Of Three Types of Game Developers, Two Are Going Extinct

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"Online Opportunists" is a nice euphemism. Personally the most civil way I can describe companies like Zynga is "Parasitic" (and quickly devolves into colorful choice descriptions from there). I'd be hesitant to even call them "game developers", except in the loosest academic manner. Since from what I've seen, they don't make "games" so much as they make money-farms based on Skinner psychology that vaguely resemble games.

In any case, good riddance to them.

Clovus:

AAA gaming isn't going anywhere. Is it really shocking that sometimes big companies that are badly managed go under? There are plenty of AAA developers, just like there are plenty of blockbuster movies.

The AAA "Old Guard" is largely shrinking already. And I suspect it will continue to shrink in the coming years.
Though, perhaps not disappear; not while companies like Activision and Nintendo are still sitting on fat sacks of cash.
But the others are either treading water, or dying out. (Usually in phases of either)

Especially the Japanese publishers; who have retreated so much from the global market since the end of the PS2 era.

Signa:

Nazrel:
This seems more like Rumble Entertainment's mission statement then an actual article.

STOP READING MY MIIIIIIND!!!

No, really, I finished the article and that exact sentence went through my mind.

The best part of this article will be in 3 years when Rumble is closing or merging because their innovation didn't keep them alive on their own. I've read great pieces from CEOs of companies like CD Project or Stardock. This article did nothing to inspire me or think "yeah! This guy gets it! I might buy something of theirs more readily than before."

Exactly. This piece feels like it went through a PR wringer so hard, none of the personality of it is left.

While it's nice the escapist allows articles written by start-ups, this isn't interesting to me. Looking at the thread, I'm definitely not alone in that thought.

Maybe scan these write-ups for blatant marketing speech? Tell them to be honest instead of appealing to emotions to get more revenue...

I'm just utterly baffled as to why this is here. I don't want to read marketing, unless it is said that it basically is that. If someone tries to tell me how awesome their stuff is, I just can't help but be cynical. 'I'm the judge of whether your product is awesome or not' is what races through my mind whenever anyone does that.

And now I can't help but feeling like a hypocrite.

As a...current generation...gamer I find your list a bit lacking. For a start, there is plenty of market for AAA games. Their poor approach to marketing and massive budgets will be the downfall of some companies, but there are companies making that standard of game that know their market, make great games and make money. CDProject, Valve (to an extent) and FROM Software for example.

Secondly, you leave no room for crowdsourcing. It can result in any standard of game from indie to AAA and is guaranteed a profit. It's practically a no-risk situation if they have a reliable dev team and it allows the kind of games the Old Guard would be averse to making, along with massive market interaction and involvement.

Thirdly, I would describe the innovators as mainly indie games. Not Free 2 Play games, not necessarily mobile games. F2P is much more a hallmark of the opportunists. The 'current generation', as far as I know, are happy to pay for games, like getting value for money, and don't necessarily like microtransactions and the Free 2 Play model. Of course everyone's not the same. But suggesting F2P is the way forward is plain wrong.

In which universe does "SuperCell" stand for high quality gameplay games? Their "Clash of the Clans" is just another online game working with the OGame functionality. I had no fun with this game at all, and it does not seem to be made to engage the player, but to make him dependent on the game. So, more like the Online Opportunist category.

captcha: Window dressing, seems somewhat fitting

I cant believe that Grinding Gear Games was not mentioned as a shining example of how games can be funded and maintained.
Path of Exile is definitely a encouraging sign that free to play really can mean _free_ to say nothing of the fact that it was crowdfunded during the development.

Actually i am missing a review of PoE on escapist, whats the matter? Do you guys boycott anything that is not a AAA published?

Clovus:

They don't want to fight a steep learning curve around UI and UX,

Yes, I do, although I'm not sure what "UX" is. I don't want to play games that I understand in five minutes. I want to play a game that is interesting.

UX stands for User eXperience.

OT: I looked up this guys company, they havent released anything really noteworthy so I dont see why we should care what he has to say, especially when it seems... a bit out there. AAA really isnt going anywhere for a long while yet, and I suspect they are a dying breed in the same way that PC gaming has been a dying breed since the late 80s.

Plus I would much rather play the larger games like the Calls of Duty, or the Bioshocks, and such than much less than impressive games that his company seems to turn out. Sure, fringe gamers might enjoy drop in drop out experiences like are offered by his company and others like him... but there will always be a market for deeper more complex and involved games. If anything I think the future really lies in places like Minecraft, where you have a base product, which is easy to comprehend, but can be infinitely expanded upon and the complexity increased to the users desires. I for example play with 20 mods installed on my game making it an extremely complex and detailed game, where as my mother plays on vanilla creative mode. We both play the same game, but our experiances are vastly different.

In conclusion, the AAA market is not dying, it is merely reducing.

Clovus:
This seemed like a bit of nonsense really. Are all regularly priced games in the "Oldguard" category? The article makes it sound like only "free-to-play" games are the future, which is crazy.

Now, I'm not trying to say Greg is biased...

But he is the founder and CEO of Rumble Entertainment, which develops free-to-play games. The "New Innovators" he speaks of.

And the moment I realized this... I sort of lost interest.

