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Why is the Gaming Industry Down? Because We Can’t Keep the &#$% Up!

by on January 22, 2013
 

For the first time that I can remember the entire market of video gaming is slowly screeching to a standstill. Top of the line development companies and marketing studios are collapsing and filing for bankruptcy. Entire divisions boarded up and sent packing because of the sub-par economic returns of one game.

As stockcall.com just released,

“2012 did not end on a high note for video game retail sales. According to NPD Group figures, December 2012 marked the thirteenth straight month of declines as sales dropped 22 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. For the full year, video game sales fell to $13.26 billion, 22 percent lower than 2011 sales of $16.99 billion. “Declines have not been uniform, with middle-tier games faring the worst, while the top ten titles generated a whopping 46 percent of December’s dollar sales, up 12 percent year-over-year. Activision Blizzard was on top, with Call of Duty: Black Ops II being the top-selling game in 2012, followed by Madden NFL 13 from Electronic Arts.”

Wario

The question is why. Why is such a recession proof division of entertainment displaying all of the tell-tale signs of a dying economy? Is it the stagnancy of the consoles available, the price of games, or the quality of games?  No, it’s simply the fact that gamers cannot keep the *#$! up.

The economics of supply and demand is evident in everything. Gaming is no different. Let’s be honest with ourselves here, the amount of options available, in terms of consoles, is really the same as it has always been.  Let’s set our time period as the late 80’s to early 90’s as the real true beginning of the home gaming industry. I am aware that the Atari and Colecovision days of the late 70’s-early 80’s may be where some people will choose to begin but, to me personally, the vast majority of gaming during that occurred during that period still focused and occurred in the Video Arcades.  During the late 80’s and early 90’s there have always been at least three home console systems to choose from. From either Nintendo, Sega, and PC era of the early days of the 90’s to the Sony-Xbox-Nintendo-PC driven era of today, the console market is relatively unchanged.  So the console cannot be the cause of it. None of the main consoles today are outdated in terms of technology, maybe in terms of gamers wanting something more, but they are fully capable systems that allow us to play just about any game we want, so consoles cannot be the cause.

Do we have too many game choices these days?

Do we have too many game choices these days?

The price of games has remained relatively stable over the years. I think almost everyone would agree that you would expect to spend between $40 and $60 for a new release game if you purchase it from a retailer, regardless of the system. It has been that way for as long as the current generation of consoles has been around.  I understand that the increasing world of “used” games is something many of us, myself included, choose to visit and purchase our games from has some effect on the economy of gaming. Some of you will immediately reach for blaming the economy of the United States as a major influence in the downturn of gaming but, without getting political, the beginning of the economic downturn began in the early 2000’s and has been fluctuating up and down through current times.

So the reality of what is wrong with the gaming industry is simple. There are too many damn gaming developers who are oversaturating the market with games. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I love being able to go the store to spend my hard earned or well saved $60 dollars on a selection of games but not 300 different games.  Growing up poor, I remember as a child having to save up my money to go purchase Tecmo Bowl at KB Toy Store. It took me a while to raise the $40. A summer of mowing grass, collecting cans and bottles to recycle, all to get the greatest football game ever.  Not much has changed in terms of money. I still have to scrimp and scrounge and plan ahead to purchase any video game that I want. The biggest difference is now, by the time I find the extra money to purchase a game something else has come out to shift the focus of my gaming mind. With the few exceptions of the mass cult following games such as Call of Duty, Madden or anything World of Warcraft, very few games warrant enough desire to play that people will remember it two weeks later when they are out buying a game.

call_of_duty_black_ops_2_29

Seriously how anyone can keep up with the vast amount of games that come out is beyond me.  Let’s use an example from a single gaming quarter of last year (2012 care of Wikipedia). You have $60 to spend for each month of the quarter or basically the ability to buy 3 games per quarter. I want you to look at this list of games released simple during the second quarter are select which you want to purchase and decide which of those will be your  one per month.

Q2 April–June

Month

Day

Title

Platform(s)

A
P
R
I
L

3 Blacklight: Retribution Win
Devil May Cry: HD Collection PS3X360
I Am Alive PSN
Kinect Star Wars X360
4 Diabolical Pitch XBLA
5 Bug Princess 2 iOS
Confrontation Win
6 Anomaly: Warzone Earth XBLA
Shoot Many Robots Win
Xenoblade Chronicles Wii
10 Naval War: Arctic Circle Win
Skullgirls PSN
11 Avernum: Escape From the Pit Win
Burnout Crash! iOS
Legend of Grimrock Win
Skullgirls XBLA
12 Men of War: Condemned Heroes Win
Tribes: Ascend Win
13 Fez XBLA
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir 3DS
16 Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Win
17 Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention PSVita
The House of the Dead 4 PSN
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Win
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition X360
18 Trials Evolution XBLA
20 Blades of Time WinMac
The Darkness II Mac
23 Serious Sam 3: BFE Mac
24 Prototype 2 PS3X360
UEFA Euro 2012 WinPS3X360
25 The Walking Dead: Episode 1 WinPSNXBLAMaciOS
26 Deus Ex: Human Revolution Ultimate Edition Mac
27 Binary Domain Win
Risen 2: Dark Waters Win
The Walking Dead: Episode 1 XBLA

