The Sequel Effect, Part I, Conglomerates and Popular Culture
Posted on Wednesday, May 14 2008 @ 15:42:49 Eastern
In the forums recently was a topic that argued how games are possibly taking a backseat in creativity, as sequels are constantly pumped out that become major productions for the respected developers. For me, this is a critical topic for the gaming industry to truely tackle on it's own, mainly due to the fact that the industry itself is suffering growing pains that the entertainment, theatre, and music industry have gone through. (or in some cases, still going through.) It seems like a three pointed problem, first is the effect of corporations and businesses and the relation it has with popular culture. The second is the age old debate on if games are art or not, and there are some interesting arguments and results both for and against that topic. Lastly, it falls on the changing face of technology itself, as the visual apperances of the games become more and more realistic.
But to start this off, it would be simple to go in depth as much as possible for all three points. So perhaps the most detremental, and at the same time the most helpful, is the influx of numerous pop culture refrences to games, and the use of corporations and big business becoming involved in the making of these games. First and foremost, business being involved in games has always been a symbiotic aspect as to what games are made. For better or for worse, there is probably nothing wrong with the control that the conglomerates have on developers, designers, writers and testers. In fact, without the financial support of corporations such as Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft or someone even like Capcom and Activision, most games might never see the light of day.
But recently there is a major trend going on in the industry, constant buyouts. The biggest buyout so far is Activision and Blizzard merging, liquidating Vivendi Studios, and forming the super corporation Activision Blizzard. While this news made most of us giddy that Warcraft and Tony Hawk are under one roof, with it comes a lot of problems that are starting to present themselves. First, from an economic standpoint, games are becoming costly to create, some more ambitious projects probably over the billion mark at times. Another interesting statistic is that typically only 5% of the games made per year are profitable.
Since development teams are also growing, formerally smaller teams are being subsidized, joining larger, more seasoned teams and therefore cost more money for power, maintence of equipment, and pay. Teams of five-ten developers now range to an average of 50-100. It is also still likely that developers would lose their jobs in the end, in particular if a game is left out of that 5% margin. Plus, games are cancelled on a constant basis, over half of the ideas made for games are usually scrapped in pre-production stages, and another 10% are shut down near the end of completion.
These factors have been around all the time, but as the cost of making games goes up, so does the financial woes of the corporations themselves. Nintendo, for example, was extremely profitable in the 1980 to mid 1990's, and still generates profit from any game bearing a loveable mascot they call their own. What is also true, however, is that a lot of their revenue comes from sequel productions per system. In other words, Nintendo keeps itself in a surplus by generating sequels, or the next game in their series, and since so many of their flagship series have sequels too them, they rarely, if at all, change the formula they created.
Now it is interesting to note Nintendo, because many people see Nintendo getting away with this treatment, but the fact is everyone is. Any game made today, that is a resounding success, is usually based off some sequel from a previous success. Case en point, the Halo series and Call of Duty. Good games they may be, but they are also sequels with arguably little original content to them. Large corporate sponsers know this, because they wish to turn a profit, reaching that 5% that is in reality hard to achieve. Games that reviewers and gamers herald as innovative, original and awesome, such as Psychonauts, Shadow of the Collosus, No More Heroes, and even, arguably, Bioshock, all sell less than a sequel to Madden from the previous year.
Sequels are seen as the safe route, not changing a thing because it has worked before. A lot of corporate money and business practices focus on this in other industries as well, with mixed results. There is nothing shady about this aspect of the business though, I will leave that for Gerstmamn-gate, but it is just a fact of life for big, powerhouse businesses that are emerging from the growing gaming empires.
And with this, comes recognition as a true media of entertainment. Now a days it is not uncommon to see a really high budget commercial for games, or someone making fun of games, either in parody or for points. Hell, the problems with video games, be it the effects of violence or the possibly of pornography in games, has been hot topics in the news. Gamers themselves are now mainstream, with competitions of "world class gamers" congregating at the next tournament that would spring up for prize money.
With all of this attention, a lot of games are left out in the cold. Halo 3 had an uncrompromisable amount of commercials, TV spots, movie trailers, and radio ads promoting the hype the game had up until it's release, while games like Bioshock, a superior game in almost all categories, had one, maybe two 30 second spots on TV. Although the money gained for advertisements is usually by corporate sponsers, the entire point is that many games that are not considered mainstream get no attention what so ever. A perfect example would be the game Ico, from Sony Computer Entertainment.
Ico is a true example of this, because it had no advertising to go with the game, and when released in 2001, the same year as Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2, Sons Of Liberty, it recieved critical acclaim but sold roughly 700,000 copies worldwide. It is interesting to point out that Ico was better recieved then Final Fantasy X, yet FF X sold over 6 million copies world wide, showing numerous things about the establishment of franchises in the gaming industry.
