Editor's Note: State of the Industry

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Sober Thal:
Russ is doing his Jekyll and Hyde thing again eh? Just like with with New Vegas.

I really am starting to feel bad for the guy as I type this. But since I don't agree with hardly anything he's said here, I'll get over it.

Great post.

I agree, quite a rant. For anyone that spent their limited, hard earned cash on something like Witchaven 2, and found it was broken, it is hard to feel sorry for developers that there are reviewers out there to warn us when something is bad.

And, I have a friend that is a die hard Fallout 3 fanatic, and hated New Vegas stating that the bugs were so bad as to make it (like Witchaven 2) unplayable. People need to be warned of that sort of thing.

And this rant differs little from the problems Hollywood is having.

So, why is the industry not "f'd"? Because there is:

1) Money to be made in it;
2) Fans that are getting increasingly great and diverse games.

I recently went on vacation bringing a PS2 with me for double duty as gaming station and DVD player. I was somewhat surprised to be reminded. This gen is not only much better looking, but they really have tweaked gameplay something fierce. While some of Vice City is fun, the shooting is horrible. Glad to know fan demands are forcing developers to improve.

Well said. The gaming industry has been bending over like a cheap prostitue to try and give the fans what they want while still being able to make a buck, only to the endless wails of people to whom nothing but perfection is ever good enough.

WE don't try new francises (though we complain endlessly about endless sequals)
WE support the used game market
WE demand both digital and physical distribution regardless of financial feasability
WE let metacritic do too much thinking for us.
WE demand every sequal be a million times better than the last, but still familiar enough to not scare us.
WE are so spoiled we can't even tollerate a decent game because it isn't a blockbuster.

Okay an oversimplification, but it's basic capitalism: you have to respect the right of the other side to make a buck, and that you can't just demand "improvement" as a generic term. (FYI, the reverse is true for hiring and wages for employees, so don't think I'm a corporate sellout.

manythings:

For every dollar it takes to make a book or album it probably takes 100 for a game. Are you that deluded that you think one guy creating a book is the exact same as an entire company making a game?

One guy making a book needs to get lucky to sell a few thousand copies, and the cost of printing them are greater. And even the price is much lower than that of a game.
If game companies can't make a profit, maybe they should consider lowering their production costs a bit.

Is this where I can blame COD and Guitar hero for the new sales precedents and targets publishers seem to aspire to with EVERY release now? Is this where I can blame reviewers for creating the problem in the first place by being marketing devices? If reviewers had stayed honest from the beginning it probably wouldn't have created an issue with trash like metacritic.

But because so much emphasis and control was put on reviews, the publishers put the screws to the developers, and ultimately the gamers. The honest reviewers now are the ones in the hard spot and I have sympathy for them.

While I don't disagree with most of the points above, I don't think the blame ultimately lies with the gamer (aside from the idiots buying ripoff DLC, COD yearly updates, Madden yearly roster updates, and the like).

Its a vicious cycle with no real way out until publishers loosen their death grip on developers and stop buying them up and spitting them out when their IPs don't sell 5 million copies on release day.

But ultimately you are right, the gaming industry is seriously fucked.

Bostur:

manythings:

For every dollar it takes to make a book or album it probably takes 100 for a game. Are you that deluded that you think one guy creating a book is the exact same as an entire company making a game?

One guy making a book needs to get lucky to sell a few thousand copies, and the cost of printing them are greater. And even the price is much lower than that of a game.
If game companies can't make a profit, maybe they should consider lowering their production costs a bit.

You're going to tell me that creating a million copies of a game and shipping them world wide is going to be cheaper than 10,000 copies of a book and transporting it in one country?

Owlslayer:
Wow. That's.... quite bad indeed, i guess. Also, I had some minor problems understanding if parts of the text were written sarcastically, or just angrily...but then again, English isn't my base language, so i might have just misinterpreted it.
"Developers are now being forced into contracts stating they will not get paid if their "meta-average" does not hit a certain percentage point."
Aw, come on. This cannot be right. Or was this a joke? Cause if this is true, it's just plain retarded. And really depressing.

Well from what I understand of the industry I could believe it. I've not seen specific examples, but I could believe it.

You said English is not your base language so you might have trouble in this video I'm going to link, but Adam Sessler gave a brief little speech at GDC 09 on what Metacritic was up to then.

EDIT: Post fail.

manythings:
Satire is usually angry. Very few satirists are pleased with the things they are satirising.

I suppose it would be more clear to say; "I cant tell if this is a sattirical angry rant or an actual angry rant." But I feel most people got my meaning.

manythings:

Bostur:

manythings:

For every dollar it takes to make a book or album it probably takes 100 for a game. Are you that deluded that you think one guy creating a book is the exact same as an entire company making a game?

