The hilarious and troubling reality of consumers in modern gaming.
“Oh there are no games right now!”
I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say this about the current state of PlayStation 4 releases, or the Wii U, or the XBox One schedule – if not heard, then seen someone post it on the Internet. New consoles having a slow first year or two as companies struggle to get their games to market? Oh no, it’s a drought! There’s nothing out there right now, the sky is falling and we’re all doomed and the industry is going down the pan and you can insert your own similar observation here. We’ve been led to believe quiet moments in the release schedules constitute a “drought”, ergo the lifeblood that is needed to sustain a consoles sales simply isn’t there.
The problem is, this is utter nonsense. And in reality, it’s dangerous nonsense at that. Now, bear with me here because I’m going to have a quick moment to talk about Steam.
Recently, some bright sparks decided to do a study on Steam purchases. Steam is actually a good place to do this kind of sales study because, for the most part, Steamworks achievements are publicly tallied so it’s a little easier to get a broad average. The end result from respected analytics company Ars Technica turned up the reality that for all 175 million registered Steam users, 36% of games haven’t even been played. If each person had bought 5 games, say, that would mean 315 MILLION game purchases haven’t been played. Think about that for a moment as you scramble to check how many games in your Steam list haven’t been installed. Then consider that if each game cost on average $20, that’s a staggering $6.3 BILLION dollars of monetary wastage from the gaming community.
Such numbers are staggering. The situation may even be worse than that; but I’m just using some basic numbers to demonstrate the point; gamers today often buy games that they have little to no intention of actually playing.
Gaps in a release schedule should, in theory, allow gamers to delve into those forgotten purchases and catch up on their personal backlogs, but no. More and more, the criticism of having less games means a company isn’t doing so well, or is doomed, or that the industry is in crisis. They simply gloss over the fact that for the most part, they have a lake of fresh new content that they could be enjoying, but are freaking out that one stream seems to have dried up.
It’s stupid. It’s moronic. It’s embarrassing. And it’s, in the most basic of terms, a waste of money.
And even then, there’s content to be enjoyed on most platforms; either you skipped over it because it wasn’t high on your radar, or it passed by unnoticed. Nintendo often comes up for criticism, but even on the Wii U, I have 12 games on disc, 5 digital purchases and a pretty hefty chunk of indie and retro gaming on the platform. And I can name at least five games I have on the Wii U that I haven’t finished yet – Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Rayman Legends, Edge, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and the more recent entry into the list, Golden Sun. Instead of viewing the slow release of content as a drought, I’m looking at the upcoming Mario Kart 8 with an almost blasé sense of candid humour – “Oh dear, another Wii U game to buy!” Never mind that though, because for most people, the slow release schedule is indicative of some sort of creeping ailment that is incurable, or at best unpleasant to look at.
This does tie into a past observation I made; that we often disregard games that we have no interest in as somehow “not valid games”, even though they obviously are games and have a market. Rather than dabble in a quality game that might have passed us by, we do what the industry expects us to do and what journalists have been reinforcing into the collective consciousness for a while; we run around when there’s nothing new as if our underpants have been filled with fire ants, screaming at the top of our voices and waving our arms about like a ragdoll in Garry’s Mod. Admittedly, I feel somewhat awful for the games reviewers – who may be forced to do a retrospective review, oh the horror – but at a fairly baseline level, it doesn’t and shouldn’t affect us as gamers. We have games we may be currently playing, or haven’t played, or need to play, and a dip in a schedule and a lack of new releases should in theory be giving us the opportunity to actually wade through some of the avalanche of video games that we simply haven’t gotten around to yet.
Like any group of consumers, we’ve been brainwashed as a group to only see a very narrow viewpoint, rather than enjoy the breadth and depth of content out there. We’re also encouraged via sales and offers and pre-order bonuses to buy into games that we have no actual time to enjoy; this may be fantastic for the likes of Steam and the developers/publishers who take their cut of the sale, but it shows how utterly stupid and moronic we have, as a collective, become. A carrot here, a sweetie there, and we’re staggered when someone points out the games we have that we haven’t even touched. “Oh, but I will get around to it, I just want something new!”
