I don't think it's good to live on promises and well communicated hot air lies.
We've just found other things to throw money at. Things that don't lie to us, things that make us happy. Like guns, dogs, cattle, motorbikes, cars and ass-old consoles.
Right now, I pretty much despise Randy Pitchford. I think I know how the game is played, but going for smoke and mirrors and hiring bottom-feeding studios to create a "Gearbox" game is pretty low - if I misunderstood it and that statement is not valid, please let me rephrase it thusly: hiring some studio to create a "Gearbox" game is risky and stupid, methinks. Selling the resulting crap is quite offensive, no matter what goodies, figurines or DLC codes you pack in. It's all for nothing, as the actual game really, really is terribly bad.
Great post and a good place to platform off of as far as this discussion goes.
Two years back I got off the gaming and went back into complex RC and UAV, I am seeing this as somewhat of a local trend at-least in my area. At one time the local hobby store (paper pencil, card, models, RC, slot) was a ghost town... now it is doing a bustling business. Same with our local Kendo club and for the first time in years the model airstrip is getting a face lift.
As with anything I suppose the idea was that gaming (in general and as an industry) was recession proof, and by degrees if the reasoning held (nature dictates a suitable replacement which didn't really exist), that no matter what was being produced and sold on, it would "sell". Topographically there was such a base and so little content to fill the void, more or less anything "could" be sold. Simple a matter of discovering the price.
As far as the marketing tricks go they are academically taught and are generally considered to be "opportunistic and gorilla". Uses quite a bit of psychology including guilt, responsibility shifting, and co-opting concession with the consumer. Additionally due to the nature of "money talks" it has been debatable as to the quality of the reporting of the major reviewers and outlets of information. Many of the huge media conglomerates own major portions of the publishers as well as have vested interest in the magazines and online e-zines.
Looking at this world as a game, or a system, it is a great way to "stack or rig" the contest; the score kept in money.
The legal nature of software (it simple has to run). As well as some rulings on the nature of the free speech laid the ground work for the adventurous entrepreneur.
This goes with the pre-orders as well. Originally (having real working experience on product side) the idea was to calculate the number of physical copies that a brick and mortar would have on hand for resale. Due to the slippery slope of product cost typically degrading all the time, "holding" too many copies of a title was a financial risk. If your a major distributor, how many copies of Madden NFL do you physically need to order to maximize your 72 hour window? What about the shipping? What about delivery?
That is to say that a Gamestop or BestBuy physically purchases many thousands or hundreds of thousands of these units, by contract. It is not consignment. Steam (to my limited knowledge does both consignment for a transaction fee and is "hooked" into x numbers of product keys at release.)
Used offsets this by calculating the churn rate of the physical product. Allowing for a much smoother transition and "somewhat" artificial scarcity to be introduced. Now of course, piracy and emulators do mess up those calculations considerably.
It's not a charity. It's a business. As systems have moved into a digital distribution age the dynamics of this simple and transparent policy has been abused. Though not without some cause for that abuse.
Considering the number of studios that have folded or changed hands in the past few years, there has been a gulf of artist and creative people at the associates of arts or science level coupled with a rather stark decline in the number of design engineers moving into the field as well as professional designers (level design) BS.MS.Ph.D.. And if it is not a decline of entry of personnel into the field it simply didn't keep pace, stay put, or move into other industries.
Iv'e known of several design artist abandon video games and go into toy design. Many programmers and engineers go into financial institutions or physical good manufacturing. There are tons of reasons for this.
Rising hardware cost and an ever increasing cost to keep up with technology has created a fiscal chasm of very high casino risk.
We are in the age of the last man standing and high volatility with venture capitol drying up everywhere due to rather stagnant and receding economies. So much so in the case of one studio ongoing legal ramifications for failure to deliver. (Kickstarters and crowed funding side-skirting this in very clever ways).
This leaves a couple options are on the table, recycle known brands that have high visibility at the lowest possible cost (reboots and sequels), try to create a new brand, clone an already existing entity; or figure out a way to raise the cost of the unit by crippling it and selling it piece-mill.