One guy making a book needs to get lucky to sell a few thousand copies, and the cost of printing them are greater. And even the price is much lower than that of a game.
If game companies can't make a profit, maybe they should consider lowering their production costs a bit.

You're going to tell me that creating a million copies of a game and shipping them world wide is going to be cheaper than 10,000 copies of a book and transporting it in one country?

10,000 copies of a book x $20 = $200,000
1,000,000 copies of a game x $60 = $60,000,000

You do the rest of the math. In practice one book is more expensive to copy and distribute than one game.

Both of those sale numbers are probably very optimistic, but they were some you made up ;-)

Bostur:

manythings:

Bostur:

One guy making a book needs to get lucky to sell a few thousand copies, and the cost of printing them are greater. And even the price is much lower than that of a game.
If game companies can't make a profit, maybe they should consider lowering their production costs a bit.

You're going to tell me that creating a million copies of a game and shipping them world wide is going to be cheaper than 10,000 copies of a book and transporting it in one country?

10,000 copies of a book x $20 = $200,000
1,000,000 copies of a game x $60 = $60,000,000

You do the rest of the math. In practice one book is more expensive to copy and distribute than one game.

Both of those sale numbers are probably very optimistic, but they were some you made up ;-)

Are all the books selling for $20? The games aren't. The retailers buy games for $25-$30 a pop. Suddenly your sixty million is half consumed by retail. Transport? Storage? Damaged copies that are returned? Refunds that aren't exchanges? Lost shipments? Stolen? Destroyed in transit? All those things together could easily turn that thirty million into twenty million or less. How does the game sell? Is it anywhere close to a million copies? How much is it panned by critics? How many people on the fence see that meta-crtic score and say Doesn't sound great" because of that one asshole who had an asshole reason to hate the game? Suddenly you've sold a hundred thousand copies and the game cost fifteen million to make. Congrats, you're in debt.

Maybe people could get over this belief that making games is free and the money from sales is pure profit.

Aureliano:
I'll say what I said back when Jim wrote an article like this: the industry can suck it. If the only way the video game industry survives is by my paying hundreds of dollars a month buying crap I don't like and never expected to like, then the industry can crash and burn for all I care.

In all likelihood it would herald a new golden age of independent developers and a whole new reason to spend more money on good, interesting and innovative games (with lower graphical standards, sure, but probably more fun).

There is just one problem with your plan: Numbers. Your one individual who will no longer consume these items. There are however legions of other consumers behind you that are willing and able to pay money for this luxury. So lossing one customer isn't even a slap on the wrist. Only numbers, or events, large enough to effect these companies bottom line will get them to change or disappear.

As for the article itself well played sir, well played.

manythings:

Are all the books selling for $20? The games aren't. The retailers buy games for $25-$30 a pop. Suddenly your sixty million is half consumed by retail. Transport? Storage? Damaged copies that are returned? Refunds that aren't exchanges? Lost shipments? Stolen? Destroyed in transit? All those things together could easily turn that thirty million into twenty million or less. How does the game sell? Is it anywhere close to a million copies? How much is it panned by critics? How many people on the fence see that meta-crtic score and say Doesn't sound great" because of that one asshole who had an asshole reason to hate the game? Suddenly you've sold a hundred thousand copies and the game cost fifteen million to make. Congrats, you're in debt.

Most of the above happen to books as well you know. :P

Trolling aside, I'm pretty sure it's not the distribution costs that breaks the budget. But of course a high budget game with low sales will.

So as I said, maybe they should cut the expenses a bit so they don't need to sell millions.

Bostur:

manythings:

Are all the books selling for $20? The games aren't. The retailers buy games for $25-$30 a pop. Suddenly your sixty million is half consumed by retail. Transport? Storage? Damaged copies that are returned? Refunds that aren't exchanges? Lost shipments? Stolen? Destroyed in transit? All those things together could easily turn that thirty million into twenty million or less. How does the game sell? Is it anywhere close to a million copies? How much is it panned by critics? How many people on the fence see that meta-crtic score and say Doesn't sound great" because of that one asshole who had an asshole reason to hate the game? Suddenly you've sold a hundred thousand copies and the game cost fifteen million to make. Congrats, you're in debt.

Most of the above happen to books as well you know. :P

Trolling aside, I'm pretty sure it's not the distribution costs that breaks the budget. But of course a high budget game with low sales will.

So as I said, maybe they should cut the expenses a bit so they don't need to sell millions.

How many people will go back to the PS2 generation of graphics on a PC or console? I think a lot of people would vomit with rage at the sight of graphics consistent with the early part of the current generation and not buy a game like that on principle.

