highly restricted by a lack of money.

Corporate “Greed”

 This is what runs a large part of the games industry, but you already knew that.

One big problem that seems to repeatedly occur is a misunderstanding of the relationship between us and the companies who develop and fund the development of games. I often see publishers being described as “greedy” and while there are certain metaphorical meanings of this phrase which can be used to refer to companies, the literal meaning of “greedy” just doesn’t make any sense in the context of business. Almost all businesses are out to make as much money as possible by any means, and so they are all by default “greedy”. This means that when you describe a certain company in this way, it’s a redundant point.

The large majority of the time, the difference between the companies screwing you over and the companies not screwing you over is either that one company has more power than the other, or one company considers keeping the customer happy a more profitable route than the other. They rarely value the consumer as a human being; they simply value the consumer as a source of money.   This does not say anything about the people developing games, almost all of whom have the primary concern of providing a quality product and are passionate about what they do, but this does mean that there’s nothing exceptional about the business practises of companies like EA or Activision who are often labelled as far more “cheap” or “evil” than anyone else.

Many other companies in their position would be doing the exact same thing they are, and if a huge corporation says that they care about you as a person, you may want to stop and think before accepting everything they say, because in most cases they will say pretty much anything they can if they it will mean access to your wallet.

Duder, It’s Over

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back with the slightly shorter part 2 of this blog next week.

-Gamer_152

Moderator
#1 Edited by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -

I’m about to say something which is incredibly obvious but always seems to need repeating: “The video games industry is a business”. I think most of us are very good at taking this into account when it comes to the discussion of video games, but even in some of the better informed corners of the internet, it seems that the facts about what exactly it means for games to be a business and how that business works at a base level often slip through the net.

Unoriginal, You Say?

 We should know by now why these kinds of games are the norm.

One worryingly common criticism I keep seeing pop up is that developers in the mainstream games industry just aren’t being original enough. When story is unoriginal the problem is said to be that the industry’s writers lack creativity, when the design is unoriginal the designers lack creativity, when the art is unoriginal the art team lacks creativity, and so on. Even in people who are otherwise reasonably aware of the nature of the industry, it seems that this kind of logic can still come about because it’s only too easy to jump to these conclusions.

Time for another obvious point; paying for a studio, employing people from the games industry, purchasing the necessary technology, obtaining the necessary licences and getting together everything else for making a high budget game costs a lot of money, and that money needs to come from somewhere, i.e. Publishers. The businessmen of the industry are generally not interested in making original games, they’re interested in making money, and so when it comes to them deciding what kinds of games they’re going to fund, they’re going to fund the kind of games which are proven to make cash. This is why the market is currently flooded with a mix of “casual titles” and male-centric action games often reusing the same ideas to do what they do, because these are the games which make the most money. We can see from the world of independent games that there are plenty of developers out there with new and unconventional ideas, but for those who need a publisher to make their game a reality they don’t have this kind of creative freedom.

The Resource Game

As most developers have a reliance on the publisher funding them, they also have a limited amount of time and money to make their games and this can be a very limiting factor. It may sound slightly ridiculous that within the multi-million pound industry of video games that this could be a problem, but time and money often collectively translate into man hours within the studio. In general, the more man hours the development team have at their disposal, the higher the potential quality of the final product. More man hours mean more time for planning out the game and more time to find and fix the flaws in it. Development studios work to tight schedules and often times have to make compromises in their projects, because they just don’t have the hours to polish up and fix all the things wrong with their game.

Now that’s not to say that the quality of a high budget game is solely dependent on the resources at the disposal of the developers, far from it; the ability of the developers and the management of the development process are vital. You could give two studios the same resources and one could create a fantastic game, while another could create absolute rubbish, but it still has to be accepted that there are major restrictions placed upon developers beyond their own skills. As we’ve observed release dates aren’t always set in stone, but it’s an undeniable fact that time and money have a deep effect on games development and that business is a huge part of what defines the games we see on sale today. Even independent studios often find themselves highly restricted by a lack of money.

