Editor's Note: Gamers vs Developers vs Publishers

Gamers vs Developers vs Publishers

No matter how important you think you are, you're still only a third of the gaming industry.

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Great, now I feel dirty for seeing the literary industry on the side.

It's unfortunate that there's such a push and pull deal in the industry.

Being the consumer, I'm clearly the most important part of the industry. If everybody else isn't focused on my needs, then I don't buy. I don't need to buy games, I can find other things to do. Remember that publishers and devs.

BlueHighwind:
Being the consumer, I'm clearly the most important part of the industry. If everybody else isn't focused on my needs, then I don't buy. I don't need to buy games, I can find other things to do. Remember that publishers and devs.

This is a misconception. Though the mass of consumers are crucial, the individual consumer is virtually meaningless from the perspective of developers and publishers. Gamers only really matter to publishers and developers when viewed as large groups.

BlueHighwind:
Being the consumer, I'm clearly the most important part of the industry. If everybody else isn't focused on my needs, then I don't buy. I don't need to buy games, I can find other things to do. Remember that publishers and devs.

Not, if they blame you for being the reason why games suck.

Finally, a weekly theme I can associate with. Thank you Steve Butts, you make a sad man happy again!

Steve Butts:
This is a misconception. Though the mass of consumers are crucial, the individual consumer is virtually meaningless from the perspective of developers and publishers. Gamers only really matter to publishers and developers when viewed as large groups.

This causes the inevitable condition where the marginal satisfaction of the many is more important than the delight of the few. Trying to reach the widest market possible will always cause the marketed product tend towards the average. Not that no one realizes this, but it frustrates me enough to make it worth the risk of sounding like an unoriginal pedant.

The biggest area in which this process breaks down is when publishers have motives other than to sell as many copies of the game as possible. Microsoft and Sony both finance and publish games for the purpose of promoting their hardware, with the result being platform exclusives that limit the pool of potential customers to those who own a certain game console.

And that just sucks.

Consumers have fewer games to choose from, and developers have fewer customers, meaning lower sales, meaning less revenue, meaning an even greater dependence on the publishers to finance their games... often meaning more platform exclusives.

CitySquirrel:
This causes the inevitable condition where the marginal satisfaction of the many is more important than the delight of the few. Trying to reach the widest market possible will always cause the marketed product tend towards the average. Not that no one realizes this, but it frustrates me enough to make it worth the risk of sounding like an unoriginal pedant.

I totally agree (not about you sounding like an unoriginal pedant). It's the whole problem with network vs. cable TV. The networks want as large an audience as possible, so we get CSI and Dancing with the Stars and Two-and-a-Half Laughs. It's the cable companies who are able to serve the niche audiences with more specialized programming (Mythbusters, What Not to Wear, Venture Bros., etc.), but they won't ever have the viewer numbers the networks have.

In a way, I feel like PC gaming used to be the cable alternative to the mass-market mentality of the consoles, but profits have pushed publishers to shift PC development towards the large targets of the console audience.

It's sad.

Wolfy2449:
And then u ask me why i have no faith to human race, dogs are smarter...

Don't try to push your Dogist agenda on us!

I honestly don't know that it's fair to call anyone "evil" exactly, but I do think when the interests of one group start to actively work against the interests of the other two groups, then the whole medium starts to suffer. Whether it's publishers using prohibitive DRM systems, or gamers promoting unfounded biases, or developers ignoring the realities of the market, there's lots of opportunity for this system to drift into unproductive territory.

Steve Butts:

CitySquirrel:
This causes the inevitable condition where the marginal satisfaction of the many is more important than the delight of the few. Trying to reach the widest market possible will always cause the marketed product tend towards the average. Not that no one realizes this, but it frustrates me enough to make it worth the risk of sounding like an unoriginal pedant.

I totally agree (not about you sounding like an unoriginal pedant). It's the whole problem with network vs. cable TV. The networks want as large an audience as possible, so we get CSI and Dancing with the Stars and Two-and-a-Half Laughs. It's the cable companies who are able to serve the niche audiences with more specialized programming (Mythbusters, What Not to Wear, Venture Bros., etc.), but they won't ever have the viewer numbers the networks have.

In a way, I feel like PC gaming used to be the cable alternative to the mass-market mentality of the consoles, but profits have pushed publishers to shift PC development towards the large targets of the console audience.

It's sad.

At the same time, digital distribution opens new doors for indie developers that want to cater to niche markets.

I don't live in the US, so now I can easily buy games that would be a hassle to acquire just some years ago, because the local distribution channels would never bring them here to sell at stores.

Can the press please stop disappearing itself from the relationship? Being a voyeur that we all know about makes this a four-way. Trying to RUN when we thank, chastise, or otherwise attempt to get you to recognize you play a role in the act just takes us all out of the moment and makes you look really creepy.

Hey, you started this metaphor…

SaintWaldo:
Can the press please stop disappearing itself from the relationship? Being a voyeur that we all know about makes this a four-way. Trying to RUN when we thank, chastise, or otherwise attempt to get you to recognize you play a role in the act just takes us all out of the moment and makes you look really creepy.

Hey, you started this metaphor…

Busted. Thanks.

I think the press definitely has a role to play, but I think mostly it tries to amplify the response of all the other three parties. Some writers get caught up in the pre-release enthusiasm for projects, and some writers vent the consumer's frustration when promises are broken. The better writers, at least the ones who stick around long enough to make a difference, are able to keep these impulses in balance and in proper proportion.