And a game you haven’t played ISN’T new? You haven’t played it. Therefore, the content contained within that game IS NEW TO YOU!
We’re also somehow surprised that this time of year comes around annually; news of new releases and potential titles being worked on slows to a trickle, and we completely forget that E3 is a month-and-a-bit away; of course the news slows down a little at this point, because E3 is a globally recognised marketing opportunity and companies want to be noticed during it – wheeling out old news and same-old clips doesn’t tend to attract the column inches. So we sit around, watching people bitch or actively contribute to the bitching about how they have nothing to play (even when such an idea is utter rubbish of the highest order).
I’d be willing to bet you have at the very least one game right now you could be working on finishing between now and ‘the next big release’. A game you’ve been meaning to get around to. A game that sits forlorn and forgotten, waiting for you to breathe life into it by engaging with it. If you were to sit down and play that game – or the other games you might have that exist in such a state – you would, magically, have stopped a gaming drought. Because you have something to be playing – a whole new world, a wealth of new characters and places and enemies to be exploring, exploiting and basically enjoying.
We are a wasteful society. Big business has conditioned us to buy in bulk often in a ‘just in case’ scenario, but the reality is most of it goes towards the billions of tonnes of wastage annually, and we somehow look around and think, “Why? Why are we throwing that away when…”, and then make references to starving people in Africa. We’re buying billions of dollars worth of video games, games people have spent time making and hoping we’d enjoy, and for what? It’s clear that for many of them, we have little intention of playing them, eventually they get tossed into a trade-in for a newer release or simply sit in our Steam lists, greyed out, sadly waiting for us to install them.
And whether it’s a game from six weeks ago, six months ago or heck, even six years ago, it’s still fresh gaming content to someone who hasn’t played it. We cry drought when frankly, we’ve still got floods of content. We criticise Nintendo, yet the Wii U is backwards compatible. I’d assume there’s a lot of Wii titles people haven’t played or finished yet. PlayStation 4 even has free games for you to be enjoying, let alone the tantalising prospect of the PlayStation Now! streaming service going into beta, opening up a wealth of content. Vita owners; played the likes of Alundra? Vagrant Story? Tomba!? No? Well, something for you to look into (especially Alundra, a forgotten gem!).
There is no such thing as a games drought; sure, the lack of newer releases might slow hardware sales down. But that’s not our problem. And it shouldn’t be made to look like our problem, either. We should be grateful for these drier spells in the release calendar, as they give us a chance to dust off an old gem or two, fire it up and wonder to ourselves why on Earth it took us so goddamned long to get around to playing it. And that’ll mean less moronic comments on the Internet, and more time of us talking about games we’re playing and games we’d recommend people go back and play (I’m actually planning to wire up the PS2 again and indulge in a spot of Dark Cloud!). I’d say that was a win-win all around.
Go out there and play those games you bought, and forgot about. You paid for them, after all. Money has already changed hands. You might as well get something from your purchase.
And maybe think about the games you’re buying too. Are you REALLY going to have time to play that new RPG? That new FPS? That new MMO? No? Then, perhaps we should be asking ourselves if there’s something better and more pressing to spend our £40/$60 on; clothes, bills, cleaning products, deodorant? Or why not order take-out? Sure, it’ll be gone in an evening, but you’re still likely to get more enjoyment from it than a game you have no actual time or inclination to be playing, right?
Basically; a drought denotes a lack of something. And we have no lack of games we could and should be playing right now. So it’s not a drought. We’re just being conned into thinking it is, by marketing men and journalists lamenting they have no actual work to be doing right now. Oh boo-hoo. Let me get out the world’s tiniest invisible violin. Your lives must be so hard.
Hell, if I can find things to write about as a BLOGGER, some of these ‘professionals’ have no bloody excuse.