Corporate “Greed”

 This is what runs a large part of the games industry, but you already knew that.

One big problem that seems to repeatedly occur is a misunderstanding of the relationship between us and the companies who develop and fund the development of games. I often see publishers being described as “greedy” and while there are certain metaphorical meanings of this phrase which can be used to refer to companies, the literal meaning of “greedy” just doesn’t make any sense in the context of business. Almost all businesses are out to make as much money as possible by any means, and so they are all by default “greedy”. This means that when you describe a certain company in this way, it’s a redundant point.

The large majority of the time, the difference between the companies screwing you over and the companies not screwing you over is either that one company has more power than the other, or one company considers keeping the customer happy a more profitable route than the other. They rarely value the consumer as a human being; they simply value the consumer as a source of money.   This does not say anything about the people developing games, almost all of whom have the primary concern of providing a quality product and are passionate about what they do, but this does mean that there’s nothing exceptional about the business practises of companies like EA or Activision who are often labelled as far more “cheap” or “evil” than anyone else.

Many other companies in their position would be doing the exact same thing they are, and if a huge corporation says that they care about you as a person, you may want to stop and think before accepting everything they say, because in most cases they will say pretty much anything they can if they it will mean access to your wallet.

Duder, It’s Over

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back with the slightly shorter part 2 of this blog next week.

-Gamer_152

Moderator
#2 Posted by laserbolts (5314 posts) -

Interesting read and it makes me think of the letter that the head of nintendo wrote about apologizing for the price drop of the 3DS. Some people looked at it and think that the guy actually cares about them being upset about this when really he just wants to try and keep his customers happy so that they will continue to buy 3DS games. Obviously this is my opinion about it and he could genuinely feel bad about it but I doubt he does.

#3 Posted by iam3green (14390 posts) -

good read man. pretty interesting point of view of the video game industry.

#4 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6103 posts) -

Good points, especially in regards to "greedy" companies. I think we're living in a great age for an independently-minded company or individual to create something and actually have a chance at selling it, thanks to digital distribution. So I have no real problem with the seemingly never-ending sequelitis of the big publishers, so long as I occasionally get a game like Terraria, Jolly Roger, or the like.

Moderator
#5 Posted by EuanDewar (4786 posts) -

You're sort of like the text equivalent of Extra Credits.

TOPICAL

#6 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -

The business guys do not have a personal vendetta against originality. They meet supply like any business, and as it turns out, creativity is a niche market. Thing is, roughly everyone on this site is in that niche deep, so we've got a bit of an impartial survey going on here. 
 
I still find it incredible that games like Heavy Rain or L.A. Noire ever get made. They were all just such massive risks. And ya know what? They didn't pay off terribly well, for what they were and for what was invested. To paraphrase Capcom: "You want this [type of] game? Well, you d[on't] want it hard enough".

#7 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11493 posts) -
@EuanDewar said:

You're sort of like the text equivalent of Extra Credits.

TOPICAL

Nah. Because I actually like Gamer_152's blogs. TOPICAL?
#8 Posted by Video_Game_King (36088 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater said:
@EuanDewar said:

You're sort of like the text equivalent of Extra Credits.

TOPICAL

Nah. Because I actually like Gamer_152's blogs. TOPICAL?
Well, I never really comment on either, so TOPICAL. (I don't watch Extra Credit, and I never have anything to say in these blogs.)
#9 Posted by ImaLizard (72 posts) -

LOL at games programming student acting like industry vet.

#10 Posted by 9cupsoftea (652 posts) -

Your blog is depressing. Fuck the industry, it's not my job to empathise or 'understand' that they just want to make money. 
 
When did 'but they just want to make money' become an acceptable argument for low standards?

#11 Edited by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -
@laserbolts: Thanks. I honestly don't have any idea how much Iwata cares about the people affected by the price drop on a personal level, but I wouldn't rule out the idea that he genuinely feels for people who have been let down. Whatever the situation though, the letter went out as a diplomatic move as a business and as a company Nintendo are of course concerned with money above all else.
 