The title of the article alone feels very presumptuous and arrogant.

I browsed through the Featured Articles archive the other day, and it was a veritable mine of interesting stories, about life with gaming in the mix.

Not to say they're gone, but I sure as hell miss them fast with articles like this.

It's an interesting move to give developers a stronger mouthpiece on the site, especially some of the smaller ones. But my case against this is hinted at by the two types Mr. Richardson undermines; developers have caught the scent of money.

You kind of need to have the scent of money, really; not knocking devs wanting to get paid for their work. But you (and really, any other dev) don't come off as trustworthy enough to pull off an article like this when we can see that.

I do think that the state of communication between developers and consumers is interesting. How about something along those lines? :D

Atmos Duality:

Clovus:

AAA gaming isn't going anywhere. Is it really shocking that sometimes big companies that are badly managed go under? There are plenty of AAA developers, just like there are plenty of blockbuster movies.

The AAA "Old Guard" is largely shrinking already. And I suspect it will continue to shrink in the coming years.
Though, perhaps not disappear; not while companies like Activision and Nintendo are still sitting on fat sacks of cash.
But the others are either treading water, or dying out. (Usually in phases of either)

Especially the Japanese publishers; who have retreated so much from the global market since the end of the PS2 era.

I guess this depends on what you define as "Old Guard". It seems like the article means all games that are sold at a single price.

Are you just talking about "AAA" games here, or just the "Old AAA" gaming companies. I could easily see EA, Activision, and Ubisoft lasting for decades and growing in many years. There will always be a demand for AAA games.

My top-10 this year is about 90% indie/strategy, but that doesn't mean I'm not having some fun with Tomb Raider right now, or Blood Dragon in a few days. I absolutely don't want AAA to go away, and I don't see it happening.

Bethesda is pretty much the "Old Guard", right? You really see a future where people won't pay to play huge, beautiful sandbox RPGs? As the market changes, there will be shake-ups, no doubt. But some companies will survive and other will rise (CDProjekt, for example, are they "Old Guard" yet?). What about Valve?

Also, assuming that current trends will continue is a bad idea. Even if "the AAA "Old Guard" is largely shrinking", there's no reason to assume that will continue. Are airlines on a path to extinction just because there are fewer and fewer of them? We might see a future with a smaller number of AAA studios dominating the market (which would be bad), but there will always be a demand for AAA.

I guess that's the other way to look at. Some studios are going under, but what about the consumer dollars available to spend on AAA? I'm guessing that keeps going up.

So many unkind words I can use to describe this article, but I think the least offensive will be "self serving".

I may not be a fan of how publishers and developers chase after trends and favor sequels with incremental improvements, but I would delusional to believe browser and mobile games can compete against PC and console games; if I really wanted to play games of the same quality as browser/mobile games, I'll load up an emulator and play some 20 year old games.

Depressing article. At best, he's wrong, and I have to stomach another dev actively working to destroy my favorite hobby with more shallow mobile gaming bullshit and psychologically manipulative F2P models. At worst, he's completely right, in which case this will very quickly cease to be my favorite hobby.

GregRichardsonRumble:
Of Three Types of Game Developers, Two Are Going Extinct

A cautionary essay about what it will take to be successful in the new Digital World Order.

Read Full Article

A pretty decent marriage proposal to players (potential customers...) but I'm sorry. I really dont think F2P is the future at all. It is a nice notion, but at the end of the day "F2P" in my experience just means pay later, and often. Creating a game cost money. If you dont make it on sales...you're gonna have to make it through some other means. And unless you're robbing banks...the game is gonna suffer in some way or another.

Want bigger bags? Pay bigger bucks! Want to be able to chat with everyone instead of just 1 person? Pay more money!

Sorry...but there is simply no "fun" way to monetize in-game content. There just isnt. Its immersion breaking and a total hassle of your player base. I'd rather pay once and know I get a complete product (often a miracle in this time of endless sequels and garbage dlc...) than not pay at first and have a garbage game.

JonB:

AntiChrist:
Like I asked in regard to Johan Andersson's article last week: Is there a reason behind featuring these particular developers' take on the video game industry? Is there some context that I'm missing...?

We think it's interesting to see what the people making the games (and making the games happen) are thinking. I'm not sure that they're more right than anyone else, but they do have a unique insight that's not always shared outside the exclusive circles of themselves and other devs. I'd like to share that with you all. No more, no less.

Is there any chance in that case we could get an exclusive interview on the escapist from the guys over at 5 Lives studio?

I think it would be interesting to read what some up and comings that just kickstarted a game think of the industry, rather than someone who makes F2P games and talks about how obviously the other forms of gaming are going togo extinct.

JonB:

AntiChrist:
Like I asked in regard to Johan Andersson's article last week: Is there a reason behind featuring these particular developers' take on the video game industry? Is there some context that I'm missing...?

We think it's interesting to see what the people making the games (and making the games happen) are thinking. I'm not sure that they're more right than anyone else, but they do have a unique insight that's not always shared outside the exclusive circles of themselves and other devs. I'd like to share that with you all. No more, no less.

I dunno, this guy reads more like the usual "our market is the only viable market" blabbering that comes from all the CEOs that are part of the mobile gold rush.