The hype behind Final Fantasy X was enormous, yet the result was somewhat anti-climatic to some, and this is arguably the same for Halo, GTA, Guitar Hero, even Super Mario now a days. The hype created for the games kills the game more than graphical and controller problems, offering a safer, sometimes lackluster preformence than the originality that the game may have shown in it's first outing. Let's face it, games that break into the pop culture and entertainment industry are usually great games that sell over a million copies, games that become part of the vernacular of the entire industry. The original games had something in them that made them better, and often times, the first sequel improved on those aspects, but after 3-4 games in a series, the magic begins to become stagnent.
In the end, Corporate expectations, mixed with the inclusion of popular culture, create an aura of "play it safe for the masses." It is very hard for anything, be it an independent movie, an obscure game, or an underground band, to break into the mainstream, but when it begins to stifle creativity is when the industry begins to crumble, unless something drastic is done. Games are like any other industry in this regard, with the same problems and hopefully new conclusions to remedy some of these problems.
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Posted on Sunday, May 11 2008 @ 12:32:09 Eastern
yeah...sadly...im that bored and after writing another essay for school, and instead of doing my planned vox pop articles, I wrote this little thing instead.
Red, blue, yellow, green,
and all the colors in between.
Through different lines of varying size,
I create something so wonderful, so wise.
To see this piece, this portrait I drew,
this colorful expression I believe to be true
to myself and no one else, this piece of art
is close to me. A place within my heart.
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Poetry for the Win!
Posted on Wednesday, May 7 2008 @ 14:55:54 Eastern
Hey, I won something!
Well, sort of at least. I essentially was featured in my schools literary magazine, a lot of poems and short stories, essays, photos, etc. and my poem "Revolt" was voted "Best in show" by the people who made the magazine!
I posted it here before, but i'm going to do it again, tell me what you think!
Take up arms! Join our cause!
Leave your thoughts with little pause
to change our world we need violence,
to quell the discontent and silence.
Let our voices be heard, joined together,
our actions judged for the better
so change is brought and tyranny destroyed,
so we can live! We must deploy
our might collected, orderly, yet strong.
To fight it out, victory or be gone!
Against oppression, corruption and greed,
To fulfill our passions, wants and needs.
We fight with force, with tooth and nail,
we resist their ways, but to no avail.
The cycle continues, in ebb and flow
as the tyrants sword swings the final blow,
our hopes dashed, our leaders maimed,
they take more from us, keep us constrained,
with every passing second, minute and hour
they regain what they lost; unquestionable power.
But ideas never die, immune to flames and steel,
they live on again, to never bend or kneel.
To the powers that grasp us by the neck
that drive us to chaos, insanity, heck;
they control us for as long as they can,
because the power of one, be woman or man
can break the hold across our throat,
and start again, the long revolt.
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Posted on Wednesday, April 30 2008 @ 13:37:48 Eastern
I hate computers sometimes!
I just spent the last few hours finishing off the final few pages of my thesis paper on Pre-Colonial African Slavery, only to have the computer freeze on me before I can save!
I lost... read more...
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Working hard...yet hardly working
Posted on Monday, March 31 2008 @ 21:31:24 Eastern
Want to see the **** I have been doing for the past three months?! No???
Ok, I am a bit tired, so sorry for the cynical stuff lately, but this research project is so ridiculously off putting it's not even funny. Here is the ... read more...
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Outpacing the Technology from Today
Posted on Thursday, March 20 2008 @ 11:33:49 Eastern
I finally saw some videos of Crysis today, and I have to say that it is impressive visually. It looks as close to as realism as I think we have ever gotten in the graphics department, and quite frankly I smacked my face once because I forgot I was lo... read more...
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The MMO effect
Posted on Tuesday, March 4 2008 @ 13:30:52 Eastern
Since when did all of PC gaming revolve around World of Warcraft? I mean, looking at it\'s unprecedented dominance in the PC market for the past couple of years is impressive yes, but is it really that big of a deal? So 9 billion waste time online... read more...
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Simple Pleasures and Retro Memories.
Posted on Wednesday, February 6 2008 @ 23:11:32 Eastern
I feel like I watch too much of the same movie lately. What movie you ask? Why, none other than "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." This was a DVD that I actually won in a contest recently here on GR, and I have to say, I choose w... read more...
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Posted on Wednesday, January 16 2008 @ 12:59:06 Eastern
Well, it was bound to happen.
With the recent blog in the manifesto about the creation of the PAC, video games is no longer a "fad" or an underground phenomenon. Were now a respected member of the media community, working with l... read more...
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Merry Christmas from the poorhouse
Posted on Monday, December 24 2007 @ 11:19:53 Eastern
Happy Holidays guys. You know, it is funny but every time this time of year rolls around, I feel like a homeless man on the street, partially because I am broke after gift-shopping, and partially because I AM broke.
No jobs avalibale, all... read more...
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