Hold onto your butts

1983.


The year gaming died.


I don't think I need to remind anyone old enough to remember the Atari 2600 how horrifying that year was. A glut of unchecked shovel ware led to massive consumer confusion. Eventually, people just stopped playing. Arcades went dark, stores were slashing prices on their remaining video games, and a large number of companies died a horrible death. Before 1983, an investor could get filthy rich off Atari Games stock. Those riches went away, along with any vestige of the company we remember (the company calling itself Atari now is actually a subsidiary of French publisher Infogrames). The industry only returned to relevance in 1985, when the NES started gaining popularity.


Unfortunately, history has a horrible way of repeating itself.


2008.


The Nintendo Wii is undeniably the hottest selling console today. Nintendo has proven unable to stop rubbing it in everyone's faces. Iwata must be sore from beating his chest so damned much. Their arrogance is frighteningly like that of Atari leading up to the fateful year. However, the hardware success has not translated into broad industry growth. 3 parties like Electronic Arts have found the Wii a tough nut to crack, with thoughtfully designed games like Boom Blox, Medal of Honor Heroes 2 and the All Play sports series failing to register with Wii owners. Indeed, a game isn't going to get anywhere on the Wii unless it stars Nintendo's mascots, is pitched as a self-improvement tool Most Wii Fit users have NO interest in video games at all) or comes with an accessory (let's be honest here, the only reason people buy Wii Play is because it's only $10 more than a remote by itself). As a result, the quality of games on the platform has taken a precipitous nosedive as more and more 3 parties realize that there's no real way to make Nintendo level money on the Wii and content themselves with a 60k or so sales of shovelware to get that last cash push before the company's main titles come out on the 360 and PS3. The only upcoming 3 party games that really have a shot in hell of being good are No More Heroes 2, The Conduit and Madworld, and considering how poorly NMH1 sold (especially in Japan and the US), I doubt these games will be rewarded for the effort with retail success.


I can't help but keep thinking about what happened in 1983 when I think about present-day Nintendo. They're so isolated from the rest of the gaming industry, unable or unwilling to address the ever-growing pile of shovel ware that would put the E.T. Landfill to shame, and providing no evidence that their success is anything other than a boom, like the industry was experiencing in 1982. It's the same reckless irresponsibility that destroyed many .com businesses at 2000 and the housing market just two years ago. Rather than focus on making a sustainable growth, Nintendo seems content to ride the boom, unaware of the bust that is on the horizon.


Not that I'm rooting. Not even close. The 1983 video game industry crash, the 2000 .com bust and the recent housing bust – chiefly responsible for the current economic crisis,but that's another blog post – were all preceded by runaway growth. If trends continue, and the complete lack of foresight at the big N suggests that it will, we're in for a massive bust sooner than later, one that, like Atari's, will take huge swaths of the gaming industry with it. Go back to that Kotaku article I linked toward the beginning of this post. Look at the chart. It's no secret that most of Nintendo's money is coming from hardware. At any moment, the boom they're experiencing can end, and that 1% suddenly becomes the 99%. That's when we see layoffs and collapsing companies that make the recent loss of Free Radical seem minor.


I could go on all night, but I think I've made my point. Nintendo isn't growing anything – They're in a boom, and the bust that comes after this boom could be tragic.


Of course, I could be over exaggerating. Perhaps Nintendo's eventual implosion will be more like 3dfx, a company who's failure only affected itself and left plenty of room for more competent companies to fill the void. However, I just can't help but feel we're staring down the edge of the Grand Canyon, just waiting to fall.


As Samual L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park: hold onto your butts.

  
23 Comments
24 Comments
Posted by YukoAsho

1983.


The year gaming died.


I don't think I need to remind anyone old enough to remember the Atari 2600 how horrifying that year was. A glut of unchecked shovel ware led to massive consumer confusion. Eventually, people just stopped playing. Arcades went dark, stores were slashing prices on their remaining video games, and a large number of companies died a horrible death. Before 1983, an investor could get filthy rich off Atari Games stock. Those riches went away, along with any vestige of the company we remember (the company calling itself Atari now is actually a subsidiary of French publisher Infogrames). The industry only returned to relevance in 1985, when the NES started gaining popularity.


Unfortunately, history has a horrible way of repeating itself.


2008.


