It’d be easy to be negative about the Games Industry in the dying embers of 2018.
Companies dramatically out of touch with their customer bases – in some cases insulting, antagonising or even outright jettisoning them. Falling sales figures for previously bulletproof franchises. Some of the worst games releases in years. Company values falling as much as fifty percent in six months; crippling many studios and projects to the point that they’re being pumped out unfinished just to make ends meet, to predictable results. And two of the big three already seemingly having little lined up for the year, more focused on a next-generation transition. Not to mention the law catching up with many companies and in-game monetisation systems, due to their excessive saturation through 2017.
It’s a bleak situation by any measure, and many will be horribly depressed by what is promising to right now be a threadbare scene unless you happen to be the Nintendo Switch – however, even there, many of the releases will be from the selfsame companies who are right now in the fiscal doghouse, so that’s hardly a rapturous round of applause is it?
… however, despite ranting all year, I’m going to say no. 2019 will be a better year than 2018. More than that, it will be an exciting, fascinating year for everyone no matter your platform of choice.
Let’s focus on that third-party publisher situation. After years of half-arsed releases and unfinished software launches, the sales figures for many seemingly invincible franchises have been tanking; Fallout 76 down 82%, Battlefield V down 63%, even Call of Duty was down 50% – meaning poor Activision-Blizzard had to make do with a paltry $500 million launch income compared to the billion dollar plus releases of old. Oh woe, oh what terrible tidings, we should get out the incredibly small invisible violins…
That crunch has gotten some of the companies riled up but, for all their insults of “entitled gamers”, let’s be CRYSTAL CLEAR here;
Gamers are your audience.
They are your source of income. And your audience is demanding slightly more respect from you. That’s why their money has largely been funnelled to other game releases – and other platforms. EA, Activision-Blizzard and others have summarily failed to learn that they are replaceable. Gamers shift from trend to trend, game to game, eventually getting bored or offended of a product and/or company.
It’s also infinitely easier for us, as consumers, to spend money in another place than it is for a company to clean up its public image enough to regain lost trust. That takes time, money and increasing amounts of effort.
Ask Sony how that felt during the PS3 era.
The current and resultant collapse in fortunes for many big publishers – even private ones like WB Interactive and Bethesda have felt it – is just a consequence of a continued lack of consideration for their audience. The gamers are expected to fund every aberrant whim, every notional conceit, every bad decision a company makes. And we’re not ‘allowed’ to answer back. Just buy the games we make. Don’t make requests. We’re not going to listen.
Doesn’t that seem rather… well… “entitled”?
Instead of providing high-quality software people want… far too many companies are content with turning out mediocrity – and that’s the best case scenario for far too many franchises. And gamers are finally seeing through this – hell, the wider consumer audience is seeing through it. The illusion has been thoroughly broken.
It’s as if something magical happened this year – every gaming consumer suddenly, collectively, woke up and thought, hang on. This isn’t right. This isn’t right at all. Where am I? How the hell did we get here?
If it were a single game – a single franchise – you could write that off as a fluke. But no. We’re talking serious names – Fallout, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Secret of Mana and more – all getting a righteous kick in the nads. And it’s not just consigned to a single year – this is the second year on the trot, and arguably the third for some companies.
And that fills me with a hope I haven’t felt for years.
Let’s not forget, 2019 is likely the last full year of Gen-8. After seven years now (yes, the Wii U counts – don’t get me started!), after so much crap and so much nonsense and so much browbeating – isn’t it lovely that gamers are speaking a universal language? Toxic? Nah. That requires fuel and energy – withholding cash and not buying a game is so much more effortless because it requires someone do absolutely nothing at all.
Why argue on social media, when there’s a much better way of expressing ones displeasure? It requires no words. No effort. No action of any kind. It’s a beautiful language – cold silence.
With any luck, some of the industry will respond – knowing they have to work hard to rebuild those relationships and reaffirm to customers that they’ll try and do better. With more luck, perhaps one or two will collapse under the weight of their own hubris – refusing point blank to engage with customers because the company knows what’s best for us, no really – to the point of no return.
And I don’t think a collapse of a big publisher will hurt. I’m not going to name any names, of course
*cough*EA*cough* but this industry has survived downturns and the collapse of numerous companies and studios over the years. As long as 2019 delivers some big-selling games, and January has at least two I can name, I think overall the industry can weather the storm.
The power is largely back in our hands. We don’t need to argue with them on social media – let companies throw a tantrum. Let them stand there, in public, with a shocked and dumbfounded expression of confustion and disbelief. We don’t need to tell them what they did wrong – there are many ways foor them to learn that. We don’t need to engage with them – eventually, they’ll be forced to engage with us.
As long as customers continue to speak with their wallets – I think most will eventually get the message.
Doesn’t that feel great? It gives me tingles.
My annual lists may be a day or two late.
I am, shock of all shocks, packing up my belongings for a likely move in the next month or so.
As you can imagine, a move has been a high priority for me all year. And I don’t see many more complications now before I get to the point where I will be outta here and into a place I can leave on my own, in my wheelchair, without having to worry about additional assistance and/or equipment.
This is my last post of 2018. I will keep up as best I can with my usual rants, and get the Best and Worst of 2018 up as soon as I can.
I wish everyone out there a fantastic, prosperous and entertaining New Year.
I’ll see you on the flipside!