Desert Punk:

JonB:

AntiChrist:
Like I asked in regard to Johan Andersson's article last week: Is there a reason behind featuring these particular developers' take on the video game industry? Is there some context that I'm missing...?

We think it's interesting to see what the people making the games (and making the games happen) are thinking. I'm not sure that they're more right than anyone else, but they do have a unique insight that's not always shared outside the exclusive circles of themselves and other devs. I'd like to share that with you all. No more, no less.

Is there any chance in that case we could get an exclusive interview on the escapist from the guys over at 5 Lives studio?

I think it would be interesting to read what some up and comings that just kickstarted a game think of the industry, rather than someone who makes F2P games and talks about how obviously the other forms of gaming are going togo extinct.

Now that would be an article worth reading.

Them or a group like Perihelion Interactive or Yacht Club Games.

Ed130:

Desert Punk:

JonB:

We think it's interesting to see what the people making the games (and making the games happen) are thinking. I'm not sure that they're more right than anyone else, but they do have a unique insight that's not always shared outside the exclusive circles of themselves and other devs. I'd like to share that with you all. No more, no less.

Is there any chance in that case we could get an exclusive interview on the escapist from the guys over at 5 Lives studio?

I think it would be interesting to read what some up and comings that just kickstarted a game think of the industry, rather than someone who makes F2P games and talks about how obviously the other forms of gaming are going togo extinct.

Now that would be an article worth reading.

Them or a group like Perihelion Interactive or Yacht Club Games.

I would also LOVE an article interview with Perihelion Interactive, I am sure they would have a really interesting take on things, considering they werent doing too well until a few media outlets got involved and really drummed up support for them.

Ah yes, the "death of dedicated consoles" nonsense again. Because both MS and Sony having their more successful launches ever is clearly a sign of the endtimes for them.

This is just the same claptrap that came out when Zynga was sitting pretty and everyone thought that facebook games were an unlimited goldmine. A few years later and people are still buying AAA shooters because, surprise surprise, people who bought AAA shooters like AAA shooters and aren't going to stop buying them because your grandmother went through a farmville phase.

Desert Punk:

Ed130:

Desert Punk:

Is there any chance in that case we could get an exclusive interview on the escapist from the guys over at 5 Lives studio?

I think it would be interesting to read what some up and comings that just kickstarted a game think of the industry, rather than someone who makes F2P games and talks about how obviously the other forms of gaming are going togo extinct.

Now that would be an article worth reading.

Them or a group like Perihelion Interactive or Yacht Club Games.

I would also LOVE an article interview with Perihelion Interactive, I am sure they would have a really interesting take on things, considering they werent doing too well until a few media outlets got involved and really drummed up support for them.

That's why I chose the two, Perihelion's The Mandate Kickstarter really had me worried that it wouldn't make the goal but a few people mention it to their audience and it went ballistic.

Shovel Knight met its goal early on but that didn't stop them from pushing.

I don't know about the rest of the article, but I definitely raised my eyebrow when I saw 'Nexon' put in the positive set. I've felt like I've been repeatedly burned as a customer of theirs, and I sure as hell don't intend to buy from them in the immediate future unless something indicates to me there's been a drastic change.

Clovus:

I guess this depends on what you define as "Old Guard". It seems like the article means all games that are sold at a single price.

Are you just talking about "AAA" games here, or just the "Old AAA" gaming companies. I could easily see EA, Activision, and Ubisoft lasting for decades and growing in many years. There will always be a demand for AAA games.

I'm defining "Old Guard" as the old console AAA giants: EA, 2k Games, Activision*, Ubisoft, Capcom, Konami, Namco-Bandai, Squeenix, Nintendo (and Sega, to a lesser degree). Why? Because for the longest time, consoles have dominated mainstream gaming; their practices steer the larger market. Outside of MMOs and a few oddities, PC gaming really didn't matter.
Though that seems to be changing.

Looking at the Old AAA's financial performance in the last generation you will find a few major breadwinners like Activision-Blizzard and Nintendo, and the rest who are treading water or slowly eroding.

Those who are treading water are in a position to turn around but they won't. Because they're afraid to risks.
Ubisoft for example, is in no dire straights, but they also aren't exactly dominating their competition either.

More importantly, it's their attitude that defines why they aren't about to start growing either, they're consolidating their lineups into blockbusters and only blockbusters; that is NOT an indicator of growth. It's proof of the opposite; they're retracting and specializing. And they aren't the only ones; EA, Activision, Capcom and 2k are all adopting this strategy, and so far it has proven unsuccessful save for Activision. But their golden goose is shown to have a shelf life, with sales falling two years in a row now.

And then you have those who are failing.
First we saw THQ, and the next most likely is Capcom who has dangerously little liquid capital left to invest.

In terms of video game sales, Konami has not managed to maintain the market presence they once had and are going nowhere at best. They're largely a domestic game company now, their most "international" game being Yugioh.

Squeenix has been hemorrhaging money in horrifying amounts these last few years thanks to the failure of Fabula Nova Crystalis, "disappointing sales" in their Eidos lineup and the initial disaster of FF14 (though that seems to have turned around now).
Even your beloved Tomb Raider was considered a failure by Squeenix, despite selling over 2 million copies.

