Posted on Monday, February 10 @ 16:38:00 Eastern by Paul_Tamburro
In 2014, the video game industry is a Chain Chomp.
Yes, those cannonball-mouth heads with metallic chains dangling behind as they race around aimlessly. Mario’s persistent enemies are the best visual metaphor one could make in regards to where gaming is this year. It bounds around ferociously and unpredictably, taking down any opposing targets. It’s huge, powerful, but ultimately directionless.
The gaming industry is no different. As it is always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing, the fact that in the past few years the biggest financial gaming successes have been completely disparate means that there are a multitude of publishers and developers pursuing a multitude of different genres, platforms, and business models in the hope of discovering and creating the next huge money-maker.
I’m writing this piece in a month which has seen Flappy Bird, a fun, if fundamentally mediocre, iOS/Android game propelled by a perceived huge difficulty curve, rake in $50,000 a day due to word of mouth alone. The astounding success of Flappy Bird led to its creator Dong Nguyen suffering a presumed nervous breakdown and announcing that he was pulling the game from both the App and Google Play Store due to the amount of hatred it had inspired from a gaming community with nothing better to do than raise their collective blood pressure over a game featuring a one-eyed bird crashing into pipes.
When I first took up video games as a hobby, there were very few platforms for the Next Big Thing to release onto, and when it did release you wouldn’t know of its popularity unless it managed to worm its way into the public consciousness or it found itself becoming a topic of heavy debate in your school playground. However, nowadays said Next Big Thing can be much more than just a grey cartridge slotted into a SNES: It can be a mobile game a la Flappy Bird, a PC-turned-multiformat game such as Minecraft or a mega-budget console game like Call of Duty.
Consumer spontaneity in regards to which games people choose to popularize means that publishers are constantly exploring new avenues which they hope will prove lucrative, but this continued push for the next behemothic gaming franchise has led to the future of gaming looking consistently more anti-consumer.
Just wait for it...
While those of us who grew up with the aforementioned grey cartridges notice these changes and will criticize decisions made by corporations that infringe upon our rights as consumers, the next generation of gamer will come to eventually regard the contemptuous business practices that are often employed in this industry as the norm. Consider EA’s recent desecration of the PC classic Dungeon Keeper, a series which they “revived” on iOS and Android by shamelessly filling it with hugely overpriced in-app purchases that are sold to players as a means of “speeding up” its gameplay.
If these microtransactions aren’t purchased, which they absolutely shouldn’t be, the player can expect to wait up to 24 hours to make any progress in the game whatsoever. EA justified this heinous marketing ploy by saying that it reflected “mobile gaming play patterns," and while Dungeon Keeper may be an extreme example of the many negative issues currently blighting mobile gaming, EA’s statement reflected an attitude that is upheld by many in the gaming industry as a whole, and one which is in danger of being tolerated by a whole younger generation of gamers who do not know any better.
These gamers have been brought up in an era of digital purchasing, where a game may not offer its user the full experience straight out of the box in order for its publisher to make more money via DLC, where free-to-play games might as well be titled “pay-to-enjoy” games and where seemingly everything on PC is Early Access, a business model which sees an unfinished version of a game retailing at full price so that the money earned can then go into funding development costs.
Mobile gaming is cluttered with shameless clones and games such as Dungeon Keeper and Candy Crush Saga, which cordon off gameplay in exchange for real money, and Steam is now suffering from a complete lack of quality control to the point where the Steam Store is now composed of roughly 50% complete and utter dross.
EA claiming that Dungeon Keeper reflects the play patterns of mobile gamers is certainly a way for it to write off the many negative criticisms of the game, but it’s also indicative of how much shit mobile gamers have grown to expect will be released onto the platform. We now routinely anticipate the worst from publishers and developers, but whereas the majority of us will question this, the younger crowd are simply accepting that this is the way things are now. Through no fault of their own, young gamers are helping the industry to continue to indulge in bad habits by unwittingly accepting its actions, ushering in a new era of gaming where the increasing majority accept less quality content for money and where many, alarmingly, even go so far as to defend the publishers/developers for doing so.
The Chain Chomp is being given too much room to roam free, and it shows no signs of stopping. God help us all.