@iam3green: Thank you very much.
 
@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Thanks. I've also been really happy to see digital distribution give a lot of indie developers a platform for their work.
 
@EuanDewar: @ArbitraryWater: Thanks guys, but I'm not even a fraction as good as Extra Credits... TOPICAL.
 
@Akrid: I'm not saying the businessmen of the industry have a vendetta against originality or really a vendetta against anything apart from not making cash, I'm just trying to say basically what you said; that the industry goes where the money is and originality isn't where the money is. I'm also amazed that some of the more original games out there exist today, it's a marvel that Portal is actually part of the mainstream industry, and it's sad when these kinds of games don't pay off for companies. I thought Capcom made a big mistake putting out the MML3 statement, but as long as they mean "you" to refer to the video game market as a whole then yes, it's highly accurate and very relevant.
 
@ImaLizard: I'm not claiming that I have anywhere near the experience or expertise of an industry veteran. I'm simply taking things I've learned from discussions about video games and things I've learned about the games industry, and am trying to present that information in a way that is relevant to people. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
 
@9cupsoftea: I'm not saying anyone needs to empathise with the industry, I'm just saying this is the way it is. I'm also not saying that businesses being businesses is an excuse for low standards either. If a business is producing sub-standard games we should speak up about it and if we feel that passionately, refrain from giving them our cash for low quality games.
Moderator
#12 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -
@Gamer_152 said: 
@Akrid: I'm not saying the businessmen of the industry have a vendetta against originality or really a vendetta against anything apart from not making cash,
Didn't say you did say that! Sorry, that was slightly confusingly written. I was just agreeing while presenting my own similar perspective on the issue.
#13 Edited by Tennmuerti (8012 posts) -

As you state in the title, it's a pretty obvious blog.

One would assume this kind of things are commonly understood, but alas we are proved otherwise every day.

#14 Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -
@Akrid: Sorry, I obviously misinterpreted your comment.
 
@Tennmuerti: Too true.
Moderator
#15 Posted by C2C (855 posts) -

This is a good article for people that forgot the business side of things with video games. The indy and mod scene thankfully doesnt follow the suit with the mainstream market and produces original stuff constantly.

#16 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

So, keeping in mind that I am roughly speaking a socialist, the question that I pose is this: Is it not merely our right, but in fact our duty to resent that the industry is set up in a way that tends to favour rehashing of ideas? If the industry is driven by market forces, isn't it in our best interest to influence captains of industry with our feedback?

#17 Edited by Akrid (1356 posts) -
@nintendoeats: Don't really want to get in to political territory here, but I'd say no. What the people want, the people get. We, here, are not the people. If we somehow influenced something in our favour, it disrupts the order of things. Private interests and all that.
#18 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@Akrid: Yo. My response to that would get political.

#19 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -
@nintendoeats: Ha ha, well go ahead then! I only said as such because I am not well versed in politics, so I doubt I can put up much of an opposition.
#20 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@Akrid: If what was popular was so because there was a general intellectual consensus, that would be one thing. The problem is, what is popular is often so for reasons other than the actual quality of a product. Be it marketing or lack of education, a smart company can make a bad product far more popular than it ought to be.

We are educated about video games. We know what they are capable of. We have the best interests of the more casual crowd at heart, at least moreso than Bobby Kotick. Capitalism is dependent on checks and balances between industry, consumers and government, but your typical consumer is not able to fill their role for various reasons beyond their control. By becoming extremely educated about games, we took on the responsibility of keeping the industry in check. At least from my (admittedly scattered) understanding, anybody who studies capitalism academically (as opposed to businessmen who are rather biased on the issue) would agree with this description.

The alternative is that companies get to tell the majority what they do and do not want. This is how the Backstreet Boys get to exist. I realize that this initially sounds absurd, but the end result is that the people who run industry control the people that are supposed to oppose them, and ultimately the world gets very Orwellian. Keep in mind that the most important principle of Ingsoc was that people had it trained into them that they should trust their leaders implicitly, not matter what objections their minds and bodies gave. Companies have far more influence on our daily lives than government, so it is them that we must watch with the wariest eye.