Bethesda is pretty much the "Old Guard", right? You really see a future where people won't pay to play huge, beautiful sandbox RPGs? As the market changes, there will be shake-ups, no doubt. But some companies will survive and other will rise (CDProjekt, for example, are they "Old Guard" yet?). What about Valve?

Bethesda is an anomaly. They succeed at making exactly one kind of game, mega-sandbox games, but since nobody else even tries to compete with Bethesda, they've been allowed to do so for as long as they have. Of course, Bethesda beloved as they are, are still technically incompetent and overly specialized as a result of that success. Whenever they step out of their very small zone of specialty they fail miserably, like with Brink.

As for Valve, it's safe to say that the bulk of Valve's profits comes from Steam sales and not their own games.
They operate on a different level than the console giants do, they're the only major player in all of gaming who isn't public traded, and have profited greatly thanks to the rest of mainstream gaming largely snubbing PC.

CDProjekt are upstarts, and nearly collapsed after their first game. I admire their gumption and their vision, but I doubt they have any real clout with steering mainstream gaming. At least currently.

Also, assuming that current trends will continue is a bad idea. Even if "the AAA "Old Guard" is largely shrinking", there's no reason to assume that will continue.

Actually, there are far more reasons to assume the trend will continue than it won't.

Because those who are failing are doing the same thing over and over, and thus are making the same mistakes repeatedly. Of every company I listed MAYBE one is actually changing their attitude. MAYBE.
(it's EA; I wouldn't hold my breath.)

But the rest of them are all continuing to overspend on development and marketing, all continuing to price gouge on DLC, all continuing to push the same blockbusters and blockbuster-only mentality, and all still have the audacity to push "less for more" schemes onto the consumer.

Don't take my word for it; just look at what the next gen launch titles are offering (hint: It's more of the same).

Conversely, there is no evidence that suggests they are planning to change that anytime soon.
So forgive me for not sharing in your speculation.

Probably because they can't change. These companies are incapable of doing anything original or innovative because they only want to produce what is proven to work. And since they eliminated their smaller budget developers from the PS2 era, they have no place to safely experiment.

I guess that's the other way to look at. Some studios are going under, but what about the consumer dollars available to spend on AAA? I'm guessing that keeps going up.

It isn't just a matter of shunting consumer dollars to the next guy in line, because in a creative medium the goods are valued on appeal and price. Games aren't purely fungible like corn or petrol, where the goods are largely indistinguishable.

More to the point: When THQ and Atari died, nobody magically started making tons more money due to the loss of competition. But one could argue that THQ and Atari failed because they just didn't matter anymore. Well..ignoring for a moment that's kind of what threatens these biggest companies in the long run..

Even if a bigger company were to go under, say 2k Games, and their IP got scooped up by a competitor, that competitor will still face the same problems of overblown production costs eating into profit margins under the current system. And on top of that, they still have the task of making the game distinguishable enough for the market to accept; franchise fatigue doesn't disappear just because the franchise changed hands.

So until the Old Guard offers the consumer something newer and better, there is *NO* reason to assume that trend will change, and that's what the article is trying to address.

Summarily: "Adapt or Die".

Atmos Duality:

Clovus:

I guess this depends on what you define as "Old Guard". It seems like the article means all games that are sold at a single price.

Are you just talking about "AAA" games here, or just the "Old AAA" gaming companies. I could easily see EA, Activision, and Ubisoft lasting for decades and growing in many years. There will always be a demand for AAA games.

I'm defining "Old Guard" as the old console AAA giants: EA, 2k Games, Activision*, Ubisoft, Capcom, Konami, Namco-Bandai, Squeenix, Nintendo (and Sega, to a lesser degree). Why? Because for the longest time, consoles have dominated mainstream gaming; their practices steer the larger market. Outside of MMOs and a few oddities, PC gaming really didn't matter.
Though that seems to be changing.

Oh, ok. That's not what the article was talking about. I really don't see EA, 2K, Acti-Blizzard, or Ubisoft going under in the next ten years. I do agree that the Japanese companies (sans Nintendo) seem a bit shaky.

More importantly, it's their attitude that defines why they aren't about to start growing either, they're consolidating their lineups into blockbusters and only blockbusters; that is NOT an indicator of growth. It's proof of the opposite; they're retracting and specializing. And they aren't the only ones; EA, Activision, Capcom and 2k are all adopting this strategy, and so far it has proven unsuccessful save for Activision. But their golden goose is shown to have a shelf life, with sales falling two years in a row now.

Let's assume that strategy does start really failing. Then they change. I just don't see these huge companies delivering products that huge numbers of people want completely falling apart. You say, "Adapt or die" later on. That's what they'll eventually do. When things get bad enough they'll try something new. I really don't think it will get to that point though. This sounds just like Hollywood, and they keep not collapsing.

But the rest of them are all continuing to overspend on development and marketing, all continuing to price gouge on DLC, all continuing to push the same blockbusters and blockbuster-only mentality, and all still have the audacity to push "less for more" schemes onto the consumer.

