In May of this year, I wrote a feature about how the number of midcore titles are shrinking. One commentor in particular said that I "pretty much made everything up". That person received two downvotes. I want to say "I told you so", but I'll just let Joe Minton, co-founder of Digital Development Management (DDM), confirm my assessment.
As an agency that provides business relations for video games and digital entertainment companies, DDM knows first-hand the broad shifts in development that his clients have been taking over the past few years. Speaking with GamesIndustry, he describes the decline of midcore titles:
What we've been going through in the industry is the midcore projects having gone away a fair amount.
DDM started working in China three and a half years ago to develop relations there because we knew that free-to-play PC games were going to be very important for development studios. Now many of our clients who made midcore console games have transitioned successfully and gotten projects that have kept their companies in business, creating free-to-play client PC games.
The midcore of the console market has been really brutal. Games that three and four years ago maybe cost $6 to $14 million to develop, most of those opportunities have gone away due to a combination of the recession, the transition and the rise of mobile, tablet, and free-to-play. All those together have wiped out midcore market.
This doesn't mean that the next generation consoles will fail or that midcore title won't start to return to the console in the next few years, but developers have shifted to mobile projects simply to stay afloat:
I'm not down on the overall console market. We continue to sign huge projects for clients for next-generation games, and we continue to sign digital products for the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN. There are still opportunities there; it's just that the midcore went away. Most development studios were reliant on the midcore to stay in business.
With the cost of development rising, it's no surprise that midcore titles are drifting by the wayside. Most publishers now want to focus on their AAA titles and spruce them up with "90-day retention plans" with downloadable content. This includes the multiplayer packs for Mass Effect 3, the map packs for Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and the multiple DLC packs for Borderlands 2. Either that, or build software for mobile, tablets, and PC free-to-play.
I would argue that this is part of the reason why THQ is suffering at the moment. Much of their catalogue consists of midcore titles and, coupled with the cost of licenses, they're not raking in sales numbers at the moment. Hopefully, the company has enough time to transition to this ever-changing market to continue their underappreciated franchises like Darksiders, Saints Row, and Company of Heroes. And of course, South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Are there any midcore titles you hope don't end up discontinued?