While all of this may seem absurd when you consider that we are talking merely about video games, I argue that entertainment is just as or more important than anything else in this regard. Media is, firstly, a filter through which people see the world. IF people consume inferior media, their minds degrade and their view gets warped. Perhaps less importantly, I and many others consider games to be the most important part of my life. They are not unimportant to me, and I would unhyperbolically defend them to the death.

#21 Edited by Akrid (1356 posts) -
@nintendoeats said:

@Akrid: If what was popular was so because there was a general intellectual consensus, that would be one thing. The problem is, what is popular is often so for reasons other than the actual quality of a product. Be it marketing or lack of education, a smart company can make a bad product far more popular than it ought to be. 

But what's popular right now in games is not a bad product. The past few COD games are extremely polished. The main reason why they're so popular is because they're so polished. I can understand this in the context of movie and tie in games though, but I'll address that in a moment.
 
@nintendoeats said: 

We are educated about video games. We know what they are capable of. We have the best interests of the more casual crowd at heart, at least moreso than Bobby Kotick. Capitalism is dependent on checks and balances between industry, consumers and government, but your typical consumer is not able to fill their role for various reasons beyond their control. By becoming extremely educated about games, we took on the responsibility of keeping the industry in check. At least from my (admittedly scattered) understanding, anybody who studies capitalism academically (as opposed to businessmen who are rather biased on the issue) would agree with this description.

We are not bearing the interests of the casual market in mind when we say we want more original (read: more high-falutin') games. If we say, "Hey, stop making those shitty games that hapless parents buy for their young kids", then yes, that is technically in their interest. But we already have a solution to that. We keep the quality in check simply by demanding it across the board:
 
Kids know when they're having fun. Maybe not the specifics of how or why, but I know that when I was a kid there were games that swept the schoolyard. This is a theory, as I've never really taken a look at the numbers, but I really think that these B-team developers know that one great product = 5 lousy ones no matter the demographic. The only obstacle is that they simply do not have the skills or resources to actually pull this off. The risk/reward is too great, so instead they basically trade in pennies. They really have little choice in the matter. But even then these guys have gotta be smart and put out something decent in it's own right. Be that 5 polished and inexpensive yet small things per quarter (Exhibit A: Fart app). Or something like the GSN did with their gameshow games, admittedly not quality products but they did not need to be: The premise is still a ton of fun. These are smartly executed products that fill a demand in their own way.  
 
There is already built in discouragement for putting out a bad product. You think that these companies actually make a buck off of a truly terrible game with no appeal? No, they simply don't. Look at Tony Hawk Shred. 2,000 or so unlucky individuals with well-meaning grandparents. To make money here you cannot target that market of people who simply don't know any better. (And "not knowing any better" does not mean that they are entertained by stupid products, like the fart button.) 
 
Anyway, slightly off track there.
 
 I'd agree that according to capitalist systems, we are assigned the duties to right wrongs in our respective fields of interest, but there really are no true wrongs against the consumers going on right now. Spending money on a bad product is difficult to help, but as I posited, I don't think that actually happens. and even if it does, I don't view it as a wrong that needs righting. I don't feel the customer is being treated particularly badly at this point in time, but it may be getting close to that point with shady stuff like project ten dollar going around. The likely inciting force that we should actually do something about is if consumers begin to get jilted monetarily.  
 
I also don't think it's our responsibility to ensure that the general populace intake something more intellectual when it comes to media. Maybe it would lead to the betterment of society, maybe not, but in a capitalist system it will always err towards not.
 
 Plus, looking at the other side of the impact here: Developers rarely shoot straight up to the top. Rarely does one get out of college and immediately get snatched up by EA or Activision for a "AAA" product. We need the B-teams for people to grow in. It may be unexpectedly irresponsible if we had our way and got rid of these "stupid" games.  
 
