198: Endless Snow Day

Endless Snow Day

Many industry analysts have declared videogames recession proof, but why have so many studios suffered from cutbacks, layoffs and bankruptcies in the last year? Ray Huling looks at the economic forces shaping the games industry through the lens of TempleCon, a New England gaming convention that aims to broaden its audience and their tastes.

Read Full Article

The economic worries sound pretty much exactly like the ones described by Sean Malstrom. That the costs run up too high, that growth stagnates because of a lack of audience expansion, that the large companies will be too inflexible to change in time, that the disruption will roll through and destroy a whole lot. However his conclusion differs from yours. Subsidizing the core games with the money from the new market games is bad business, it's throwing good money after bad. A worthwile investment doesn't NEED subsidies, at most it needs a loan if you don't have enough money in the bank yet. A recession amplifies the problems of uncompetitive investments (Malstrom claims a recession hurts mostly the disrupted industries, i.e. those who are in the process of being obsoleted by a new industry like the newspaper is being disrupted by the internet news) and thus increases the damage the disruption does to the incumbents.

There is no way to save core gaming as it is now, let it die and start anew. Let it die along with its B-movie plots, quicktime events, zero difficulty, almost black and white graphical design, excessive violence, DLC, narcism and 600$ consoles. Let the apocalypse happen. This has been foreseen, it is the inevitable end of gaming as we know it. Yet it is not the end of gaming itself, gaming will be reborn in a new form although many companies will have to die on the way.

Meh. Warmachine.

I mean it's not bad per se, but there's just not that much variety in the available forces. You only really choose your warcaster, and everything else works to make that warcaster do their special little thing to the best of their ability.

There are better miniatures games out there.

I disagree in letting gaming die, seeing as I game ALOT! However, it will be "reborn", let it be reborn without the $600 consoles or the $80 games... keep the excessive violence though please

There's an incoming demographic of young teenagers who have grown up with high-speed internet, stunning graphic, powerful computers and all that kind of thing, and (hopefully) will start to look for something else. I'm talking about the illusive "depth". Stories which sink hooks into the player's abdomen and yank. Emotive characters, be they players or NPCs in whom effort has obviously been invested.

I'd like to see this happen. Graphics may keep improving but it's not really an exponential curve for them. I can see it getting to a point where there's no-where left to go, and we're staring at screens which would give Salvador Dali shivers. It's only fair to the graphics department to equal their effort.

Halo 4 would fix everything.

halo 4 will actually be a agressive AI that will enslave the world and put everyone into a sleepful bliss, while using there bodies to grow pandas its true just get a bungie employee really drunk he will tell you to

Gaming will never die.

Labyrinth:
There's an incoming demographic of young teenagers who have grown up with high-speed internet, stunning graphic, powerful computers and all that kind of thing, and (hopefully) will start to look for something else. I'm talking about the illusive "depth". Stories which sink hooks into the player's abdomen and yank. Emotive characters, be they players or NPCs in whom effort has obviously been invested.

I'd like to see this happen. Graphics may keep improving but it's not really an exponential curve for them. I can see it getting to a point where there's no-where left to go, and we're staring at screens which would give Salvador Dali shivers. It's only fair to the graphics department to equal their effort.

I agree with this, mainly cause i am a teen growing up pretty much exactly the way your talking about. Personally, there have been few games in my years, that really gripped with an amazing story, that made me wanna lay, no longer because of the fun (even though that helps) but because the story was absolutely amazing. Also, i think that is partially because of achievements, which in an article recently on escapist, talked about emergence, and i actually agree that achievements kind of take you out of the emergence.

Gamming won't die - it suffered a crash in the early 80's, and Nintendo arrived to pick up the ball and run with it. One can also argue that sega master system and then genesis kept things competitive - no need to get into the 'bit wars' and 'console wars' all over again.

The point is, someone will take up the ball and run with it while everyone else picks up their ball and goes home. The issue is of course the clash of the types of gamers out there.

1. There is the growing up youth, children or teens who love those flashy graphics, achievements, online competitions - there's little or no effort being put into plot, it's about "what will this offer online?" so a large budget is always in place for that.

2. There is the gamers of today who were the games of the early 80's, who grew up with colecovision, intelevision, commodore 64, and Atari. These gamers saw how things evolved and now got "addicted" to 'bigger and better', who just want things to look nicer and nicer and are in par with the 'online gamers'.