The Nintendo Wii is undeniably the hottest selling console today. Nintendo has proven unable to stop rubbing it in everyone's faces. Iwata must be sore from beating his chest so damned much. Their arrogance is frighteningly like that of Atari leading up to the fateful year. However, the hardware success has not translated into broad industry growth. 3 parties like Electronic Arts have found the Wii a tough nut to crack, with thoughtfully designed games like Boom Blox, Medal of Honor Heroes 2 and the All Play sports series failing to register with Wii owners. Indeed, a game isn't going to get anywhere on the Wii unless it stars Nintendo's mascots, is pitched as a self-improvement tool Most Wii Fit users have NO interest in video games at all) or comes with an accessory (let's be honest here, the only reason people buy Wii Play is because it's only $10 more than a remote by itself). As a result, the quality of games on the platform has taken a precipitous nosedive as more and more 3 parties realize that there's no real way to make Nintendo level money on the Wii and content themselves with a 60k or so sales of shovelware to get that last cash push before the company's main titles come out on the 360 and PS3. The only upcoming 3 party games that really have a shot in hell of being good are No More Heroes 2, The Conduit and Madworld, and considering how poorly NMH1 sold (especially in Japan and the US), I doubt these games will be rewarded for the effort with retail success.


I can't help but keep thinking about what happened in 1983 when I think about present-day Nintendo. They're so isolated from the rest of the gaming industry, unable or unwilling to address the ever-growing pile of shovel ware that would put the E.T. Landfill to shame, and providing no evidence that their success is anything other than a boom, like the industry was experiencing in 1982. It's the same reckless irresponsibility that destroyed many .com businesses at 2000 and the housing market just two years ago. Rather than focus on making a sustainable growth, Nintendo seems content to ride the boom, unaware of the bust that is on the horizon.


Not that I'm rooting. Not even close. The 1983 video game industry crash, the 2000 .com bust and the recent housing bust – chiefly responsible for the current economic crisis,but that's another blog post – were all preceded by runaway growth. If trends continue, and the complete lack of foresight at the big N suggests that it will, we're in for a massive bust sooner than later, one that, like Atari's, will take huge swaths of the gaming industry with it. Go back to that Kotaku article I linked toward the beginning of this post. Look at the chart. It's no secret that most of Nintendo's money is coming from hardware. At any moment, the boom they're experiencing can end, and that 1% suddenly becomes the 99%. That's when we see layoffs and collapsing companies that make the recent loss of Free Radical seem minor.


I could go on all night, but I think I've made my point. Nintendo isn't growing anything – They're in a boom, and the bust that comes after this boom could be tragic.


Of course, I could be over exaggerating. Perhaps Nintendo's eventual implosion will be more like 3dfx, a company who's failure only affected itself and left plenty of room for more competent companies to fill the void. However, I just can't help but feel we're staring down the edge of the Grand Canyon, just waiting to fall.


As Samual L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park: hold onto your butts.

  
Posted by coakroach

Atari never ever ever ever came close to the success and recognition Nintendo has achieved
I simply can't imagine a company with such a large fanbase with such a profitable market simply vanishing
If Nintendo were to fail it would require mismanagement and idiocy of biblical proportions

Posted by Claude

Different time and different era... I'm 44 years old and lived through the so called collapse. No worries, the PS2 saw more crap than this.

Posted by LiquidPrince

I dunno about any of that, but that pie chart is very arrogant and it irks me...

Posted by Red

No.

Success and the selling of casual games doesn't mean the industry will die. E.T. killed gaming because all games sucked and a lot of little kids bought them, played them, cried and then refused to play them any more.
Posted by Optiow
Claude said:
"Different time and different era... I'm 44 years old and lived through the so called collapse. No worries, the PS2 saw more crap than this."
It did?
Posted by Claude
Optiow said:
"Claude said:
"Different time and different era... I'm 44 years old and lived through the so called collapse. No worries, the PS2 saw more crap than this."
It did?"

Oh yeah, bargain bin deluxe.
Posted by Gameboi

I can see this happening too, if the people that are propping up Nintendo's profits follow the natural trend and move on to the next and greatest trend. Once the casuals leave, what will be left for them? The hardcore gamer wrote the Wii off this gen, and even a portion of the Nintendo faithful feel dissolusioned by what the Wii has become.

I invite the naysayers to think back to the past two generations, when Nintendo didn't have the casual players buying up their system.  GameCubes and N64s weren't exactly putting the kinds of numbers that the Wii is now.  Combine this with the staggering costs involved in creating games, and the struggling consumer environment. History could very well repeat itself.