@nintendoeats said: 

The alternative is that companies get to tell the majority what they do and do not want. This is how the Backstreet Boys get to exist. I realize that this initially sounds absurd, but the end result is that the people who run industry control the people that are supposed to oppose them, and ultimately the world gets very Orwellian. Keep in mind that the most important principle of Ingsoc was that people had it trained into them that they should trust their leaders implicitly, not matter what objections their minds and bodies gave. Companies have far more influence on our daily lives than government, so it is them that we must watch with the wariest eye.

While all of this may seem absurd when you consider that we are talking merely about video games, I argue that entertainment is just as or more important than anything else in this regard. Media is, firstly, a filter through which people see the world. IF people consume inferior media, their minds degrade and their view gets warped. Perhaps less importantly, I and many others consider games to be the most important part of my life. They are not unimportant to me, and I would unhyperbolically defend them to the death.


I'm going off general vibes here, but this seems to be purely a difference in world view between you and I. I'm getting the feeling throughout your post that you feel a certain amount of control and manipulation of the people is justified, and necessary. You feel that certain measures should be taken to improve society, and in this case you're rooting specifically for more intellectually stimulating media. To be clear, I agree with certain tenets of this. But not the last bit.
 
See, I don't begrudge the Backstreet Boys existence, even though I consider them vapid and corrupting the youth of - come to think of it - my era. People want what people want. And I can live with this mainly because I believe that some people are, at a certain point, lost causes.  
 
For instance, I love Jazz. I rarely express this love unless - and this is going to sound very high-handed - I think the person I'm speaking to can handle it. Because the truth is, enjoyment of certain aspects of life - and it's particularly apparent in music - can only grow on fertile ground. I happened to grow up in a household that was musically oriented, I've attended music lessons for the better part of my life, I have the sort of psuedo-intellectual personality that would enjoy jazz, and I still had to work at really appreciating it. I was ambivalent towards it till about a year ago, when it really clicked with me and now it's hard coded in to my life. There's no doubt in my mind that my life experiences allowed me to eventually appreciate Jazz. I believe that experience dictates everything about a person.
 
Most of the world does not have similar experiences as I. Occasionally you find a like-minded person, and that's great. But I'm willing to accept that most simply are incapable of being akin to me unless they experience something in life that changes their mind. Even if I think that their personality and tastes are completely ruining their lives, I can do no small thing to change it. But I could totally change something in them if I locked them in a room with nothing but the complete collection of Looney Tunes and a years worth of popsicles in the shape of tweety bird.
 
So going from this premise - that only big changes can make small differences - it brings me on to the Orwellian bit: Isn't it positively Orwellian to narrow peoples life experiences? Because that is the implication of your personal doctrine, the one that I'm picking up here where you want the world to be a bit more intelligent. By feeling the need to cut out these bad influences in peoples lives, you are saying that you want a certain breadth of people in this world. Which would be great! Who wouldn't want a smarter, better, more amicable world of people that you could get along with well? But in truth, you would be the "others" in every dystopian future movie ever made. The ones who are not fighting the power. The villains. You want the populace to conform to a small profile. And not just upwards either. You ever been around a person who is literally 5x smarter then you? I have. They're unbearable. No, we can't have those people in our future. What you truly want is more people like you. And I truly hate to be the guy going FREEDOM!! but yeah... I like my freedom.   
 
Now, the alternative here is to have the companies be doing that particular brand of mind control instead of you, and they almost never have the purest of intentions. This seems bad. But in truth I see it as the lesser of two evils. Because you (Well, not really you, but an interest group that has it's way) are potentially as easily corruptible as they are, in the grand tradition of dystopian futures. At least in the first system they can easily defend themselves against the bad influences, if they so choose.
 
Oh, and on the subject of leaders: I have many that I follow implicitly, and so do you. I understand you have a bit of the ol' fondness for Nick Drake. I do too. He - to some degree - has taught and embedded in me ideas that I use throughout my life. Cultural, political, and biblical entities become our leaders and shape who we are without our knowing.
 
