So here’s a thing that’s been bothering me for a while.
My perception of this is probably somewhat skewed but I’ll talk about this anyway: I think for as long as I can remember, every system launch has been paired with a games press that is, it seems, real happy to be discussing hardware sales numbers. I cannot fathom why this information is of any value to consumers, and indeed if it isn’t actually detrimental.
The most recent pair of “ailing” products (they are not ailing) are the PlayStation Vita and the Wii U. System sales are one thing, but then we get into a lack of exclusives, or exclusives going multi-plat. I can’t help but think that any product fresh out of the gates will have a challenge ahead of it to build a user base, and that everyone involved in that product is taking a risk.
I think the games press is hurting the industry by reporting so gleefully on the failings of a platform.
It’s not even a particularly wide leap to make; If everybody says a system sells poorly or lacks value, then less people are going to invest in it. The relationship in terms of marketing is practically 1:1. It is, however, “marketing” over which the platform holder or their third parties hold little immediate agency. Building a user base is pretty tough business.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s perfectly laudable to report on the Wii U crashing, or Diablo 3′s connection problems and so forth. But reporting on those things are not directly counterproductive to solving those issues.
I’m torn. And maybe there just isn’t a good way around this.
I’m doing a lot of game development these days, and it takes a long, long time to finish something. I mean really finish. As in having something up to Nintendo scratch, and you just know it’s going to be fantastic for everyone who plays it. I’d even say you can’t realistically meet that goal unless the stars are perfect and you have some substantial savings. Then there’s the question about profitability.
Here’s my (possibly naive) business plan.
- Within a reasonable budget, make a game that encapsulates the essence of what I want to create (realizing that there will always be more things I want to do with it)
- Put it up for sale in a fun, stable state.
- View user comments and reviews.
- Spend income on updates to add content and fix any objective flaws.
This ties into another plan, which is to never do a title update simply for bug fixes. Every update should include a content update of some sort. This both to reward users for keeping up to date (with more than just bug fixes), but also to keep myself lean and mean (to myself).
If I got consistent press immediately after launch about how few features my game had, or how poorly it ran on device x, I’d likely have less sales, and less opportunity to rectify. The product would just die, and my reputation as a developer would be tarnished.
I guess I just believe a craftsman should be given the opportunity to redeem himself for his mistakes, and by reporting on ailing sales, I feel the games press is not affording the platform holders that opportunity. It looks like the games press meddling with fundamental platform marketing, and it stinks to see the apparently joyful way that information propagates through the media.
I think the press should at the very least be considerate of what they publish in terms of sales statistics, and consider the wider effects of such information elevated to such prominence. I’d expect something like Gamesindustry.biz to report on this stuff. I have no idea why Eurogamer or IGN believes the gaming consumer should give a fuck.