Experienced Points: Quality Still Matters

I would love to make a video game that is balanced properly for no microtransactions, and then add a single "pay to lose" transaction that adds a new "minimum level" setting which, when enabled, turns the game into a tedious and difficult grind.

P.S. Thanks

Bob pointed out something in a recent episode of the Big Picture, that maybe it is gaming's natural market destiny to mellow out into a heavily saturated, easy to produce indie-game market like the one you describe going bust in the 80s with AAA gaming increasingly getting bogged down by its own hubris and inability to innovate.

It's funny, because to me, if quality is the aspect of games that most people want justifying their purchase relative to the upfront investment (price), innovation in terms of mechanics and narrative, something most games are in desperate need of constantly improving, seems like it would have an easier time being tinkered with and sandbox tested with the low-stakes, low-technology barrier of old. Micro-transactions have commodified the AAA industry to the point where sales figures have usurped the most important qualities that draws folks to games and fuels nostalgia in the first place: fun and immersion.

Art forms, storytelling, cultural movements, all face reformation after an extended period of stagnation. It's happened with the studio system in Hollywood several times, it's happened to novels and the publishing industry. The reckoning is coming for video games. It'll be interesting to see what direction it takes.

Quality was definitely a factor, and might be again, but part of why quality was a factor is that brick and mortar stores over-speculated on what they thought was a surefire thing, and when crappy consoles and crappier games disappointed people, they were left with a large amount of inventory they could barely give away. Thanks to pre-order culture and a focus on digital, it's hard to over-speculate and it's pretty hard to go broke on digital content. The closest we came was when THQ bit it, because they speculated on their little tablet thingy nobody wanted.

He called "microtransactions" "unfortunate" as a concession. It's sort of a 'sorry not sorry," as in "we're going to keep doing this thing you don't like so deal." They know they're unpopular so they pay lip service, but at the same time they know we're going to buy the games anyway, so they can get away with it. Doesn't matter how pissed players are, they'll keep buying.

I agree with the article, by and large, but have some misgivings regarding:

Today, the industry is too big and too diverse to have a crash like the one that hit in 1983. Even so, publishers shouldn't be complacent. Even if the industry itself is too big to collapse, individual franchises can. It only takes a couple of bad entries to kill a brand.

At best, I would argue that it's certainly possible to kill more than a franchise; TellTale Games' recent collapse illustrates that a couple (or more) bad entries can kill a company, especially if that company is associated with a certain style or type of product and falling out of favor with a few entries raises questions about all future output. At worst, I look with a certain skepticism on the notion of any industry with a few big players dominating the scene being truly being "too big to fail". On one hand, it's true that we never had companies of the size and scope of present-day EA and Activision and 2K on the scene in the 1980s; on the other, we never had said companies falling under significant legal scrutiny, nor so dependent on their franchises (and, they would claim, the lootbox, DLC, and other profit-stretching mechanics attached to them) to turn a profit. To lose a major franchise- for EA to lose the Star Wars license, for example, or FIFA- could lead not just to a "vote of no confidence" not just from players, but from investors, one that could snowball.

Or what if, as some have suggested in TellTale's wake, game developers were to unionize?

We've lost, or virtually lost, major companies before, as with Sega's abrupt departure from the hardware market. In that instance, it was due at least in part to Sony throwing their hat in the ring. But as markets and economies go through upheaval, big companies with precarious finances are rarely well-situated to adapt with agility.

I guess all this is to say that, whatever comes in the future, publishers would do well to be banking a reputation for quality at least as much as, if not more than, banking actual money- which seems to slip out of their hands in a twinkling anyway.

I hate to say it; but people have been waiting for the AAA industry collapse since the time when CoD clones dominated the market. I doubt that lootboxes will kill the industry much more than motion controllers did. Don't get me wrong. Remember when everyone and their grandma were banking on the Wii success and most non-Nintendo games seemed to use PS Move or Kinect in some way? That didn't end well, and lots of studios closed doors when the fad died.

As long as lootbox-free games keep being made, there is hope of swift recovery for the industry if another crash happens (then publishers will find another exploitative way to make more money, and the cycle will start anew).

The loot-box issue raises a point that I have made numerous times. How you charge for a game inherently affects the design of the game. This also ties into the arcade-game example from The Big Picture. The quarter-munching nature of arcade games inherently affected how arcade games were designed. (harder difficulty to encourage faster turn-over, attract-mode, etc...) You can't separate monetization from design. The one affects the other.