When I read the first word I knew this article was gonna be spot on. I agreed with pretty much all of this. When my game list consist of nothing buy sequels to sequels I bought last year you know something is wrong.

Well, I've been saying that the industry has been moving towards a crash for quite a while now.
It hasn't happened yet, and I doubt a crash will be particularly visible even if it does happen (a bomb goes off in a forest, but nobody immediately sees it for all the trees still in the way; why yes, I do have a license to torture metaphors) until it's too late.

But hey, I voted with my wallet for what I did or did not want. I didn't fill the developer's inbox with my petty demands nor the Publisher's with my fury because I understood that it was a business as much as a hobby.

It wouldn't be the first time the industry crashed either. There was a serious lull in gaming between the good ol' Atari days and the appearance of the NES / Sega Master system. Even those systems didn't really kick the industry back into a higher gear, and you were still able to see quite the diversity in games.

It will be interesting to see how long the downturn is IF there is a next time. The problem as I see it is you are well into your second generation of gamers. I grew up a gamer, my son has grown up a gamer and he's entering college. There's a certain bit of "entitlement" that I think those second generation of gamers feel due them. It can only get worse when they start having kids....

Guess I am the old gamer sitting on the porch talking about how good things were "back in the day" and yelling at all the punks to get off my lawn!

So the industry is allegedly "fucked", and you've given us a lot of reasons for why it is so. But "fucked" how? How could the industry really be all that much better?

If people would just step back and realize that every medium is perpetually stagnant (assuming that's the problem we're referring to here) in the same way that gaming is, then you can also realize that we have nothing to complain about.

Think of it this way: If every game was as intriguing and well-made as Portal, the industry would still be stagnant. But it would be mediocre at that level of quality. Even for the kings of mediocrity like Call of Duty, if we looked at them 10 years ago we'd think they were the greatest games ever. With every generation and sub-generation of games, we get a little bit better. It just so happens that some games shoot up ahead a few years to what we'd consider mediocre then.

Eh? What? What happened?

*confused*

Was there a point to this editorial? Can someone tell me what it was?

Hey, don't worry! Games are still beating out books and magazines as entertainment!

Oh wait, I still read books. (Old School)

Gaming industry crash 2.0 .... coming soon huh?

Russ Pitts:
A lot of words have died defending the position that videogame making is an art form through which god-like developers share transcendent experiences, yet the degree to which that may be true is eclipsed by the fact that, first and foremost videogames are entertainment and, as such, serve at your pleasure.

In principle all art with a big A is for entertainment anyway, I don't know why it's such a big problem that video games happen to be interactive...
Just a though, don't know how serious you were when you wrote this :)

Anyone who is willing to blast his or her source of income either has very huge sack or is missing a large part of their head. Is it safe to assume both in this case? ;)

I don't think the games industry is going to crash, I certainly hope not or I am out of a job. The industry is however fucked for much deeper reasons than these.

To make a block buster game it takes many years, so if you want something to happen you are just going to have to wait.

Oh, and support the industry by buying new where ever possible :)

falconsgyre:
It'd be interesting to compare this to the state of movies today. How are game companies any worse off than movie studios? Don't they have to deal with most of these same demands?

Depends on the industry really.

I think games are in between Bollywood's exponential growth and innovation and Hollywood's Stagnation and failure.

I'm optimistic: I like to think that there is so much going wrong in so many different areas of the gaming industry that you can't just pinpoint one problem as a major influence. And maybe, if we're lucky, everything will somehow manage to support itself on a mishmash of rubble cemented by bullcrap.

Wow, thank you. That was only completely useless. Instead of pointing fingers, why not talk about what can actually be done to save the industry? Why not talk about metrics or an increased dialogue between gamer and developer? Why not talk about what games need more hype? Why not actually hype those games and talk about some new IPs? Games cost a lot and this is a shitty economy. Gamers don't want to go out on a limb and spend $50 to $100 (depending on where in the world you live) on games that only might be good. So they go with the sure thing, the trusted IP they know will deliver. And you want to point a finger at us for that? Gee, thank you. That's helpful, yeah, thanks.

(The last game I paid full price for was Portal 2 on the PS3. And well all now how that clusterfuck went. Not exactly reinforcing good spending habits, are you Sony?)

Mr. Pitts, you have a platform to start meaningful discussion on the industry. Use it better next time.

manythings:

How many people will go back to the PS2 generation of graphics on a PC or console? I think a lot of people would vomit with rage at the sight of graphics consistent with the early part of the current generation and not buy a game like that on principle.