And yes, their leaders are horrible people. But who is to say that not a single one of ours isn't? It's a difficult concept to grasp, that one of the major influences in your life may actually be false, and it's - in my opinion - one of the main things that people struggle with throughout their lives. 
 
Oh god this is super long and not really relevant and I don't even know if it has anything to do with what you wrote. Sorry. I tend to run with things that I perceive to be there. You probably don't believe the things that I'm assuming you do. But dammit, I wrote this veritable article, and I am going to post it!  Don't worry about responding, as I imagine this was more then you bargained for. This seems to be my bi-monthly occurrence of "Type like a madman for three hours".
#22 Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -
@C2C: Thank you and yes, it's great to see indie developers doing what they do.
 
@nintendoeats: @Akrid: Great to see this kind of discussion on here, it's interesting stuff. Like Akrid I wouldn't call myself well-versed in politics but I'll attempt to add my two pence on the situation. I don't think it's our duty to resent the industry being set up in a way that tends to favour the rehashing of ideas, if someone has little or no problem with ideas being rehashed then I think they have every right to not sway the industry if they don't want too. I do, however, believe that it is in the best interests of people who really care about the industry to sway it in whatever direction they would prefer to see it go. If the industry was doing something that was immoral it'd be a different story, but as it is we're largely dealing with personal preferences for the kinds of games we like.
 
I agree that sales figures are not a direct reflection of what kind of games people would prefer if they had all the proper information at their disposal; marketing, lack of education, etc. do have a huge effect on what gets sold. Personally I believe that all people who are giving the games industry money today have a responsibility for what the industry produces in the future, not just those of us who are better educated about video games. Those of us who are better educated about games are simply just better equipped to influence the industry than others and have gone further in taking on that responsibility. As it is though, those of us who are better informed about video games still don't have regulating the industry as a top priority, instead we still place buying the games we enjoy as our primary priority. Some of us may still go out of our way to support indie developers and our education usually means that we end up purchasing a wider range of games than the average person, but regulators we are not.
 
Not that I think most of the people who actually know about games would take on the role of regulating the games industry, but even if they were willing too I think it'd be an impossible task. We'd have to constantly be trying to make very precise guesses about what kind of games we think the public would like were they more informed and less swayed by various factors. I wouldn't go as far as to say the current way the industry is set up is Orwellian (although I always do enjoy a good 1984 reference), but from what I can see it's the best viable system we've got right now, even if it's inherently very flawed. The best I believe we can do (unless someone can present a greater alternative) is to continue trying to educate people about games so that they can make informed purchasing decisions which best suit their personal likes and dislikes.
Moderator
#23 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -
@Gamer_152: I don't think nintendoeats is talking about voting with your wallet though. Again, this may be a case of me reading too far in to things, but I got the feeling that he's talking about somehow manipulating and circumventing to gain an unfair advantage and influence.
 
I think our influence should go no further then what we chose to buy. And with just solely that, our influence is already far greater then the "uneducated", because most of us here buy more then one game a year, as you said. That already makes us the largest audience, despite having fewer people. That's what Nintendo very quickly learned with the Wii.
#24 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@Akrid: Sorry, I've been meaning to try and respond to you post but...holy mother of racist jesus...

@Gamer_152: More or less seems to hold a very similar position to mine, though I suppose that am more passionate on the subject. Ultimately this is about a balancing act of consumer interest vs. consumer choice. So long as game publishers have the power and right to manipulate the public, we have a responsibility to counteract that IN SOME WAY. This does not mean that I approve of gamers taking part in subterfuge, merely that any time we have to influence the industry is a good one. This stretches from encouraging non-gamers to play unique titles, all the way to becoming a vocal minority and trying to make the "new and interesting" market look bigger than it is. That last one might sound nasty, but it's really the opposite of what marketing is all about, namely creating sales that should not by any rights exist.