There is no real danger of another crash at the moment. The barrier to entry for getting into game development is so much lower now, that there are any number of developers-to-be just waiting to pick up the ball if large-budget development drops it. I could see a contraction of the current large-budget development model, but not a collapse.

It's also worth pointing out that quality and production values are not the same thing. Spending obscene amounts on a graphical arms race does not make for quality games, just graphically complex ones. This is the lesson that Nintendo keeps trying to teach the industry, and at least a few people are starting to learn it. Colorful and stylish is far more appealing than realistic and drab. Having realistic graphics is useless if you aren't able to make them appealing as well. You need good art fundamentals to go along with your AAA budget.

I don't think we are headed to another crash, there is more options in the industry then there was with the first crash. Back then it was pretty much just Atari and they acted a lot like Telltale by leadership driving off the talent and then rested on what they had done before to have people continue to buy their product. Now you have Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft just for console platforms combined with easier distribution to PC with Steam and the internet as a whole so you don't have to have some floppy you bought at a store to try a game.

While some systems are going to change the major players are always going to look for the profit window, just like how Capcom just cut their Vancouver studio, the games they were making weren't profitable enough so they took a major financial hit to close the studio, but now its no longer an uncertainty to them.

The biggest causality right now is uniqueness in video games, there are less and less being released right now and they are throwing everything they can into these games to try and appeal to as many people as possible. That is the discouraging thing for me because that means what drives me to want to buy more then a game or two a year is gone for I can replicate that experience with less games.

Callate:
At best, I would argue that it's certainly possible to kill more than a franchise; TellTale Games' recent collapse illustrates that a couple (or more) bad entries can kill a company, especially if that company is associated with a certain style or type of product and falling out of favor with a few entries raises questions about all future output.

I disagree on this point, as the news surrounding TT indicates it was more than just a couple of bad games that killed the company.

At worst, I look with a certain skepticism on the notion of any industry with a few big players dominating the scene being truly being "too big to fail". On one hand, it's true that we never had companies of the size and scope of present-day EA and Activision and 2K on the scene in the 1980s; on the other, we never had said companies falling under significant legal scrutiny, nor so dependent on their franchises (and, they would claim, the lootbox, DLC, and other profit-stretching mechanics attached to them) to turn a profit. To lose a major franchise- for EA to lose the Star Wars license, for example, or FIFA- could lead not just to a "vote of no confidence" not just from players, but from investors, one that could snowball.

The legal scrutiny is still limited in scope and largely relegated to companies being told they can't do specific things. Loot boxes are the big focus right now, and while certain games may be hampered as far as cash cows, there's still plenty of market space not currently under that kind of legal fire and unlikely to in the immediate future at the very least. Even loot boxes are being picked at not for being a shitty business model, but rather because they might kinda sorta be the kind of gambling we have laws against already. But if that battle is lost, corporations have other monetisation strategies that didn't come under such heavy fire. A win here where there is already established legal precedent and a parallel industry that gaming has encroached upon doesn't translate to a broader victory, and it certainly won't stop microtransactions and other ways to nickel-and-dime people.

Similarly, while losing a license like Star Wars would objectively not be good for corporate interests, neither would it in itself be any sort of killing blow. I'm not entirely sure how big the franchise is. Yeah, eformance of BF2 hurt stock, but so did the performance of Titanfall 2.

We've lost, or virtually lost, major companies before, as with Sega's abrupt departure from the hardware market.

And it's worth noting, again, that the problem with Sega was speculation on hardware. They lost consumer confidence by rapidly releasing multiple consoles, models of said console, peripherals, etc, all with some overlap and even games that required multiple add-ons. It was not only confusing to some people, but inconvenient and sometimes pointless. Why buy a console that wouldn't be supported in six months?

These circumstances are also unlikely to repeat. It's possible Microsoft or Sony might one day bow out of the console race, but it won't be under these circumstances. Consoles these days are released in predictable cycles, with hardware that is generally very similar between these two. And Nintendo does its own thing, is weird about it, but regularly builds its machines to be profitable no matter what. We could lose Nintendo, I guess, but they're probably safe as long as Mario, Zelda and Pok?mon are sellers. but the other two? They make remarkably unremarkable hardware that sells four generations after people said consoles were dead. Consoles sell huge, and people line up for their microtransaction-laden titles, and it's unlikely to change as long as consumers NEED the next CoD or Madden or whatever.