I've been a gamer for like 30-years and I've seen all kinds of dumb monetization strategies come and go. Outside of the "Video Game Crash", this never leads to the big established companies completely falling apart. You lose one or two, the others change, and a new one comes along.

When THQ and Atari died, nobody magically started making tons more money due to the loss of competition.

I'm not so sure about that. There's nothing "magical" here. People have a certain amount they generally spend on entertainment. And sure, they still have to make something someone wants to buy, but they have a history of pulling that off.

Bethesda is an "anomaly" because they've cornered a market. You don't think Acti-Blizzard would make more money on CoD if EA/Dice were out of the picture? There's a huge audience who enjoy boring AAA shooters. If they have less choice, they'll end up buying what they can as long as it meets a minimal quality level.

But one could argue that THQ and Atari failed because they just didn't matter anymore. Well..ignoring for a moment that's kind of what threatens these biggest companies in the long run..

We just don't agree here. I really love the innovation in indie games or niche games, but that doesn't change the fact that AAA developers have a product that is super expensive to create and that many people want. I just don't see a future where people stop wanting to play Ubisoft's open world jungle gym's (AssCreed, FarCry, Watch Dogs), or the big shooters, or AAA MMOs. I mean, I'm not interested in it much, but TitanFall is going to be huge. It'll probably have all kinds of horrible DLC/microtransactions, but that segment of the market is fine with that. And those kinds of games are definitely still important. I wish those AAA were better and more intelligent, but that's not stopping them from being a big part of the market.

Gaming is expanding. The free-to-play stuff in the article, the indies, etc. are all bringing in new gamers. Do you really thing the millions of AAA fans are going to suddenly quit buying because of dumb DLC? And, even if they do, that a few of the "Old Guards" won't just quickly change to address that? It's not super hard to stop selling awful DLC, or to change your policies. Why aren't they doing it now? Because they're making money on it.

Even if a bigger company were to go under, say 2k Games, and their IP got scooped up by a competitor, that competitor will still face the same problems of overblown production costs eating into profit margins under the current system. And on top of that, they still have the task of making the game distinguishable enough for the market to accept; franchise fatigue doesn't disappear just because the franchise changed hands.

I don't see a problem with franchises dying. CoD is starting to look questionable. So what? TitanFall is on the way and some other new IP is on the way. Sure, Company A can't necesarily make good money off Company B's run down IP, but when that IP isn't there they can make something new to meet that market.

So until the Old Guard offers the consumer something newer and better, there is *NO* reason to assume that trend will change, and that's what the article is trying to address.

Summarily: "Adapt or Die".

The article is saying that free-to-play is the answer though. Do you believe that? It's defining "Old Guard" as all companies making games for a set price. I'm guessing we can agree that is incorrect, right?

Ruzinus:
Even if it's coming from the little guy, this is basically advertising masquerading as an article.

There's something offensive about seeing this presented as if it were journalism.

If The Escapist is going to run this sort of material, why doesn't it open an Op. Ed section? That's where this stuff is valid.

Because there's really only two types of gaming "journalism": passing along press releases, or opinion pieces. So what's different about this? That it's by a dev instead of a "journalist"?

WashAran:
With new innovators I am guessing you mean the indies? The people that mostly ride on nostalgia? The people that are innovating by bringing back old gaming concepts? Yeah...

Hey, you know who also rode nostalgia and innovated by bringing back old concepts?

George Lucas in 1977.

Right. Also, Pc gaming is dead, and everyone will be mobiile gaming within 2 years.

This division is completely arbitrary. what about studios like paradox, or stardock, or any of the other mid-range developers? They're not triple A's, they're not online, and they're not really innovators. also, what exactly are these innovators doing that the big companies can't do? AAA isn't putting out the same kind of games indies are, but don't overestimate the market and interest for indie. most people prefer something like CoD over fez or bastion. the indie games that have had mainstream succes are a very few among a multitude of anonymous games.

Clovus:

Oh, ok. That's not what the article was talking about. I really don't see EA, 2K, Acti-Blizzard, or Ubisoft going under in the next ten years. I do agree that the Japanese companies (sans Nintendo) seem a bit shaky.

We will see. Economics dictates that the first firms to leave the market are those with the highest costs, barring some other disaster (like war, law, or natural destruction).

Let's assume that strategy does start really failing. Then they change. I just don't see these huge companies delivering products that huge numbers of people want completely falling apart. You say, "Adapt or die" later on. That's what they'll eventually do.

But we have seen them fall apart. We just lost one last year, and we're likely to lose another one this next year.
And it's not like Capcom doesn't have IP that people want. It's just that they refuse to listen to anyone who isn't Capcom.
They trolled Megaman fans and have been acting like dicks over content pricing for all their other games.

Having huge demand means nothing if your profit margins are still in the red at the end of it.
It's always possible to spend more; generating debt is easy.

They need to dial back production costs and introduce a little more content value into their products, but they're so afraid of losing the consumer's attention and that "extra" revenue from gouging that they won't. Instead, the mentality for the last few years has been to shitcan all smaller projects and throw more money into marketing.

I've been a gamer for like 30-years and I've seen all kinds of dumb monetization strategies come and go. Outside of the "Video Game Crash", this never leads to the big established companies completely falling apart. You lose one or two, the others change, and a new one comes along.