I never thought I would live in a world where the big three automakers would be clinging to life,  where financial institutions would crumble left and right, and where businesses that I grew up with (Montgomery Wards/Woolworths/Circuit City) would cease to exist in some cases.  All bets are off in this environment, and to think that any company can't possibly disappear in the blink of an eye is no longer a view based in reality.

Posted by Snail

I do not feel like reading all that right now so allow me to comment on the pie chart.

On the other hand, I think I... won't.

Posted by Systech

So.... Gaming is dead because there is an option for a broader range of consumer?

Posted by Snail
systech said:
"So.... Gaming is dead because there is an option for a broader range of consumer?"
Don't ever some up rants like that, the "ranter" will come back at you and you probably know what would follow.
Edited by Ujio

As much as I'd like for Nintendo to fail (I'll explain in a moment) I seriously doubt that will be the case. As Claude said "different time different era." At the time of the crash video games was a brand new technology; not the established multi-billion dollar industry it is today. You have to remember that Nintendo single-handedly revived the video game industry, and for that they have become the equivalent of Jesus Christ. I'm not trying to sound sacriligeous or anything but it's TRUE! Nintendo, in the eyes of their blinded faithful, can and never will do no wrong. Look at any fanboy forum to see this evidence. Oh sure, Nintendo seemed to push away their "hardcore" audience by catering and, in some ways, selling out to the masses of non-gamers, but as much as they're beaten those same disgruntled fans will not turn their back on their Messiah. It won't happen. It could, but more than likely won't.

So what happens after thousands of grandmas and soccer moms get over the novelty of the Wii? You still have the hardcores waiting in the wings with baited breath as Nintendo cock teases them with the promise of another Mario, Zelda or Metroid Prime game. And they'll eat it up. All will be forgiven. Because for all intents and purposes Nintendo is like the asshole jock (for this generation) that defies all comprehensible logic and continues to score with the hot chicks. They may be catering to non-gamers now, but they know all they have to do is whisper one of the three franchises named above and they'll have those disgruntled fans running back shouting "I love you!"

Now, back to my opening comment. I would love nothing more than to see Nintendo fall on their face as the well of non-gamers begins to dry up and people return to their senses and realize they just paid over $100 for a plastic board. It would do some good for the industry for Nintendo to finally be forced to eat some humble-fucking-pie. But for the reasons I outlined above that will never happen. The only thing we can do is sit back and watch what happens.

Posted by Bonesofwar

I have to agree, sales going through the roof signals the impending doom of the gaming industry.

Posted by ThomasP

Nintendo is killing in the hardware and software sales, they have an incredibly loyal fan base, and 3rd party support is growing, especially with exclusives from the Dragon Quest and Monster Hunter series. Nintendo isn't going anywhere.

Posted by Bellum

Foolishness. The Wii makes casual games because they sell. A lot. People enjoy playing them. Because you don't doesn't make the games "shovelware", you arrogant prick. Do you think the industry revolves around you?

Posted by TheJadeAngel

I would imagine Nintendo and the developers they have on board have a lot more tricks up their sleeves. Ujio mentions one in the Franchise Whisper ;) .  Good Sales figures mean just that in the case of the Gaming Industry today " Good Sales Figures "  .  I wouldn't read to much into what they are putting out there in that regard. 
Personally i'm not a huge Wii fan but i don't begrudge them the success they hare enjoying right now .  I love inovation in any Industry and paticularly the Gaming and Aviation industries but i don't imagine Nintendo is doomed because of a lack of quality games , it just leaves more room for smart people to knock on their door with better ideas than the last guy.

Posted by KamasamaK

There does seem to be a disproportionately large number of bad Wii games.

IGN's tally
Posted by Bellum

So you let IGN define quality for you?

Mind, I'm a hardcore PC gamer, down even own a Wii, but the reaction to Nintendos success is irrational.

Edited by KamasamaK
Bellum said:
"So you let IGN define quality for you?

Mind, I'm a hardcore PC gamer, down even own a Wii, but the reaction to Nintendos success is irrational."
Would you prefer I played all of those supposedly bad games and then disseminate my opinion? Sorry, my time is worth more than that. Not as if my opinion would be any more valid than theirs anyway. IGN are definitely not the only ones to conclude that, but they're the only ones I found that had a nice bar graph made up. I also find it unlikely that most of IGN's scores would be that far off from most others.

