Gaming Is Changing...For The Better!
Go and find a recent review for a AAA game, and read the comments. I'll almost guarantee that you'll find someone screaming about the current state of the industry and of games in general.
Look up an article for Free to Play games, Mobile or Tablet, Social Games, and see the same comments, "Look at how the industry is failing!" Motion Control pushes, targeting large audiences, see how people are asking for companies to go bankrupt, for the industry to crash. There's a lot of doom, gloom, stupidity and nonsense.
How about DLC practices? "Nickel and Diming". Content you should already own, wanting finished games. Content updates and patches on consoles, the buying of broken products. Everything sucks, right?
I have been playing games for quite some time now, perhaps 25 years or close to that. I will say that I preferred my past gaming experiences, I enjoyed the magic. But was it better back then? Was it truly better or is it just my fondness for those games I played, rather than the climate as a whole?
Gamers are a horrible crowd to please. There is a lot of entitlement. But that doesn't mean that developers can release junk. The mentality of the player base is not a reason for poor products. But a small portion of the gamer community has raised what is expected from a product, to a level where only what they demand is acceptable. Anything below that simply isn't good enough. Although a lot of the voices are irrational and easy to sidestep, they are still voices and they are still heard by someone.
So what does the attitude of the gamers have to do with how games are changing, or more importantly; how they are changing for the better? Nothing directly, but it can be used as a sign. It's an indication of change. But with all of the negativity, how can it be claimed that these changes are going to be better for gaming?
The fact is, is that game development as it is now, is just not sustainable or profitable. And I don't mean F2P games, mobile bubbles or motion 'gimmick' like titles, I am referring to those games that people - people being the disgruntled in this case - actually enjoy.
Games are incredibly expensive to make, and massively complicated too. Before you even have a line of code, you have to spend $500,000 if you want to have a game on one of the home consoles. And once that is done, prepare your team of anywhere between 40 - 300 people to get working for the next 2 years. The cost is just huge. Even at the low end, those Dark Souls, Tales of, XenoBlade, Dead Space, Dragon's Dogma - not quite AAA, but a tier below - cost masses of money.
Those games that you want are too expensive to make. It's why this generation has had far fewer mid tier titles than the last generation. It's why there have been a lot of AAA sequels and a lot of reboots and HD remakes. It's why creativity has moved elsewhere.
So how is this crippling state going to contribute to a better future? It isn't, but all of the stuff that gamers seem to hate, is.
Mobile platforms are now a place where developers move to be creative. The game they make may not earn them a lot of money, but it won't put them out of business. A license to develop can cost as little as $99, or in the case of Android development, it's free. There is also the PC - which has always been there - that seems to be getting a fresh boost of content from developers looking at alternate options. People can develop games. They don't need to have X amount of titles AAA developed and a mortgage like down-payment needed to get started on these platforms.
Gamers want more games; well, you're getting them!
The PC, as mentioned, is seeing a lot of life over the last couple of years. Indies have looked at the platform as a way to develop content without restriction, and the platform has benefited greatly. Although it's not the days of exclusive developers (referring to previous articles...), it is certainly a great time to be a PC gamer. For every dodgy AAA port, there is a better version of another game on the platform (Battlefield 3, Witcher 2, Skyrim, Valve titles, etc...), the hundreds of exclusives! This platform will continue to grow and become more viable for more developers too, there are more players than ever on the PC. The hated Free to Play games, Free to Play like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 and a host of MMORPG's, give players an incredibly low entry level. More players gaming on the platform, are more potential customers for a game on the platform.
In addition to the more traditional gaming experiences on the PC, there are also the Facebook and other Social Games. Although they may not create enthusiasts from all players, there can be a little spill. There is at least the mentality being developed. People know what it is to play, what it is to spend time in an interactive space on that platform. It developed interest. It helped build awareness.
Everything that gamers traditionally dislike, is growing the audience. And the platforms that gamers dislike, are feeding an industry that would otherwise be decaying from too little return due to too much cost.
So, back to the question; how is it changing for the better?
Firstly, the models that are profiting now, are ones that are beneficial for developers. If Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony want games next gen, they have to compete for developers. And to do that, they need to make it affordable to develop for the platform. Will this happen? Right now, I don't know, but it will be pressure on these console makers to make it possible. People want to make games, hundreds of thousands of game lovers are going through college right now to do just that, so let it happen. Create accessible platforms. Mobile and PC are already doing that and are benefiting greatly from it.
DLC, Content Updates and Free to Play are all great models to have available to the player. They allow for flexibility, masses of it, for both developer and consumer. Not sure you'll like a game? You have games that you can pay without any money needed at all. And for those games that you love, you have extra content so you can enjoy it more. Who wouldn't want to play the games they like for longer, and who wouldn't want the option to play games for free if they're not sure about them, or can't personally justify the cost?
The only issue with this model so far, well, isn't the model at all, but the current implementation of the model. It's new, there is a new audience of players mashing together with an older, more traditional audience, and both are expecting different things. So it's taking time to find the right solution. But there is a solution there, one where everyone can be happy.
I was happy that I didn't have to pay for Drakerider, I wouldn't have played it much. I was happy that I could buy characters for Disgaea 2, because it's one of my favourite games. Free to Play Team Fortress 2 was great. I don't play FPS games much, and I certainly don't play Multiplayer FPS games, so it was one way I could try it. When the DLC or Free Content is there for you, for a game and situation that is right, you see how well it can work.
We are moving out of an era of costly development and constant failures from a sales perspective. Only a handful of games where able to make it. We are now moving into a future of flexible content, free games, and development choices with costs that are affordable for even a single developer.
So it is easy to develop, it is more flexible, more games can be made. But what about those games I love, who will still make those, it doesn't look like it is possible anymore?
The fact is, is that no one wants to make a shit game. No one. Everyone wants to make profitable games, but no one wants that profitable game to suck. If it sucks, it won't sell and it will do long term damage to the developer of the game. You want great content? Developers want to give you great content. They play too, most developers love games as much if not more than the gamer does, so why would they want to make games that aren't good? They are gamers, they are people.
As well as all of the developers currently making games, there are thousands of graduates each year with the same passion to make great content. Great games, games they loved as kids and enjoy now as adults. If there is an audience for it, you can bet someone is going to make a game for that audience, and they'll want that game to be awesome.
Gamers are everywhere now, you can play everywhere. Gaming is affordable for everyone who likes to play, and there is a game available for everyone.This gaming climate, is one tailored for the consumer, the past was not. It was stale, it was broken.
We will always look back on what we played before, and we'll long for it. That desire is just human nature, we long to experience pleasant memories again. But that thought should not shroud the future. Sure, you won't play the games that you did, but you will play in an era where gaming is expansive, creative and more diverse than it has ever been.