Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some major problems with the game industry

I have lately noticed, from diverse sources, several things that I consider major problems that are eroding the game industry from the inside. These include:
  • "Early access" and "prepurchase" business model. (Also: Using your customers as your beta-testers.)
  • "Free to play" games with microtransactions. I have ranted about these two things in earlier blog posts, so there's no need to repeat the same points here.
  • Publishing what basically constitutes an incomplete, or severely nerfed game, expecting to publish the rest as DLC's. (Sometimes this is done because of lack of time and resources, but in other cases it's done deliberately, to try to monetize.)
  • Trying to pander to the lowest common denominator. There are two different (and independent) forms of this:
    1. Lower the feature set of the "current-gen" versions of a game to match the "previous-gen" versions. In other words, if for example the Xbox 360 version of a game cannot support a certain set of features (usually because of the limited amount of RAM in the system, sometimes because of the limited graphics hardware or CPU), then remove or nerf those features also in the Xbox One, PS4 and PC versions of the game to match (even though there's no technical reason to do that.) In a few cases this may go so far as to actually lower the graphical quality of one version in order to make it match more closely the version of an inferior platform.
    2. Nerf the game features to pander to the average player, ignoring the more hard-core players. For example, change an open-world multiplayer RPG game to be simpler by removing more advanced RPG features (such as an inter-player trading and economy system) and making the gameplay simpler, with less complex game mechanics. Or in multiplayer "arena"-type shooters make it easier for players to find powerups, and nerf such powerups to give weaker players a better chance.
  • Trying to copy the success of a game franchise by artificially forcing a game to use the same mechanics and tropes, completely ignoring the user segment that would welcome something different. (XCOM is the perfect example of this: XCOM was a very popular turn-based strategy game in the early 90's. Some years ago they tried to bring it back... as a first-person shooter highly reminiscent of Call of Duty, clearly trying to ride on the success of that game franchise. After years of development hell, they instead published an actual turn-based strategy version of the game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which was a big commercial and critical success. From the players' perspective it was fortunate that they remembered and understood what actually made the original game so well received, instead of going the route they wanted at first, ie. try to copy something completely different that's very popular currently.)

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