I think your defense is even more irrational considering you have said nothing to back it up, and you even admit to not owning one which speaks for your own disinterest. If anything, developers' reaction to Nintendo's success is irrational. Nintendo deserves their success for the most part, but very few third-party games sell well, and most of the ones that do are generally not acclaimed as great (e.g. Carnival Games). I'm not claiming this is the doom of the industry; I'm just showing what's actually happening.
Posted by Bellum
Kamasama said:
"Bellum said:
"So you let IGN define quality for you?

Mind, I'm a hardcore PC gamer, down even own a Wii, but the reaction to Nintendos success is irrational."
Would you prefer I played all of those supposedly bad games and then disseminate my opinion? Sorry, my time is worth more than that. Not as if my opinion would be any more valid than theirs anyway. IGN are definitely not the only ones to conclude that, but they're the only ones I found that had a nice bar graph made up. I also find it unlikely that most of IGN's scores would be that far off from most others."

No ones opinion is valid or invalid; validity isn't the issue. The issue is judging a games quality through someone else. You can't accurately predict if person A (someone other than yourself, particularly) will enjoy a game based on a review by person B, particularly when sales suggest that person B and person A have a differing ideas on what makes a good game. Remember that the discussion is about the industry as a whole, not you or me.

I think your defense is even more irrational considering you have said nothing to back it up, and you even admit to not owning one which speaks for your own disinterest.


Many of these "terrible" games are apparently selling very well. That's my argument. Care to point out how that is irrational?

If anything, developers' reaction to Nintendo's success is irrational. Nintendo deserves their success for the most part, but very few third-party games sell well, and most of the ones that do are generally not acclaimed as great (e.g. Carnival Games). I'm not claiming this is the doom of the industry; I'm just showing what's actually happening.


I'm not really speaking of third party games ports and such (which, if I understand correctly, do pretty badly all around), and "acclaim" is less relevant here than sales. The fallacy here is when people assert that the Wii is "not a gaming console" or try to assert their definition of quality as superior to some "casual gaming" or "non-gaming" crowd. People seem to be lashing out at Nintendo, clawing desperately for any justification for their elitism by creating a second class of gamer, a gamer who will bring about "the next crash". I do hope I'm not the only one who sees this for the bullshit that it is.
Edited by KamasamaK
Bellum said:
"Kamasama said:
"Bellum said:
"So you let IGN define quality for you?

Mind, I'm a hardcore PC gamer, down even own a Wii, but the reaction to Nintendos success is irrational."
Would you prefer I played all of those supposedly bad games and then disseminate my opinion? Sorry, my time is worth more than that. Not as if my opinion would be any more valid than theirs anyway. IGN are definitely not the only ones to conclude that, but they're the only ones I found that had a nice bar graph made up. I also find it unlikely that most of IGN's scores would be that far off from most others."
No ones opinion is valid or invalid; validity isn't the issue. The issue is judging a games quality through someone else. You can't accurately predict if person A (someone other than yourself, particularly) will enjoy a game based on a review by person B, particularly when sales suggest that person B and person A have a differing ideas on what makes a good game. Remember that the discussion is about the industry as a whole, not you or me."
Even if your explanation of validity were correct, which I don't believe it is, it's not as if it conflicts with my usage. I'm not here to argue semantics, though. It's good that you cleared up that you didn't really mean me when you said "you", but it seems you miss the entire point of a review. We find reviewers with which we have common tastes to judge whether something would be a worthy purchase. I read IGN enough to be familiar with their reviewers by the way. Also, even if I find myself disagreeing with a review it is rarely to the point where I think a game is good when they think it's bad or vice versa; it's generally varying degrees of a similar sentiment. It's not as if these people like to throw around hyperbole.

So we agree that neither of us can speak for an arbitrary person's opinion, but my only point is that these games are considered bad by critics in the industry. This is indicative of shovelware, or numerous games that have little work put into them. Do you really think that many people would find a buggy (not uncommon with motion control), confusing, or difficult game fun? You seem to assume that these games were scored low just because they skew casual. There are plenty of casual games like UNO and Peggle that score well.

I'd still like to reiterate that I do not necessarily share the prediction that the industry will bust soon, but I do find some of the trends unhealthy.


Bellum said:
Many of these "terrible" games are apparently selling very well. That's my argument. Care to point out how that is irrational?"
Mainly because you attacked her but never contradicted the boom/bust argument. Also, your misuse of "shovelware" and your name-calling were signs of irrationality.