Consoles have come a long way from the days of "hey, let's release two rival console ideas within a few months of each other, what could go wrong?"

I'm not even sure the flood of terrible mobile games can crash the app store market, given the "whale" mentality of gaming right now. In fact, circling back to the top, the big problem is that things are so entrenched it would take massive, systemic reform to start impacting the industry on a large level. This is why EA can switch off loot boxes and be all "we'll be fine." That kind of change takes time, and that gives them time to come up with new methods to bilk players. Because if we've established one thing, it's that players will vote withtheir wallets...and make Rockstar enough money in Shark Cards to buy Mars.

For every corporate satanically spawned triple a gambling simulator isn't there usually a small studio alternative that isn't blatantly evil? So when reviewing these sparkling pieces of shit just inform the community of what does the same thing without trying to screw them over at every opportunity.
If this managed to divert enough of their expected profit channels they *might* actually reconsider their tactics.

It's only certain publishers with certain IPs that seem to push the "we need lootransanctions cos it's soooo expensive for us u guis" through predictable PR waffle. Could be just coincidental that those overlap noticably with the publishers happy to take advantage of overseas tax havens, lobbying and bringing in CEOs from industries that have no experience and nothing to do with the medium but everything to do with money and media spin to take the reins. Us humanoids still see the big successes like the witcher 3, Bloodbornes, Horizon zero dawns, spidermans, Nioh, resident evils, god of wars, and all the rest who provide top quality experiences without the need to dickle and nime their own customer base through predatory business practices while saying it's for their own good.

Basically what I'm trying to get at is when they say they "need" their juicy cash cow or the world will fall apart (gaming industry world I mean. Look, it's sposed to be dramatic, ok?), it's not that much unlike an alcoholic saying they "need" their next drink or all hell will break loose. Except with a much more vast corporate, ingrained capitalist bullshit tint. They're addicted to the money-for-nothing model, ethics/morals don't matter, words are just a means to an end that do not necessitate truth to maintain the desired result. And people too often put too much weight into those words when they read/hear them instead of looking at actions amongst everything else in context.

There is truth in that, but beloved franchises can put out rubbish for quite a while.

Hands up everyone who liked the original Star Wars movies, but didn't like the Phantom Menace?

Keep your hands up if you paid money to see (either at cinemas or on DVD/whatever) Attack of the Clones anyway?

Keep your hands up if you didn't like that either, but paid money for Revenge of the Sith?

I've only just last year or so given up on watching NuWho. I keep hoping it'll be good, very rarely it was, and often I'd settle for "not complete rubbish", but it's struggled to hit that consistently.

I still pay attention to GW stuff, though that's mostly because they keep putting out new plastic models, and some of them are quite nice.

I absolutely agree. It's anecdotal, but I and many of my friends didn't get Mass Effect Andromeda not because it was bad, but because Mass Effect 3 killed our interest in the franchise. To a large extent, Andromeda was doomed from the start.

In the realm of movies, you can see the same thing. I hated Star Wars 8 and had no particular interest in Solo. A bad (in my opinion) movie killed my interest in the franchise, and I imagine that it had the same effect on others.

Thank god for indie games and art films keeping the spark of creativity burning, without them, I wouldn't buy any games or watch any movies in this cursed 21st century.

megs1120:
I absolutely agree. It's anecdotal, but I and many of my friends didn't get Mass Effect Andromeda not because it was bad, but because Mass Effect 3 killed our interest in the franchise. To a large extent, Andromeda was doomed from the start.

In the realm of movies, you can see the same thing. I hated Star Wars 8 and had no particular interest in Solo. A bad (in my opinion) movie killed my interest in the franchise, and I imagine that it had the same effect on others.

Thank god for indie games and art films keeping the spark of creativity burning, without them, I wouldn't buy any games or watch any movies in this cursed 21st century.

Funny thing is that I hated episode 7. I haven't been to a cinema to watch a Star Wars since then. But I watched episode 8 a month ago. With Rogue 1, I'm actually considering seeing episode 9 in the cinemas. Episode 8 had far more imagination than 7. I haven't seen Solo and will only if it comes to Netflix.

I also only got ME:A a couple of months ago. It was way better than critics made it out to be. Still pretty mediocre but not bad. I'd be interested in a sequel but probably not for $60.

 

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