I would also just like to point out that I'm not talking about the "Callof Dutys" of the world, but rather the games that are worse because they try to implement popular systems where they don't belong. This might mean something like Homefront or Medal of Honor that more or less IS CoD. It could also mean smaller things like completely unnecessary progressions systems, or similar feeling gunplay. Every game would be best served if the game designers didn't add anything that wasn't implied by the needs of the game, it's this kind of "It has to be just so because that's popular" design style that I feel like we are obligated to fight against.

#25 Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -
@Akrid: Not all of the "less educated" only buy one game a year, but yes, you make a good point that in general those who are better educated about games tend to spend more on games. As you said in your first post in this comments section though, many high-budget mainstream games that have tried new and original things have been met with little financial success, even in instances where they've been widely acclaimed by those who are more educated and do have more experience with video games. Meanwhile games that play to more mainstream interests are consistently marked with greater financial success and games are striving to be more and more accessible as time goes on. I'm not saying we don't have an influence because we absolutely do, but it starts to call into question whether we have the majority of the influence when games begin pushing more and more towards a crowd who take a more casual approach to video games.
 
As for what @nintendoeats: may have been implying, I really would like to get his word on that but (and perhaps this is an ignorant question) if he's not talking about influencing companies through what we buy and by educating people, what kind other kind of influence could he be talking about? The only other kind I can see that really goes that much further is public protest against the studios for making games which we don't like.
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#26 Posted by Akrid (1356 posts) -
@nintendoeats: Well, I suppose I misinterpreted your stance, as I suspected I might have. Sorry about that. I tend to roll with things for the sake of argument.
 
In that case, I completely agree with you. It is our job to influence to the best of our ability. Except, you know, within reasonable and legal limits. Not sure why I was thinking you were plotting to assassinate Bobby Kotick or something. 
 
@Gamer_152: I do believe we have the majority of the influence. I think this is apparent in the Wii, in that software sales were absolutely abysmal because the audience they targeted was not heavily invested in games. It's evident in Nintendo's turn around with the Wii U that they know the model they discovered is unsustainable, or at least cannot be replicated twice in such quick succession. 
 
 As for those games I mentioned, my only answer to that is: Both L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain are incredibly ambitious yet severely flawed. And one of the side effects of targeting a well educated market is that they know what's up. There were some critics that latched on to the flaws and some that latched on to the ambition. They were very divisive, and when you divide a niche (namely, the niche that enjoys intellectual games which in turn is a subsection of "educated") you don't have much of an audience left. 
#27 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@Akrid: I think that we have reached consensus. The one niggling little point that I would make is that our influence is not defined by how big a force we actually are, but how big we are perceived to be. There was a perception that the Wii had a huge market for casual games, and that perception turned out to be totally wrong.

It really is a shame about L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain though, I suspect that you are 100% right about that split in the market.

@Gamer_152: I don't really have any specific master plan in mind. I'm just generally defending the right to try and change things, not necessarily a specific way of doing so.

#28 Edited by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -
@nintendoeats: @Akrid: Apologies to Nintendo, I think I was typing out my last response when he posted his so mine was a little behind. I think Nintendo made a particularly good point about this being an issue of consumer choice vs. consumer interest and I believe Akrid made another particularly good one that the reason games like Heavy Rain probably didn't sell is that they split our subset of the market. I think we largely agree on most issues but just to reiterate, while I think it's in the best interests of those more educated about games to skew the market to how they believe it should be, I don't believe that should be their job. I believe the individual should be perfectly free to treat the situation however they want, and if that means that they don't want to go out of their way to educate or buy certain products then I don't believe they've done anything morally wrong. Furthermore I believe responsibility for public input into the games industry lies with all people buying games and not just those better educated.
 
I think we may have to put the issue of whether we have the majority of influence to bed for now, I can't firmly decide one way or the other and it's hard to find objective evidence that points in either direction (at least I have found it to be). I agree with Nintendo that what's important is our perceived power to influence and not our actual power to influence, but we must remember that the industry will be far better at analysing that than the public.
 
