Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Is the AAA Console Games Market Heading for a Crash?

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 12 Aug 2014 12:00
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Alright then, so we've established that the whole industry's reached the point of no return, that games cover so many bases now that there is no brush large enough to tar it all with the mistakes of a few. So let's get more specific. Do I think the triple-A console industry is heading for a crash? Again, I wouldn't mind if it was, when the new console generation seems to exist for no reason except to continually and repeatedly remind everyone how much better PC gaming is, by cunningly turning consoles into things that are basically the same as PCs but vastly inferior.

But is it actually on the way to crash town? It's certainly true that the costs of developing triple-A games are just getting silly, without any increase in the quality of the games to justify it (quite the opposite, really). And that development studios shutting down is turning into something of a routine. Which sends large numbers of newly unemployed developers out into the wild to form new startup game companies, just as the disgruntled employees who left Atari and the other big companies did back in the 80's. A lot of them are going to be adding to the indie game gluts.

All of that, however, is dwelling on the individual details that the modern age has in common with the 80's, which is like trying to predict the future from tea leaves. No, I think you need to forget about stuff like who's spending the most money, and the pick-and-mix correlations between completely different events, and try to see the bigger picture. What, in the broadest possible terms, was the overall cause of the 80's crash? It wasn't ET, or Pacman, the over-hyped high-profile failures. It wasn't the loss of publishing control, or the relative crappiness of Atari-era graphics. It was simply because people stopped buying the damn games.

After a period of immense profitability funded by the novelty value of video games as a concept, the industry got into some bad habits and shitty practices that killed the quality of the product to the point that consumers went "Oh, actually, these are shit now," and profits dropped 97% in three years. I don't know about you, but I find that inspiring. That's almost like the history of some bizarre alternative universe governed by sensible rules like "games that are shit don't sell so well".

And I don't say this from some nostalgia-blurred child-of-the-80's standpoint (I don't even remember the 80's much because of all the drinking I do now), but I don't think that could happen now. Publishers are going to keep making expensive garbage, but I think, these days, there's always going to be someone who'll buy it. Video games have far too many things going for them now, entirely separate from mere quality as a game. They've got spectacle. They're a status symbol. They've got peer pressure working for them now they're routinely advertised in public spaces. And maybe people are just too beaten down by the modern corporate system to take a stand when things get mediocre. As long as things stay bland and inoffensive, rather than crossing into the realms of offensively bad, then nothing will change.

I could be wrong. But it's kind of up to all of you lot to prove that, isn't it?

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