M
A
Y

1 The Exiled Realm of Arborea Win
Sniper Elite V2 WinPS3X360
The Legend of Dragoon PSN
Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition PSVita
2 Fable Heroes XBLA
3 Nexuiz Win
8 Starhawk PS3
Tomb of the Lost Queen WinMac
9 Minecraft XBLA
11 Street Fighter X Tekken Win
15 Battleship PS3X360NDS3DS
Diablo III WinMac
Game of Thrones WinPS3X360
Max Payne 3 PS3X360
PixelJunk 4am PSN
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II WinPSN
16 Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II XBLA
17 Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II iOS
18 Dragon’s Lair XBLA
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Win
20 Mario Tennis Open 3DS
22 Alan Wake’s American Nightmare Win
Dragon’s Dogma PS3X360
MIB: Alien Crisis PS3X360Wii
Sorcery PS3
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier PS3X360
23 Dirt: Showdown Win
Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock PSN
24 Pastry Panic iOS
28 The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb WinMac
29 Resistance: Burning Skies PSVita
Ys Origin Win

J
U
N
E

1 Max Payne 3 Win
5 Inversion PS3X360
Rayman Origins 3DS
10 Pikmin 2 Wii
12 Dirt: Showdown PS3X360
Gravity Rush PSVita
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection PSVita
Gungnir PSP
Lollipop Chainsaw PS3X360
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Win
13 Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock PSVita
18 Pokémon Conquest NDS
19 Brave WinPS3X360WiiPSVitaNDS3DS
Civilization V: Gods & Kings WinMac
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes WinPS3X360WiiPSVita3DS
Magicka: The Other Side of the Coin Win
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor X360
Tomba! PSN
20 Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 WinPSNXBLAiOS
21 Quantum Conundrum Win
25 Penny Arcade Adventures – Episode 3 WinMac
26 The Amazing Spider-Man PS3X360Wii3DS
London 2012: The Official Video Game WinPS3X360
Spec Ops: The Line WinPS3X360
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Win
Unchained Blades PSP
27 Record of Agarest War 2 PS3
The Walking Dead: Episode 2 WinMacPS3X360iOS
Final Fantasy III Droid
29 Mini Ninjas Adventures XBLA

 

Now tell me that after reviewing that list, which is a relatively weak selection of games for not being the holiday season releases, that you could narrow it down to three. I know for a fact, that even today, nearly six months later, there are games on that list that I want to play that I have not purchased and quite honestly did not even remember were out until I started this article. Gaming developers have to realize that it is not the quantity of games that people want but rather the quality of them. There needs to be some collusion by the parent companies to properly plan these things out like they used to. Competition breeds quality. However, with money tight and the phones and tablets starting to put out quality graphics and games, the console gaming market cannot continue to release 25 games a month and expect to create enough buyers to keep their company up.  For me personally, $60 is a lot of money. I will not drop it on a game if I am not sure the game is 100% going to make me happy. Can I ever truly have that guarantee, of course not? Can I, however, hedge my bets to which games are more than likely going to please me at that moment of purchase? It is going to be the one that appeals to me at that very moment and everything else will be pushed to the “I’ll get it at the game exchange later on “ list.

Developers have to pull their head out of their asses and focus on releases a few games a month. The gaming industry would rebound if there were no more than 10 games a month released regardless of the console.  There is no other way. The problem is not the pricing or the consoles themselves. The problem is simple too many games to choose from in such a short time. This is just simple economics. The more of a product available to a market the less demand there is for it and hence the product marginalizes. The less product available the more demand there is for it and the price increases. This is why people were okay paying $60 dollars. High quality games released in small batches fueled the gaming industry for many years.

I will be waiting for this one though (Bioshock Infinite)

I will be waiting for this one though (Bioshock Infinite)

Maybe I am living in the land of hopes, dreams and unicorn farts, but the only way that the industry is going to rebound is to pull out its over-saturated market and focus on a smaller number of higher quality entries. (See the auto industry—consolidate then increase quality). Until they do, gamers will be fighting to keep up with the releases, spending less money and saving what little money they do have for the next 30 minute long solo mission in  Call of Duty so they can kill zombies and spend money on new maps. I guess at the end of the day all I can say is thank God for used game stores to remind of how bad I wanted that $10 game when it first came out, too bad I need that $10 to buy Bioshock: Infinite in a month.

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  • Profile photo of Ramon Aranda
    January 22, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    And yet here I am, ready to try and play all those games LOL…Lord save me!!

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  • Profile photo of Aris Bran
    January 22, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    The harsh reality of it all is that the amount of games is only going to increase as we get older but that should never be a problem because within each game are a thousand ideas anyone can expand on. It sucks to know that studios are having problems trying keep their teams working hard on the newest AAA titles but it also gives room for the lesser known studios to bring in their grand explosive ideas onto the table.

    These companies just need to find the right selling niche like how Valve did with their steam sales.

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  • Profile photo of Ryan Bates
    January 22, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    I agree with Aris… the idea that publishers are going to get together and “hold hands” for the good of humanity is, as you put it, unicorn farts.

    And as you bypass the national economy, it does play a harsh factor. Though the economy is still starting to rebound, disposable income isn’t quite where it was in, say, 2000, or even 2004.

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