Minecraft

zutier:

manythings:

How many people will go back to the PS2 generation of graphics on a PC or console? I think a lot of people would vomit with rage at the sight of graphics consistent with the early part of the current generation and not buy a game like that on principle.

Minecraft

And people still play Mario NES, don't hand me an apple and tell me it's car. The difference there is who, and that who isn't the mainstay of the console market.

I agree with Russ's multi-sided take. There are more great games being made now than ever before, amid a set of opportunities and platforms that were practically science fiction not long ago. I couldn't agree more that some of the smartest, most interesting individuals I've ever met are developers.

But having kicked the living shit out of most of the 'easy' problems around making great games, the industry now gets to deal with bigger, systemic issues than run extremely deep and often don't have solutions. IMO the two most difficult are the transition to the top level of the entertainment industry, with all its accompanying traps, and the culture of obsessive dissatisfaction from the hardcore vocal minority of 'fans'.

We've got the tools, the people, and the money to aim for the stars. But there's a lot of bad shit out there in space, some of which we're taking with us.

Cheers

Colin

I think L.A. Noire will make a difference.

At least I hope it will... if it is as good and innovative as we're all hoping and it sells bucketloads, other publishers might take note and realise you don't have to make the next COD clone to sell your games.

Brainst0rm:
We can tell Russ is being serious because he said "fuck". Just like Aria in Mass Effect 2! There is no more mature way showing you fucking mean business than by saying the naughtiest of curses. As soon as you hear "fuck", you know - yeah - he's hardcore. You shouldn't fuck with Russ Pitts.

You can tell I'm not being serious because I'm making a positive comparison with BioWare writing. I'm sure they agonized over how to communicate to the player how much of a bad-ass Aria is. Then someone made the fateful realization that bad-asses say "fuck", and the rest - as they say - is history.

Comedians in the 90s also realized that people get a thrill form hearing words they weren't allowed to say as kids.

So can we move past this now?

So cunt isn't the naughtiest of swear words anymore? Cool.

Bad-arses don't say fuck, they say cocksucker.

Having read this week's articles and then re-read this editorial piece I still don't "get it". This article's content and tone make it almost impossible to take it seriously, but if it's a joke then I think I must have missed the punchline.

We, the gamers, the consumers, are the gaming industry's raison d'etre. It exists only because there is money to be made by satisfying our desire for entertainment.

I disagree with piracy both from a moral and practical perspective. I'm 34 and I've never pirated a game, never bought a second-hand game, and never rented a game. I can count on one hand the number of games I've borrowed from friends instead of purchasing, and in each case my suspicion that I would not enjoy the game (let alone finish it) was proved correct within an hour of starting it.

Because of this it is very important to me that I can make informed decisions about my purchases. So yes I want honest reviews, and yes I look at Metacritic, and if developers are being told "score X% or you won't get paid" then I say hooray for Metacritic! Is this system perfect? No. Will it last forever? No. But anything that improves the experience for me is something I support, and any developer who disagrees with that is working in the wrong industry (hell, they're working on the wrong planet). Current AAA games seem to be more polished and less buggy than ever before, which I think is due to a number of factors but mostly it's because that's what we want. A strong average on Metacritic is no guarantee that a game will be good, but I think it pretty much guarantees that a games is at least well made, and when I'm shelling out the equivalent of 60 USD then I expect well made to come as standard.

Have I completely missed the point of the editorial? If so, please write gooderer. I'm the reader, and it's what I think that counts.

1. How about the big publishers stop making/forcing the devs to get their game out on every device for zero day. Stop The corporate greed and give the devs the time to polish their game for the target machine, then it might not bomb in the charts?

2. This goes to zero day DLC as well. That time should have been spent on working on the game, that people paid for.

3. And all of the draconian DRM. Time and money wasted. Why you no make the game better instead?

What used to happen? If the game was popular enough to warrant, then the Dev teams could be directed to make DLC / expansions and ports. IF. This means all that time won't be wasted if the game bombs, but you get t expand it when it's successful (because you know that it will sell to the rest).

This had the bonus effect that people who liked the game would renew their excitement upon hearing of the DLC, rather than get face raped by it on first run.

As for ports, it used to be you'd wait and see if the thing was ported, some were, some were not. But that built to the build up of potential sales and free advertising.

Russ Pitts:

The videogame industry is utterly screwed, and it's all your fault

That's funny because the game industry seems to be doing fine. Plenty of asshats making money hand over fist.
It seems to me that the gamers are the one's who are utterly screwed for basically all the same reasons you noted.
It just seems like gamers are paying more money for less content and/or quality. The big problem is, most gamers seem okay with it.

They got our number too: they're just going to keep asking for more and more money while providing even less quantity and/or quality.

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