Well, I turn 30 next year, and have been a gamer for as long as I can remember.
I too can recall all manner of ripoffs and schemes, but until these recent years haven't seen so many AAA games where the bulk of the content is locked behind a paywall like DLC or some other service.

Furthermore I never said that others wouldn't take their place. Obviously others will.
It's just that the current business model the Old Guard employs isn't as efficient as it used to be (for either them or us).

Like I said, they're treading water, or slowly eroding. But they aren't racing towards collapse, which is what most people who talk about "the next crash" often assume (I know another game crash won't occur unless something disastrous happens to the world. Or to digital distribution).

I'm not so sure about that. There's nothing "magical" here. People have a certain amount they generally spend on entertainment. And sure, they still have to make something someone wants to buy, but they have a history of pulling that off.

There's plenty of other markets in media besides gaming. And cheaper to boot.

Bethesda is an "anomaly" because they've cornered a market.

That isn't entirely accurate since Bethesda aren't forcing everyone else out of the mega sandbox market.
It's just that few are willing to try at all because they see better opportunities elsewhere. Like shooters.

You don't think Acti-Blizzard would make more money on CoD if EA/Dice were out of the picture? There's a huge audience who enjoy boring AAA shooters. If they have less choice, they'll end up buying what they can as long as it meets a minimal quality level.

I think they would enjoy a minor increase in sales at best.

People are just getting sick of the Modern Military Shooter genre in general, just like how people started tiring of WoW and the WoW clones around 4 years ago.

There is demand for MMSs, but best I can tell from comparing sales figures, it's declining overall. Otherwise, we would be seeing CoD's competitors gaining sales very sharply and CoD's sales fall equally as sharply. Instead we're seeing total sales declining slowly each year.
I admit, competition certainly has something to do with it, but it's not the dominant factor for the decline.

We just don't agree here. I really love the innovation in indie games or niche games, but that doesn't change the fact that AAA developers have a product that is super expensive to create and that many people want. I just don't see a future where people stop wanting to play Ubisoft's open world jungle gym's (AssCreed, FarCry, Watch Dogs), or the big shooters, or AAA MMOs.

Well, that much is certain: we don't agree.

But I will say this: There was a time I thought the same about Japanese games.
That I could not imagine a future without them.

The 90s and early 2000s. was a very lucrative period for Japanese game publishers. They OWNED the game mainstream game market. (JRPG didn't even carry stigma on the internet yet!)

And look at them now: Sega is a joke, Konami, Capcom, Namco-Bandai and Squeenix are all floundering. And that all changed in the span of just a few years. Namely, the previous console generation. (starting around 2005 through 2009).

I mean, I'm not interested in it much, but TitanFall is going to be huge. It'll probably have all kinds of horrible DLC/microtransactions, but that segment of the market is fine with that. And those kinds of games are definitely still important. I wish those AAA were better and more intelligent, but that's not stopping them from being a big part of the market.

I agree with that sentiment. TitanFall looks to be just as big, dumb and bland as anything I've seen, but it will still make a pile of money...

...Or become another source of major controversy courtesy of EA next March. We're three for three years so far.

Gaming is expanding. The free-to-play stuff in the article, the indies, etc. are all bringing in new gamers. Do you really thing the millions of AAA fans are going to suddenly quit buying because of dumb DLC?

Just because gaming is expanding does not mean AAA is the cause or even the direct beneficiary.

Also, it's not just because of dumb DLC. There's a whole myriad of things that AAA -AND ONLY AAA- are pushing for that I really really do not want to see made into industry standards, because I believe it will drive people away from gaming by ruining the experience.

Though I'm not without hope: Earlier this year, I was a bit surprised, and relieved at the rejection of the pre-180 Xbone.

And, even if they do, that a few of the "Old Guards" won't just quickly change to address that? It's not super hard to stop selling awful DLC, or to change your policies. Why aren't they doing it now? Because they're making money on it.

Not enough apparently.
EA and Squeenix have both gone on the record complaining about not hitting insane target numbers for sales.
The only possible cause for such numbers is grossly unrealistic expectations (aka "rampant stupidity"), or overblown production costs they have to meet. Given what I've seen from the quarterly reports of other AAA publishers, this isn't unique to EA and Squeenix.

I don't see a problem with franchises dying. CoD is starting to look questionable. So what? TitanFall is on the way and some other new IP is on the way. Sure, Company A can't necesarily make good money off Company B's run down IP, but when that IP isn't there they can make something new to meet that market.

They can make something new, but they extremely hesitant to.
It's scary just how many sequels remakes and clones comprise what AAA produced in the last console generation.
New IP is exceptionally rare; apart from TitanFall and Watch Dogs, I really can't think of any new IP from AAA that's coming up. And even TitanFall just looks like Halo Duty 4: Slightly More Parkour Edition.

The article is saying that free-to-play is the answer though. Do you believe that? It's defining "Old Guard" as all companies making games for a set price. I'm guessing we can agree that is incorrect, right?