3. There is also the game that is part of category 2, but who is growing very bored with the current 'rush for realism and graphics'. These gamers play more and more retro games, to capture first their youth and secondly the depth of which games had placed them in. The original fallout with multiple paths and where choices meant something, 7th guest and 11th hour, where puzzles felt rewarding for completing them but the game wasn't outright impossible, etc etc..

4. There are the gamers of the youth today, preteen or early teen, who are growing bored with continual sequels and re-releases and who want something 'new'. The thing about that, is this group is in par with group 3. Group 3 can show group 2 old retro games of in depth and these gamers want games to look nice but have this type of depth as well.

I fall into category 3; don't give any care about Halo, Halflife, Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, smash bros. These games just bore me to death - I am still playing Warlord Battlecry 3, Battle Realms, Shadowrun, and Secret of Mana.

My roommate owns the Wii and the X-box 360, of which some games he has for them I play and just think, "this is cookie-cutter, carbon copy of 'that' game, which is likewise the same for 'the other' game" (as I point to each title consecutively).

I won't buy any of the 7th gen consoles because graphics do not impress me. True, resolution does, but looking "real" isn't as important as feeling "good".

Good read. I'd put my eggs in DLC and indie games for the future of the medium. If I drop 100 million making a game, then I'm going to ride it out with DLC for years to come (GTA 4). Everything in this area will be safe, inoffensive, and probably dull except for multiplayer. When it comes to single player though, the indie scene is kicking everyone's ass. I can count on one hand the number of AAA games that actually pushed the bar here, but indie titles don't bat an eye at depth, being strange, or even being unplayable.

Either way, the future of gaming is online methinks.

"Since the advent of the home console, the average age of its players has steadily increased, which suggests that a single cohort - the first generation of kids to grow up with consoles - has largely driven the industry's growth. Game developers still cater to the tastes of this demographic, tastes that you could succinctly characterize with one word: upgrades. These players want the same gaming experience they enjoyed as kids: macho action with awesome visuals. Their demand for a narrow range of game experiences is a market force that stultifies innovation in all areas but graphics. Yet satisfying the nostalgia for awe requires increasingly expensive technology."

Wow...was THAT ever off the mark. As a member of this "cohort", this passage doesn't represent me in the slightest. Sure, I like games that look good, but given a choice between Crysis and something with a story, I'll pick the story, hands down. I hear this same thing from other gamers in their 30's and beyond all the time as well. And I consider the "advent of the home console" to have started back in the late 70's and early 80's, not with the Playstation.

Really, what developers are chasing are WoW and Halo. Both have a stickiness factor that other developers are trying to mimic because if there's something about WoW or Halo that makes people keep coming back, that means that those players are NOT playing other games (or are not playing them as much as they would if they weren't playing WoW or Halo). Since both WoW and Halo 3 cost big bucks to make, the cash is being thrown at other projects in the hopes that the mere presence of resources will ensure that they can hire the best developers and designers, use the best hardware, test on the best hardware, and, in the end, produce the best game.

If developers spent as much money on their writers as they did their graphics artists and developers, there might be more games worth playing for this "first generation of kids to grow up with consoles"

I think I have to agree with Scopique: I'm allegedly a member of this cohort but few "macho" games hold my interest. But maybe for different reasons. Like most red-blooded males in their early 30s, I like gratuitous violence now and then. But a straightforward sidescrolling shooter, online FPS or fighting game is sufficient for that--one where the "story" is the simplest premise to justify all the shooting and carnage about to be unleashed. And you can get those types of games through XBLA and PSN, as well as any number of online Flash sites or cellphone apps.

Meanwhile, a lot of AAA titles have pretensions of going beyond dumb action and violence, and thus build intricate plots, settings and cinematics to drape the straightforward, unoriginal action in. But developers don't hire the calibre of writer needed for good stories and dialogue, so you get B-movie quality crap like KDR_11k mentioned.

Maybe it's time for the "action-adventure" genre to get a divorce: bring back straightforward shooters and beat-'em'-ups without wasting time on poorly written epic storylines; then save complex plots, deep characterization and problem-solving for more freeform adventure games.

While gaming seems in no danger of actually dying, it does seem like it will continue to change slowly until the "hardcore" audience stops being so much of a factor in sales. This reminds me of the ZP on Halo 3, where Yahtzee says that everyone was giving H3 perfect scores while the single player game was pretty shallow. When developers stop getting a "guaranteed" number of sales from the hardcore audience, then they will be forced to change awhat kind of games get made.

