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What's Wrong With The Games Industry

June 18, 2016

I don’t know how well this might be received but ultimately I believe that the biggest problems with the Games industry these days are two-fold.

  1. The triple A industry and
  2. Over saturation of information

I get that the triple A companies put a lot of money into massive titles that sell huge amounts but there’s a fundamental problem with a lot of AAA content.

Firstly

It’s boring, it’s stereotypical, predictable and entirely driven by what a few Games Industry Executives think the market wants. These would be the same GIE’s that were concerned that young people wouldn’t know what WW1 was and who nearly canned Battlefield 1, possibly the first interesting thing that’s ever been done with the Battlefield franchise, and it nearly got canned due to executive ignorance. These are the people who can turn down great projects on a daily basis because they don’t understand the value of niche market content and simultaneously underestimate the intelligence of their core customers.

The AAA publishers are stale, their content is all focus group driven, lowest common denominator crap and it is largely uninspiring and just more and more re-hashes of previous franchises. Their determination to hang on desperately to tried and tested forumlae and never push any boundaries in the name of safe profit margins is very dissappointing. There’s only one thing I can thank them for; the rise of indies.

Jonathon Blow has proved that indies can and do make great games, No Man’s Sky is coming out in August with the most ambitious title in gaming history. Undertale has been a critical success. The massive growth of indie developers creating new and exciting IPs and pushing the boundaries of gaming is truly exciting. So where do we go from here? VR? I hope so.

I’m genuinely intrigued for VR but I’m not currently ready to throw my hat into the ring with it as a concept. I think there’s a lot of great potential in the market, especially for Playstation; they have the hardware base with the best selling console of this generation, they have the lowest price point and they are supporting developers across their ecosystem. Sony have the opportunity to own this market on an epic scale and with any luck they won’t blow that chance.

However; Whether or not Sony truly grasp this bull by the horns or not is entirely their prerogative. This could still go either way. Sony’s strength right now is in their willingness to embrace Indie developers who are trying new things and creating narrative experiences that AAA publishers wouldn’t touch for fear of not being lowest common denominator enough. Sony is doing a good job of bringing new devs into the fold and giving them a platform on which to push new ideas and for that I’m grateful but the potential success of the VR market is going to depend on people taking risks and the AAA industry is very risk averse. How this will pan out remains to be seen but I strongly suspect it will be smaller studios that take the lead in providing truly transformative experiences with this tech .

Don’t get me wrong, obviously the AAA industry will always have a place in the world but at the moment they’re really failing at bringing anything fresh to the market. I genuinely hope that the current influx of indies helps push the AAA publishers to “up their game” as it were and start taking risks with more interesting concepts.

Secondly

Y’all put out way too much information.

I actually I have to put an unbelievable amount of effort into not learning everything about an upcoming game before it comes out, and frankly that’s an irritation.

No Man’s Sky lead developer Sean Murray has been a refreshing breath of fresh air over the last three years because his reluctance to spoil his game means that whilst I know a reasonable amount of what I might do in NMS, I don’t know everything before I even play it.

The tendency to effectively overload the market with info about games before they come out has become tiresome and disappointing. What’s the point in playing a game when the vast majority of it has been explained already? I, for one, like mystery, exploration, discovery and nuance in my games.

Publishers these days tell you damn near everything about the content and story long before you even have a chance to play the game and that’s a massive turn-off for many gamers because the joy of discovery has been replaced with a simplistic expectation of a linear piece of media that one already knows the details of.

For the love of gaming, stop telling us everything, retain a little mystery, take some lessons from Sean Murray and Hello Games and don’t overload us with information.

Human curiosity is powerful, by all means feed it, but don’t over feed it.

You might be surprised at how well this helps sales.

Can We Fix This?

Well yes, probably, a combination of kickstarter and willing fans is helping to put out some amazing work. InXile have done an amazing job with Wasteland 2 which has a reactive world and story that puts Fallout 4 to shame. Larian Studios have done incredibly well with Dvinity: Original Sin; a fantastic game that only gets better with every playthrough. Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity has received critical acclaim for its design and story. Christopher Bischoff’s STASIS is an amazing piece of work that is the very essence of horror meets adventure and as we speak various kickstarter campaigns such as In The Shadows and Stygian are doing very well. And last but certainly not least is (once again) InXile with their much anticipated spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment; Tides of Numenera.

The indie studios are flourishing, some are bringing new and exciting ideas whilst others are giving us the sequels or genre games that AAA won’t touch because they don’t deem it profitable enough (ironically to their loss).

Thanks to these small studios that are filling the market gap for things that the wider industry won’t approach we still have a great and thriving games industry. We just need to recognise that the real heroes of gaming aren’t the big players, they’re the indies who are giving us the stuff that truly makes for meaningful stories and experiences.

Peace out.

Nick


Nick Boughton avatar

About Nick Boughton
Just a nerdy web and systems developer on the webbertubes. I make silly things and play D&D.

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