We're in a strange place because gaming is covered by enthusiast media where objectivity isn't necessarily as attainable (or, in some ways, even desirable) a goal as it would be if we were covering, say, finance or science. But I think many writers and readers crave that sort of detachment. I think it's possible for us to have a substantial impact, but I don't think our influence can trump good (or bad) design or the desires of the market. The best we can do is try to highlight topics that are being ignored and elevate the level of discussion overall.

Steve Butts:

SaintWaldo:
Can the press please stop disappearing itself from the relationship? Being a voyeur that we all know about makes this a four-way. Trying to RUN when we thank, chastise, or otherwise attempt to get you to recognize you play a role in the act just takes us all out of the moment and makes you look really creepy.

Hey, you started this metaphor…

Busted. Thanks.

I think the press definitely has a role to play, but I think mostly it tries to amplify the response of all the other three parties. Some writers get caught up in the pre-release enthusiasm for projects, and some writers vent the consumer's frustration when promises are broken. The better writers, at least the ones who stick around long enough to make a difference, are able to keep these impulses in balance and in proper proportion.

We're in a strange place because gaming is covered by enthusiast media where objectivity isn't necessarily as attainable (or, in some ways, even desirable) a goal as it would be if we were covering, say, finance or science. But I think many writers and readers crave that sort of detachment. I think it's possible for us to have a substantial impact, but I don't think our influence can trump good (or bad) design or the desires of the market. The best we can do is try to highlight topics that are being ignored and elevate the level of discussion overall.

Strange place or no, it's a quantum world. Observations have impact. Good job copping to any portion of what I would call the press' part. There are definitely attempts at being kingmakers among your colleagues, and this is but one example of how the observers affect the subject. EA's change in policies (however temporary) in the face of EA_Spouse is a counter example with more positive connotations.

I'm actually more motivated to witness the creation of anything approaching a "fourth estate" mentality in the gaming press, where the journalism is aimed predominantly at determining and revealing truth and connections rather than simply cataloging idleness and entertainment. I know this approaches ludicrous standards for arguably trivial pursuits. Still, I often return here looking for exactly that. Occasionally that's what I convince myself I've found.

Above all, thanks for the work that went into creating this week's topic. My meta now vented and placed aside, I'm looking forward to reading this crew's take on the subjects.

Steve Butts:

CitySquirrel:
This causes the inevitable condition where the marginal satisfaction of the many is more important than the delight of the few. Trying to reach the widest market possible will always cause the marketed product tend towards the average. Not that no one realizes this, but it frustrates me enough to make it worth the risk of sounding like an unoriginal pedant.

I totally agree (not about you sounding like an unoriginal pedant). It's the whole problem with network vs. cable TV. The networks want as large an audience as possible, so we get CSI and Dancing with the Stars and Two-and-a-Half Laughs. It's the cable companies who are able to serve the niche audiences with more specialized programming (Mythbusters, What Not to Wear, Venture Bros., etc.), but they won't ever have the viewer numbers the networks have.

In a way, I feel like PC gaming used to be the cable alternative to the mass-market mentality of the consoles, but profits have pushed publishers to shift PC development towards the large targets of the console audience.

It's sad.

Completely agree with this. But as well as the love triangle. The publishers and developers have a polygamous relationship with the different gaming platforms. And I know which wife is not getting as much attention as the others. The publishers and by extension the developers are much more interested in their newer younger wives at the moment.....

What about Retailers? Don't they play a part in this?

Steve Butts:
Do gamers leverage their twin resources of rage and entitlement to diminish the artistic and commercial possibilities of the industry?

Somehow, I love this particular line so much. It just rolls off the tongue.

permacrete:
The biggest area in which this process breaks down is when publishers have motives other than to sell as many copies of the game as possible. Microsoft and Sony both finance and publish games for the purpose of promoting their hardware, with the result being platform exclusives that limit the pool of potential customers to those who own a certain game console.

And that just sucks.

Consumers have fewer games to choose from, and developers have fewer customers, meaning lower sales, meaning less revenue, meaning an even greater dependence on the publishers to finance their games... often meaning more platform exclusives.

Do keep in mind that the alternative is the single console market, in which publishers have no reason to push for original games since costumers won't have anywhere else to turn. Case in point: the Wii. By positioning itself in a way that appealed to non-gamers, it opened a new market niche, and games for this market niche are 90% pure shit, because there is no other console to provide competition so the uninformed non-gamer can't even get a parameter of what is good other than what is in front of him. The Kinect and the PS Move have a chance to change this in the alternate universe in which they came out in 2008.

Fenixius:
What about Retailers? Don't they play a part in this?

For the most part, retailers don't really play a major part in this.

Retailers are just a filter for your games. They have limited space to stock limited inventory, to draw in a limited number of customers. If you go to a large retail store(Best Buy or Wal Mart) you get little to no help with your purchases, but you get a very large selection of new games.

If you choose to go a smaller route(Gamestop, Play n' Trade) you get a slightly smaller overall selection, and a combination of new and used games. Their smaller total area for gaming is split up between new and used copies of what could be the same games.

I'm trying to figure out exactly why retailers are still around, and the only things that come to mine are the following.

1. The huge retailers make such a profit on volume that they can stick around
2. Selling used games has almost no overhead at all
3. Not everybody trusts the internet for ordering gaming stuff

I could go on a rant about how bad the used games industry is for the community, but this thing is already a chest high wall of text.

 

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