As for the Wii sales figures, whether selling full console titles to a casual market is a sustainable way of doing business, that's another issue, but I don't think it's fair to say that software sales on the Wii were abysmal. The software sales figures are a little hard to analyse on that platform as may of them were skewed by the fact that certain software was bundled with other peripherals, but with the top five games on the system (if we forget Wii Sports) pushing units of 20 million+ it suggests that they're getting support from people who aren't part of the rest of the market for games. To put that in perspective, the best-selling game of all time in the U.S., Call of Duty: Black Ops, had only sold 13.7 million units within the USA by March 2011.
 
Edit: One more thing I did forget. I think educating more people about good games is a great direction to take, but I don't think it would be right to feed the public misinformation to try and get what we want out of the games industry.
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#29 Posted by rmanthorp (3886 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater said:

@EuanDewar said:

You're sort of like the text equivalent of Extra Credits.

TOPICAL

Nah. Because I actually like Gamer_152's blogs. TOPICAL?

There was a thread bumming about. I love these blogs!

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#30 Posted by ShaneDev (1696 posts) -

You would think the things you listed would factor more into online discussions but they don't. The unoriginal games sell because people like them, people buy them, they are good and companies keep making them because they make money on them. Its something people forever complain about but I can't blame a company for trying to make the most money it can on its products, which means the yearly release of games like Assassins Creed, COD or EA sports games with minor improvements. If I don't like that I don't buy it, I can complain but I should realise that those games have a market and people like them. They aren't successful and people don't buy them just to spite me. The greedy accusation is thrown around all the time but while I might not like a companies business practices (Activision charging more than the norm for MW3 for example) if people aren't willing to put up with them they fail, simple as. Every company is out to make money, I would call Valve charging 1.99 for a key to a random crate in TF2 but be a bit unacceptable but people put up with it and that's fine.
 
The unoriginal stuff is also all about perspective to me. I mean the Assassins Creed games are fairly original creations this generation, so was CoD4 multiplayer or Relic style cover based RTS games. It all goes in waves, Halo 2 matchmaking on consoles was a well executed idea last generation, so was recharging health and the move to more "realistic" two gun shooters or Bioware's KOTOR stlye games. People always (I feel at least) look at the wrong games when they debate originality, its almost always the FPS genre they look at and they claim it as the entire industry. CoD4 kick started this entire yearly CoD onslaught and the decrying of the industry as unoriginal yet it only came out in 2007. If people complain about too many shooters in general, well they have been making samey FPS games since the releases of DOOM. Another thing in the originality and business side is that this industry is growing with new gamers coming in all the time and old ideas can be pitched to new audiences, From Dust is not a new concept or idea its a reworking of Populous but when you put that on XBLA most people there would never have played a game like that. 
 
Well my rambling is done but to be clear I am not against originality,  I just think people should not expect an overnight change in the industry and put the changes that have happened into perspective. People should also be more level headed when it comes to discussing companies and the business behind them. A company isn't my sworn enemy nor is it my best friend they're just people trying to get my money.

#31 Posted by Gamer_152 (14058 posts) -
@Rufi91: Thank you.
 
@ShaneDev: Yes, I agree that business offers at least a somewhat democratic system for deciding which products sell and which don't. As I was discussing with Nintendoeats and Akrid though, there are reasons that games sell apart from certain games just being the kind a lot of people would like to play. Lack of education about video games and marketing for example are two very major factors in which games sell and which games don't.
 
I think you're right about the re-introduction of certain game types to new consumers and I certainly agree with what you said about people becoming rather hysterical when talking about the games industry, but I do disagree with your "waves" idea. As far as the big-budget mainstream games go I see it more that one particular game will make a breakthrough in originality or at least pioneering certain seldom-used ideas, and that game will be iterated on repeatedly until it no longer sells. At any point a new "original game" could also pop up, although these are generally more likely to be seen when a publisher decides they are making disappointing sales within their target market. I also wouldn't say that corporations are my best friend or my worst enemy, but rather my problem is that I know the only reason they conform to any kind of moral standard is because of laws and the fact it keeps them earning money, and that if those things weren't there then they'd probably do whatever was within their power, moral or immoral, to try and get my money.
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