Also, the ESRB needs to stop this M-rated crap for excessive violence thing, especially unrealistic violence. Just like with porn and booze, saying that kids can't play a game for some reason will only want to make them play it more.

What I think needs to happen is for the mainstream focus to shift from reflex-reliant games to games that focus more on strategy. Not strategy games, mind you, but perhaps an FPS where you can hide in tall grass and ambush other players. The actual outcome of the fight should be largely determined by better strategy, rather than being able to get headshots on the run. That is actually another peeve of mine, people being able to run and snipe. Let the sniper rifle lose the bullet trail, give players access to good sniping positions, you can even give them basic camouflage to make it harder for them to be seen, but stop making it just as easy for people to snipe while running across the map. You could make the targeting reticle bounce, or even make it impossible to zoom in while you're moving, but put limitations on sniping weapons. Goldeneye 007 had a good system: you die to a headshot from any weapon, but it's hard to actually get headshots while running around. I think that doing this one thing would make FPS's a more mature genre without having to overhaul much of anything.

Love the article, well written. Dissapointed theres no pictures of the Belly Dancer :\

Videogames are changing, slowly a changing, as they become more and more mainstream. The guys who made Ghostbusters are making their third movie in game form. How awesome is that? EA! EA of all companies is investing in new IP's, and trying diffrent gameplay idea's.

I think the problem isn't necessarily that the 30 somethings are insisting on Nostalgic tripe, it's that they've STOPPED wanted nostalgic tripe. Oldfashioned tripe is dying now, those 20 somethings have become 30 somethings and those 30 somethings want more... something.

The games industry will survive, even thrive. After alot of fat dies off. Think of it as the Videogame Industry black death. Millions will die, but after they're gone there will be plenty of food for all, and rich fertilizer for the land. Seriously, the Black Death inadvetantly fueld the reneissance in this way. I'm not joking.

The games of the next generation will trade off their infantile 'hardcore' veneer for innovation and charm. Making a game for just one type of gamer is no longer comercially viable. The game of the next generation will be easy to get into, but nuanced and with some complexity and room for growth to justify that entry. Glitzy photorealistic graphics will trade off for art design and dare one hope charm. Fable 2 was a step in the right direction but far too shallow, instead hoping flinging a dozen badly done idea's at the problem would make a great game. A good game is like good cinema, created by a melding of good direction, good effects, and good writing. Each of these three things must unite in a sort of... Triforce, if you will.

This might just be the breaking point - years from now, we could look back at the recession and say, "This is when gaming changed."

That's really exciting, at least to me.

Scopique:
As a member of this "cohort", this passage doesn't represent me in the slightest.

Right--but that doesn't mean anything, statistically. I'm arguing that, on a large scale, there's a core group of several million white guys in their early- to mid-thirties whose tastes the video game industry aims to satisfy as a priority.

You're saying you fit the demographic, but you have different tastes than the industry standard. Ok.

Does this mean that there is no industry standard? Or that the game industry caters to your taste before anyone else's? Or that there aren't millions of 30+ white guys who are looking to re-live Contra?

What are you saying?

TsunamiWombat:
I think the problem isn't necessarily that the 30 somethings are insisting on Nostalgic tripe, it's that they've STOPPED wanted nostalgic tripe.

I think we're almost there. I don't think the main cohort of game buyers have quite lost the feeling yet.

Instead, the game companies have discovered that they need to cut their own throats to satisfy their customer base--who are incredibly demanding. I believe the Great Taste Shift will come first from developers. They're under more direct pressure than the spectre of middle age.

It'll be interesting to see how things play out. I expect some expressions of relief--"these are the games we've been waiting for!" and lots and lots of whining--"you're betraying your fans!"

I think in the end, it'll be a decision between selling ten million games of some new genre and seven of the old. Painful change.

*Fanboy Warning*

I think Silent Hill had the perfect blend of "macho violence" and a great story.

EDIT: I also think video games becoming mainstream was one of the worst things that could possibly happen.

I think that game developers often try to make the sort of games that they think that would have loved as a kid. This might come across as games targeted at 30+ year old men who refuse to grow up but I don't accept that they are the ones in the cross-hairs of the marketing people.

Anyway, if they are like me, most 30+ year old gamers worth their salt are probably laughing like monkeys at the possibility that game developers and the new "hardcore" will have to accept big changes. Both groups have been chipping away at us for years telling us that what we want from games is irrelevant and outdated.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here