Video games have been around for quite some time now. From the old Commodore systems, to Atari, to Nintendo, and now to the current generation. Video games were such a novelty when they first came out, and stayed that way it seems even into the years of the NES and SNES. Graphics became better and Sony then Microsoft came into the market. Valve finally brought around it’s Steam service which turned PC computers into mean, lean, game playing and downloading machines. Now almost every household has at least something that they can play Portal 2, Skyrim, or any other “hard core” game on. But as time goes on I’ve seen more and more of the same thing…more of the same genre of game and less new and different content. It’s not only that but things like always on connections and DRM are ruining the experience as well. Not to mention the ever encroaching hand of developers/publishers into our wallets. Developers contend that all of this is necessary or that there’s nothing wrong with it. They need DRM to keep the pirates at bay and that the cost of making games is pretty high, and some may think that all of this is reasonable/true. Because of all this it seems, to me, that the gaming industry is crumbling.
It is reasonable for developers to not want their game pirated and to get the money that they deserve for the work that they put in. Developers should also be able to make whatever game they want, they are the artists. However there comes a point when spending gets too out of hand, when the same genre gets overused and others are neglected, and when DRM turns what should be a joyful escape into a shouting fest at a game that won’t work because the servers are not working at launch. Recently SimCity launched, the game had a shiny new engine, graphics, and tons of features for gamers. Those however were behind a wall of an always online connection. To play the game you have to be connected to the internet. No problem right? Everyone has internet, and if you don’t then fuck you. But that wasn’t the ailing symptom plaguing users. Once the game launched EA’s servers were trampled into the dust. Gamers were having trouble playing the game because they couldn’t access the server due to the high volume on them. Some found out that you could play the game for around 20 minutes before the game booted you, but that just wasn’t good enough. EA apologized for the incident and offered users a free EA game instead of a complete refund. It was rumored that EA was going to ban players who requested a refund, but that was soon denied entirely by Origin’s twitter account. Something more concrete though is the fact that the EA customer assistance hotline is being blocked (asterisked out **** as if it were a swear word) on the EA forums.
Despite all of the controversy Maxis still told Kotaku that tons of users were enjoying their SimCity experience. As for the rest who weren’t enjoying their experience, I guess Maxis just forgot to mention that. DRM is nothing but a thorn in the side for the gamers who legally obtain their games. There are some people doing it right though. The Humble Bundle, famous for it’s ‘pay what you want’ deal for a bundle of indie games, has had many a success. Despite their DRM free games and low prices for a bunch of games, said games are still pirated. Around 25% during one of the indie bundles. But Jeffery Rosen, cofounder of Wolfire Games (one of the contributors to the Humble Bundle), doesn’t want to inconvenience players due to piracy.
Making the download experience worse for generous contributors in the name of punishing pirates doesn’t really fit with the spirit of the bundle. When considering any kind of DRM, we have to ask ourselves, “How many legitimate users is it ok to inconvenience in order to reduce piracy?” The answer should be none.
Besides DRM, there’s the problem of creativity. It seems like developers are sticking to a set formula rather than branching out and discovering new things. First person shooters like Halo and Call of Duty are becoming staples for companies rather than mixing things up and creating something new. Every Battlefield game is the same deal, you just have graphics that are slightly better with a different story line, which in the end is all about shooting the bad guy. I will admit that there is merit to the multiplayer experiences of these games, but that doesn’t mean you pump out the same type of game every year. My thought is that these developers are so afraid of their games going to the used games bin that they stick with what’s been tried and true. While that isn’t the point of art, it is unfortunately the point of consumerism. Get as much money as you can and fuck the consumers. However, if you can’t make a game that will last then why should you be in business in the first place? Creativity in games is dying and it’s all because developers trod the well used path, instead of one less taken that might be a gold mine.
Then we have the increasing cost of games. Back in the day games used to be simple. You pay for the game, you play it, and everyone was happy. Then we all grew up. We started to appreciate the value of the dollar. We learned that games were quite expensive and that some games were quite crap that didn’t even deserve sixty of our hard earned dollars. Then came the freemium and free to play games/apps. You could play for free but you have to pay to unlock more of the game or to get neat new content like a new skin for your character or some sort of useless accessory. There’s no problem with the free to play model, it’s an excellent way for gamers on a budget to get to play games, but it’s when portions of that model invade pay to play games that I start to fume. Dead Space 3 was introduced to the realm of microtransactions. Oh joy. I pay for a game and get to pay more money just for some other content in the game. EA, are you that desperate for money? Is that why your servers for SimCity are so shit? Video game companies these days seem to think that their consumers are bottomless pits of piles of cash. We aren’t, not all of us can be Scrooge McDucks with a vault where we swim in cash. But what’s that you say? Just don’t buy the game? That response is unnecessary and comes with the attitude that says “You’re poor? So what? Go cry home to mommy about it you twit.” Just because I can’t afford the ridiculous cost that developers set doesn’t mean I should be exempt from playing the games.
Developers deserve to be payed, I don’t disagree with that. But there things that could possibly be cut out from the equation or changed. PR takes up a whole ton of money for one thing. The number of videos, events, screen shots, etc are what most of that $60 you pay goes towards. Also, you remember how sucky some games are? Why pay $60 for a game that isn’t worth the content? We already speak with our wallets, but developers are still bringing out crappy games because they KNOW you will buy it no matter what if they slam enough hype and pre-order content into it at launch. I would love for there to be some sort of tribunal that judges the price of games, or some sort of committee. That way I’m not stuck paying $60 for Fable 3 when it really didn’t turn out to be that great a game. Furthermore there’s DLC. Developers seem to think in their minds that five costumes for a character are worth $10. What you’re saying is that those five costumes are worth 1/6 of the entire content in your game. If that’s the case then your game is either really shit or just a dress up sim. But this doesn’t happen just with games like Final Fantasy, a lot of games are guilty of this to other extents. Skyrim’s Hearthfire just wasn’t worth its weight in gold. Bethesda promised expansions, not pithy little updates that add a few things. Albeit it was a neat add-on, it could have been put in with another expansion. FPS games do this extensively as well. You get a gun pack or a skin pack and have to pay, what is in my opinion, an exorbitant price for the content.
I don’t blame the developers for wanting to try and get the money they deserve, I blame the actions being taken. The way that is being done so to speak. We as gamers are being taken advantage of and it is causing the industry to spiral downwards. Indie developers may be the savior of this great industry, but the big companies are still throwing their weight around and getting their way. It’s unfortunate, but change doesn’t come easy when there’s money involved.
What do you think? is the gaming industry doomed to failure? If so, can it be fixed and what needs to be fixed? Who is to blame? Can we as gamers do something about the fall of the industry?