I definitely agree there. Free-to-play by necessity of its model, imposes grind and paywalls for content, and is far too limiting to support many genres of games. (all single player genres are excluded by default because F2P relies heavily on the social/multiplayer element to cover for the grind element and to reduce the commitments hybrid single/multiplayer games require, like AI/bots or a campaign)

If F2P takes over, I see gaming being no better off than if AAA took over.
I like the market having a variety of games, so long as the stupid schemes from one doesn't force its way into the others.

This makes it out as if the "old guard" aren't innovating either, well, they are, and some deal with change better than others.

I think it's mostly publishers whose days are numbered. We're seeing more and more studios which are going independent, doing all their marketing online. Publishers are mostly clinging onto their monopoly of physical distribution, on the power of mass marketing titles at launch. But with digital distribution, traditional marketing, publishing, etc, are becoming less and less relevant. In the next console generation, we'll see masses of console gamers forgoing hard copies for downloads. If publishers want to survive, they'll have to become smarter, innovate more, and actually listen to what people are saying.

Publishers can be a force for good, in enabling expensive, long-term development of blockbusters, which a LOT of people do want. Yet they need to be more in touch, more flexible, and more decentralised. People are generally much more aware of issues within gaming, they can find out everything they need to know online. In an information economy, it's extremely important to communicate effectively, poor communication kills, and so does ignoring feedback.

The Escapist shouldn't publish this kind of self-promoting garbage from game developers. I can agree on some of the marks against the AAA-game industry, but his overall purpose in writing this self-aggrandizing fluff piece is that HIS company will be successful because they are good at everything.

Text Wall Warning!

Although most of the article rings true with what I have observed in the gaming trends and my own media consumption the examples that are used for the new guard are terrible, just plain wrong. I have experiences with both Riot and Nexon, these companies DO NOT put player satisfaction and happiness over aggressive monetization. Nexon represents some of the worst business practices still alive in the market, horrible customer service (for myself it took them half a year to resolve a simple ticket, for others I have heard stories of them taking over a year to respond), they most certainly do not listen to their players or look at them as anything other than a cash cow, they have a rampant hacking problem in almost all of their games because they refuse to upgrade to better game security, their releases in games focus on getting as much money out of players as they can, they introduce artificial barriers in their games to drive sales (a cardinal sin, they sell power, not customization), they kill off some of their most unique intellectual properties because of poor support and hacking issues, god the list goes on its not really a surprise that anyone I have ever know who has contact with this company refers to them as the gaming Devil. Riot is a far lesser offender than Nexon is, but they are still a terrible company, they have the resources to do so much with their game yet they actually do so little and bitch about how hard it is for them every step of the way. Lets look at their business practices, they focus on selling customization (better than Nexon at least), but they dont distribute their customization evenly across their champion base, I know its because some champions get played more and they get more skins because of it, but its that kind of favoritism that is part of their mentality as a company. Their servers are fairly buggy, anyone who has experienced their share of lag and disconnects can tell you that, their software management is poor. Their matchmaking system is broken, I have had their support personnel admit as much and its full of exploitable loop holes which players abuse to gain an unfair advantage. Their game balancing revolves around their competitive scene even though some of the changes made dont make sense for the 99% of their player base, another example of the favoritism that I found. If you want a true example of innovators of the gaming industry look at Digital Extremes, a company that is currently working on Warframe. They are an independent producer which are producing a AAA quality game with content that is regularly updated, they actively listen to their player base and incorporate their ideas into the game (literally,a lot of the content is directly influenced by the players), they have bi-weekly live streams where they show their faces and discuss the health/development/etc of the game instead of hiding behind forums and did I mention that 90% of the content in the game is available for free. Also unlike Nexon or Riot when they make mistakes and the player base calls them out on it they admit it and fix them, not pretend that they don't exist or ignore them altogether. I do realize this sounds like free advertising for them, but I am just stating the drastic differences between the business practices of these companies, Nexon and Riot should not be praised, they have abundant resources and a large player base, but they neglect them and squander their wealth instead of producing truly superior products. After all, why bother making it good when it works as it is, am I right?

deathbydeath:
Why are you praising Riot for their strong community? I've heard nothing but disdain for the LoL masses.

As a LoL player, I have to stick up for Riot. The tales of MOBA toxicity get a bit hyperbolic sometimes but there is quite a bit of truth to them. HOWEVER, those people are not Riot. Riot are marvellous at engaging and interacting with their fan base and the 80% of the fan base who are non-toxic appreciate them greatly for it. You can tell, because anytime a Riot employee posts on a forum they rack up hundreds of "likes" almost immediately.

"Game-Design By Way of Corporate Mission Statement" is neither interesting nor engaging, and my only take-away from this is "Oh look, another Suit who doesn't understand what industry he's in."

Dear Escapist,
As abrasive as Cliffy B can be at times, I'd prefer a dozen articles of whatever drivel he's spewing over corporate slog like this. You want "From the Industry" articles worth posting? Talk to the guys who made FTL - they've got a new expansion coming in 2014, Advanced Edition. Ask some Minecraft Server admins what it's like to handle the community on a daily basis. Get some feedback from the devs behind Kerbal Space Program, Rochard, Kinetic Void, Space Engineers, The Swapper, or a dozen other small-studio / indie developers.

Don't waste our time with watered-down crap like this, it's just one more symptom of what's wrong with the industry.