Let's address your point anyway. That depends on how you define "many", "terrible", and "very well". What terrible game has sold very well? I would even consider my own example (Carnival Games) mediocre at worst, but assuming it is terrible by your standards that's one right there. I'll throw another mediocre one in there too -- Wii Play -- even though it's debatable whether that would have sold well without the controller. So that's two, but I can't think of any others to contribute to your "many"? Carnival Games could very well be a fluke considering similar games do not sell nearly as well, and how many unoriginal mini-game compilations does one want anyway? I see no reason why the people who do purchase these kinds of games would continue considering their replay value, or possible dissatisfaction. Heck, most people are content with Wii Sports. This would likely result in a negative affect on industry revenue.
Edited by Ujio
Bellum said:
Many of these "terrible" games are apparently selling very well. That's my argument. Care to point out how that is irrational?
You're forgetting they're selling well because the people who buy these games don't know any better.  Nintendo has made it very clear they're going after the "non-gamers." What does that mean? It means people that don't traditionally play games like YOU or I. Therefore they don't know the difference between a shitty game and a triple A game. This is the driving force behind all these shovelware games because your consumer isn't educated about them. They don't take the time to read reviews, do research, etc. They, in all likelihood, make an impulse purchase based on the synopsis on the back of the game box.

Professional reviewers and "hardcore" gamers know what games are good and what games are "bad" (or not worth the money). And while reviews are nothing more than an opinion it is the CONSISTENCY that ends up ruling over any one person's specific taste or preference. The fact that so many reviewers dish out such low scores for the majority of games is enough validity for a rational person to take pause and say, "OK, these reviews are pretty consistent in their sentiment. I guess this game isn't that good."

But as I stated earlier the majority of buyers do not take the time to READ these reviews so you end up with the situation of shitty games selling well.
Posted by Bellum
Kamasama said:
"Mainly because you attacked her but never contradicted the boom/bust argument. Also, your misuse of "shovelware" and your name-calling were signs of irrationality."

The premise is flawed, there's not much of a point countering the entire argument.

Let's address your point anyway. That depends on how you define "many", "terrible", and "very well". What terrible game has sold very well? I would even consider my own example (Carnival Games) mediocre at worst, but assuming it is terrible by your standards that's one right there. I'll throw another mediocre one in there too -- Wii Play -- even though it's debatable whether that would have sold well without the controller. So that's two, but I can't think of any others to contribute to your "many"? Carnival Games could very well be a fluke considering similar games do not sell nearly as well, and how many unoriginal mini-game compilations does one want anyway? I see no reason why the people who do purchase these kinds of games would continue considering their replay value, or possible dissatisfaction. Heck, most people are content with Wii Sports. This would likely result in a negative affect on industry revenue.


"Terrible" was in quotes for a reason. I've already pointed out that I don't own a Wii and that I'll try and not judge games that I haven't played. I'm speaking of games that are terrible not to me, but to a number of gamers on this site. Your also right in implying that I'm really not sure of any specific examples, but the Wii is apparently doing very well for itself, so I assume they are selling a good number of games.


Ujio said:
"Bellum said:
Many of these "terrible" games are apparently selling very well. That's my argument. Care to point out how that is irrational?
You're forgetting they're selling well because the people who buy these games don't know any better.  Nintendo has made it very clear they're going after the "non-gamers." What does that mean? It means people that don't traditionally play games like YOU or I. Therefore they don't know the difference between a shitty game and a triple A game. This is the driving force behind all these shovelware games because your consumer isn't educated about them. They don't take the time to read reviews, do research, etc. They, in all likelihood, make an impulse purchase based on the synopsis on the back of the game box.

Professional reviewers and "hardcore" gamers know what games are good and what games are "bad" (or not worth the money). And while reviews are nothing more than an opinion it is the CONSISTENCY that ends up ruling over any one person's specific taste or preference. The fact that so many reviewers dish out such low scores for the majority of games is enough validity for a rational person to take pause and say, "OK, these reviews are pretty consistent in their sentiment. I guess this game isn't that good."

But as I stated earlier the majority of buyers do not take the time to READ these reviews so you end up with the situation of shitty games selling well."


Or perhaps the casual crowd have different wants as gamers, and catering to the casual crowed truly does result in a different product. After all, if the casual crowd didn't make thoughtful purchasing decisions, wouldn't they be buying hardcore games, too, just because they're on the shelf?
Posted by HistoryInRust
Snail said:
"systech said:
"So.... Gaming is dead because there is an option for a broader range of consumer?"
Don't ever some up rants like that, the "ranter" will come back at you and you probably know what would follow."
You mean sex, right?  RIGHT!?