Possibly sell out the company or license held I.P. to generate some quick cash. There is the F2P model that is being explored in an attempt to bring in a new base and lower the commitment gate of the consumer, and the social models which have some advantages and disadvantages... Sim City comes to mind with it's always online component which doubles as DRM and conversely the only A.I. (opponent/ally) the game will realistically have. Not sure how that is going to pan out.
As far as the fabled video game crash?
I think we are in it, right now... but it is a huge market and may break up into pockets rather than totally sink. I am of the mind to say it is here to stay by degrees and most likely will "recycle" itself, accepting smaller markets rather than risk the huge amounts of capitol. As I heard once, 5 100 lb gorilla instead of 1 500 lb gorilla. I still think there will be some of the bigger titans that drop tried and true franchise sequels. The key here will be recycling assets (art, music, code base) as much as possible to keep the cost down.
A:CM is interesting in that it was farmed out under the auspices of being developed by a highly talented team. The assets could be wholesale shoplifted from the film, art, concept material, audio effects, alien designs. There are tons of resources that already exist in the form of wire frames and textures. Yet with all that material why is it so terrible?
What you said, about guns, reminds me of an interview with Barrett when he discussed the M98B weapon system built around the .338 LM. He said they took the round and designed a weapon system from the ground up for that round, rather than what the competitors have attempted to do which was modify an already existing system to support the round.
To that end when I look at A:CM I see assets that where in place, and somewhere, as an afterthought, a game shoe-horned into that sea of "assets". There was little to no thought as to how "this" game should be. What strategies and tactics would a player find interesting or create to solve the crisis of the drama presented. Hardly the case.
A game was developed, sure... but a game was not designed around central mechanics. Nothing supports the round chambered into the system. Thing is, did it matter? Did anyone care? Maybe the consumer, but who cares about him or her?
The sad thing is there are moments of brilliance in the work. Take the whole thing apart and rebuild it from the ground up there is probably an excellent game to be had.
It's here where I find my own conundrum. Is it just lazy? Is it a lack of talent from a "game" design standpoint? Is it all art and homage? I see all bait and no hook. I deeply question just how much game is in here.
I suspect over the next couple weeks there will be some damage control, and some shifting of the blame... be it onto reserves or the strength of the I.P. could of never met a "fans" expectations. Ultimately, for me, it is simply a distinct lack of ability, accountability, and perhaps frustratingly no reason what-so-ever for there to have ever been any.
Off the shelf engines, concept work all but handed to teams, no legal ramifications outside of not meeting a delivery date, and a real lack of "artisan-ship or craftsmanship" in the central design.
It is embarrassingly bad.
McDonald's grade software with billions and billions served sold at a very high price point. It worked. Will likely continue to work.
Though with the notion of the "reserve" being at fault, that is simply not true. That money sits in "escrow" by most western countries law. All it does is gain interest, which the holding company keeps; not a farthing goes to a studio or publisher for development.
No transaction has taken place, other than to build interest for the distributor, Steam, BB, Amazon, EA Holdings... what have you. It is factually inaccurate and disingenuous to say otherwise without some evidence or copies of contracts which state that at "x" reserves, the budget is increased to "y". Which would be VERY unorthodox, even for shit-ware like A:CM.
So let's see the list of stuff that has been used in the blame game:
Piracy, Reserves, It's Art, Creative License, "Fans", Entitlements, Used, Digital Distribution (so many more I know I am missing).
I am really "excited" to see what is said next to paper up the cracks! =D
The blame here, lies squarely on the feet of the developer and the serious lack of investment into the work presented. Tantamount to fraud, with no legal ramifications due to the nature of the software industry.
A craftsman or engineer would be severely reprimanded if not dismissed or brought liable for this sort of product...
Being it is a game game, fuck em; thanks for the new Ferrari. Hell even toy manufacturers are held to standards.
Reserves? "Jazz Hands!"