Seriously? This guy is holding up Nexon as a company to uphold? The nicest thing you can possibly say about Nexon is that despite their abuse of F2P mechanics (and the psychology behind much of it), there are worse companies. Wow, there went any interest I possibly would have had in Rumble Games.

Seriously, this is just a bad PR statement posing as a article.

I don't think I have read such self serving poppycock in quite some time. This f2p bubble is going to pop as people get burned and realize that these free to play games are much more expensive than games that cost $29-$59 up front.

Some f2p games will remain, or even more likely some f2p mechanics in paid games, but this imagined f2p revolution is dead in its tracks. You come back to this comment 5 years from now and tell me I was wrong.

This was nothing more than a lengthy chunk of marketing copy written as a way of justifying the author's current business strategy. The concept of AAA games going under to be replaced by cheap/free games is just laughable. You really think that people are going to put down Skyrim and pick up Ridiculous Fishing? Sure, both are fun in their own way, but there is absolutely no way that mobile gaming and the free to play model like LoL are going to replace the AAA gaming scene.

The examples of businesses who have fallen is taken out of context and doesn't focus on why they actually fell. It's like someone claiming that Mobile Device manufacturers are all going to die out soon because BlackBerry went under. They were making poorer quality games, being badly run, they fell behind and were, ultimately, lost. It had nothing to do with the AAA industry as a whole, and a lot more to do with their own personal internal issues with management and production.

Mobile gaming is increasing, for sure, but that doesn't mean it's replacing anything. Please go pout to yourself in a mirror instead of posting your self congratulatory drivel in the guise of an "article" again. Thanks.

I literally started laughing so hard I cried at the thought of Nexon prioritizing player happiness. While I wouldn't say it's a smart or accurate article, that alone means I've got a bit of a soft-spot for it as a comedy piece.

When you start reading the article you think this text is supposed to be an argument about how the industry is changing but soon you realize how wrong you were.
In the end it is a too long advertisment for Rumble Entertainment that only is pathos and preying on gullible people to believe anything at face value or already in accordance to their believes.

The text works on two levels: First we get a philosophical history about the video game industry that reminds the readers of the marxian history. The age of the "old guard" is the feudalism, the "online opportunists" are the capitalists and the now dawning "new innovators" are communism. Interestingly the slave owning society was left out but this is simple to rectify. It can be the time before 1983 as the video game crash was a game changer for the industry and the "old guard" as we know it just like the crumbling of the roman empire and the beginning of the dark ages. Specifics are not the point here, but the subliminal effect of the text is.
Second we get a dichotomy. The "new innovators" are opposed to the "old guard", the "new innovators" are oppsed to the "online opportunists". The phrase is carefully crafted advertisment. We also see a development as the "old guard" gets replaced by the new "online opportunists" which in turn will be replaced be the "new innovators". First the "old" disappears then the "oppportunists" disappear leaving only our utopia of game development. Both "old" as well as "opportunists" have a bad connotation and our "new innovators" are in juxtaposition to both these words. We are being forced not by reason to agree to the "arguments" of the text but by how the PR department have worded the text. This is the lowest denominator. It tries to tingle our heart strings by envoking pathos wihtout our reason coming into play and qeustion the arguemnts that are made.
As for the arguments, there are none. The text consists of statements disguised as arguments because the author lists examples of specimen examplifying what he is talking about. One might be inclined to say it is enough to list examples but this someone would be wrong. All the author does is list examples and I dont know why they are supposed to be in the same group of game developers. It is very telling if words like "thus" or "therefore" not even words like "if" or "when" are used. How are all the statements or examples logicaly connected? Is the argument reasonable? There is no way of telling with this text. We dont know "where", "when", "who", or "how" anything is supposed to have happended or is supposed to happen because of something. Only once the word "because" is uttered. In the conlusion:"The New Innovators will survive and thrive in the modern game industry because they are dedicated in quality". This refers of course to the statement about gamers wanting quality content (for free). But the author never tried to argue if gamers want this quality content. He simply states in his marxian way of thinking that gamers evolve from getting free to play games that implement short term monetizationmodels to demanding quality content for free. There are no numbers nor any sentence with a "because" which would try to convince us using reason.

The author assumes you are already inclined towards his weltanschauung and only at the very end we get to know why he uses all this wording and the pathos. It is to convince us of this "new" age of game development. It is to advertise his own game development studio which is supposedly part of this "new" development. I dont know much about the focus on quality in their games but I can certify the amount of quality and care this studio takes in its advertisment.

What a load of bollocks. This reads like an extended ad for the author's own company, in which he states that they are part of an elite few that are going to be the saviours of the game industry, while all other companies are just clueless conglomerates. Besides all the incredibly vague ad-speak guff, the only difference between Rumble and their competitors that they seem to state is that while their rivals are happy to blindly produce games without asking people what they want, Rumble are good enough to tell the people exactly what it is they want before giving it to them. If their next game comes anywhere close to entertaining me as much as 'stale' AAA games like Deus Ex: HR, Portal 2 or Fallout 3 have then maybe I'll be less inclined to feel like this bloke's talking out of his arse, but I highly doubt that happening.

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