Every morning after I wake up and have my breakfast with a cup of coffee, I usually plop right into my computer chair and check upon the latest gaming news, as I’m sure many of you are wont to do. We are all looking to see if any new games are announced or localizations being pushed through, hoping for the gaming news to brighten our day. Lately, perusing the websites have been similar to driving around in a small town that just got a Super Walmart. Businesses are being boarded up and that favorite mom and pop store or yours that you’ve been going to since you were 5 has finally closed down after 20-30 years of service. I can’t help but feel the same way about the video game industry as of late. Just recently, THQ a developer that has been around since 1989 has filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2013. Atari has been setting itself up to file for bankruptcy again which is the 2nd time in 5 years. This begins to make me wonder about where the industry stands today.
THQ and Atari aren’t the only companies that have been experiencing financial trouble as of late. Even the big players of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have been losing money on many a business venture. Both the launch of the PS3 and the PSVita have been a financial flop that has cost Sony hundreds of millions of dollars (312 million to be exact) and there hasn’t been much of a momentum coming into 2013. Nintendo is currently selling both of their latest gen systems at a loss and betting on the software sales to make up the difference. Microsoft’s Xbox division lost 229 million dollars in 2012 alone and these financial woes beg me to ask the question: How long can these companies keep this up?
Of course, there isn’t one overlying factor here that is the cause of the problem, but development costs have increased over the years as the technology has improved. Development teams are now over 200 employees and cost several million dollars and man power are spent on designing more complex games. We now live in a world where a game that only sells 1.4 million copies is considered a failure. This, while sounding ridiculous, is completely understandable considering the amount of capital that is invested into developing these games. As the technology to create games improves, so do the costs. This results in why the market has such an influx of sequels and HD remakes for consumers to buy. This is why developers try to push DLC as much as they can to recoup costs (Granted, the idea of DLC is content created after the initial game is complete, however this is not always the case). It’s far too risky for developers to gamble on a New IP. There is too much at stake, too much money to lose to gamble on an unsure thing.
What concerns me is how the gaming industry is developing. We are on the verge of the official announcements of the PS4 and the Xbox720, specs have been rumored to be through the roof, some claiming to be 10x more powerful then their predecessors comparable to high end gaming PCs. I’m sure any gamer can recall the initial launch price of the Playstation 3 of $599 and the Xbox launched at a Two Model system of $399 and $499. Based off these prices and the rumors that have been swirling around the PS4 and Xbox720, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that these next generation consoles might start with a launch price of $599. How much longer until consoles become unaffordable to the consumer? Speaking on a personal level, not that much longer. Will you be willing to pay for a video gaming console that costs about the equivalent of a down payment on a brand new car? To the sensible consumer, of course not; Its simply too much money to spend on a luxury.
So is this to say that progress is a bad thing? Of course not, progress is certainly more welcome than stagnation, but what I’m suggesting is that power isn’t necessarily the way to go. The perfect example of this is the success of the Indie Game market. Indie developers have focused on games that aren’t pushing consoles to the max, but rather on the games themselves. Its certifiable proof that power does not a winner make and I feel that this is something that has been lost on big name developers. I can certainly appreciate and marvel at a game that pushes a console to its limits, but at the same time have to ask: Was this all really necessary? How much extra capital was spent to make this game so graphically intense and how much of the core of the game was sacrificed to achieve this? Wouldn’t it be better to have lower cost development teams, working on lower budget games that focuses more on innovation then how much horse power they used on the newest gaming engine? At this point, it may be too late to change the way the industry is evolving, but I feel that the industry is on its way to its own financial self destruction. Who knows though? I could be completely off base and to be honest, I wouldn’t mind eating my words. It’s one of those cases where I don’t want to be right, but the evidence supports otherwise. Do you guys agree, disagree, have a completely different theory? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at email@example.com. Until then, See you next mission!
-Drew “Nin10Drew” Roberts