This is just a thing that's been bugging me. So let me throw some numbers, talk a bunch and you tell me what you make of it, okay?
That's the number of all movies that had a limited or wide release in Theaters in the US and/or Canada in 1985.
Some more numbers:
That's the number of games released on Steam in 2016. Not all games, not even all PC games; that's just the games on Steam that year.
At first glance the problem seems to be that Steam, or any marketplace, needs quality control. That's not new, it does; but that doesn't solve what to me seems to me an unsolvable problem related to video games. Too many good games.
To illustrate that, let's go back to 1985 and look at a "busy" release schedule looks like in movies:
- Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (96 min) - May 22
- Fletch (98 min) - May 31
- Goonies (114min) - June 7
16 days. 3 (arguably) good movies come out. People can watch, re-watch, talk about them, have opinions, change their opinions. Even being released close to each other, they have room to breathe.
Now Back to 2017. Let's take a look at what a busy week looks like in Video Games:
- Horizon Zero Dawn (21h*) - Feb 28
- Torment: Tides of Numerara (27h*) - Feb 28
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (44h*) - March 3
- Nier: Automata (19h*) - March 7
7 days between Horizon and Nier. Three good¹ games come out. You have 7 days to play Horizon, Torment and Zelda before Nier comes out. Mainlining the three games will take you 92 hours. That just playing them beginning till end, not stopping to look around or do side stuff. 13 hours per day. Playing in the most efficient, unwasteful and unfun manner possible. Just once. Beginning to end. Not letting them breathe. Not that you have the time, because, shit, it's a week later and you have at least 19 more hours to put on Nier: Automata.
Curation doesn't solve that problem. Those are four good games. There's nothing in them that wouldn't pass quality control.
If you just look at games as products to be consumed, this is a dumb problem. The more variety of products in the market the better for the consumer. Curation is enough not to let the trash in and people will play what they want to play.
But looking at games as an art form, that starts to present a problem to me. Too many games fragments the gaming audience. Who has time or money to experiment, to explore new games when you have too many of them? Who, that wasn't already a fan, took time this year to try out Persona 5? Probably not too many people. What about Divinity 2? That's a really good game. It's also a good game that will take you at least 56 hours.
Fragmentation makes it harder to talk about video games as a medium, as an art form. It's harder for other games to use intertextuality, deconstruction, or subversion - things that require a common vocabulary. It's harder for people to talk about something if they are not speaking the same language.
Even people whose job is to play games can't handle the amount being released. In a couple of weeks the staff of Giant Bomb is going to sit down and talk about the games they played this year. If you been listening to the podcasts, you know you can expect a lot of "yeah...I fell out of it" and "that didn't seem like my kind of game so I didn't play it".
Not throwing shade at GB here, this is a problem for everyone outside and inside of games coverage.
There are too many games. Too many good games. Good games that don't have enough time to breathe before the next one comes out.
Just wanted to put that thought out there. I don't know what to make of it. Maybe someone else will
¹ - Good enough that they should be played and talked about.