I was following news about the EA shareholders meeting today, and the more I listened, the more I became irritated with the whole situation with gaming as it is. John Riccitiello continues offering “more MORE MORE!” when I can't help but feel like I want less. Here I sit, I have so many video games that I've purchased that I haven't even had time to play them all yet. I have a life, I have friends, family and other responsibilities that I need to keep in mind, so I don't have 100% of my time to devote to experiencing all these games, no matter how good they may be. And, let's be honest, even if I had absolutely nothing else in my life, I would still not devote 100% of my time to gaming because I just can't. I am human; I have needs aside from the basic food, water and sleep. I can't just ignore my need for social interaction, no matter how much I may want to.
So, I find myself wondering why Riccitiello is trying to convince people there are all these great games and projects in development and how that's going to turn EA around. Why tell us all how more is going to expand their business when I'm too busy finishing the stuff that I've already got to care? Unless they're developing “Mass Effect 4” or some other game I'd really love to see, I'm not going to care. And that's pretty much the problem with the top-tier games nowadays, it seems: none of them seem good enough to justify their price tag, and even if the price on all of them came down, I still wouldn't care much because I just don't have the time to devote to actually play most of them.
We live in a world where the majority of gamers are adults. A generation has been raised on video games, and as that generation has come of age we have found ourselves being more directly marketed to as a major consumer bloc. But now that we've reached such mass market levels, I think the real reason the industry isn't growing is because it has failed to adapt to the changing demographics. Adults have responsibilities and are far more careful about both their money and their time than children. It stands to reason that, eventually, you would reach a point at which you simply cannot produce more variety because there's already so much variety that your consumer base just can't keep up.
Video games are not movies or novels. There are not many ways you can really accurately compare them as media for telling stories, but you can compare them as time-fillers and as mass market products. Think, for a moment, about film. How many movies are released in a year? Quite a few. But how long are movies on average? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the average is about 90 minutes. That's an hour and a half, and seems pretty reasonable for an average film.
Now, how much time does a player spend on an average video game? That's a lot harder to figure out, but we can generally assume it will be much longer than a movie. 90 minutes out of your day is a significant amount of time, but not an unreasonable amount of time that a person might spend once in a while. Video games often times will be played for hundreds of hours, and even sometimes for days or weeks. Mind you, I'm not talking about days in the sense of how long you are interested in a game, I'm talking about real, total time spent playing a game can be that much. How is someone who enjoys playing games going to ever find the time to play all the games they might be interested in if all the games that are available take that much time out of their lives? And then you have DLC, which, when done right, extends the life of the game even further.
It's sort of like trying to get more advertising revenue from tv commercials by telling your audience to quit their jobs and watch tv all day. It just isn't feasible. Not that I don't love variety, but I love my DVR also because it allows me to watch the shows I want to see without having to schedule myself around them constantly. I believe this is the problem with the mainstream games in the industry: they're all vying for the attention of the same people and finding that too much competition is becoming as bad as not enough competition, like a million different tv shows competing for the same half-hour time slot.
Why is this a major problem? Well, because major publishers are cutting down deadlines and pushing games out faster and faster. The only reason this occurs is because they want to provide greater volume, more games in a shorter amount of time, but this means employees become overworked, quality and, in turn, quality assurance gets cut and we wind up with games that don't live up to their own potential. Huge budgets are being spent on games that will not sell as well as they could because they're being pushed out before they should be. At the same time, games that normally wouldn't have multiplayer are having multiplayer features forced on them as a means of extending their gameplay, meaning the games that do get played are also being played longer.
As a result, consumers find they have fewer opportunities to enjoy games they otherwise would have loved, developers stretch themselves thin to meet demand, publishers waste millions of dollars on risky investments and valuable intellectual property is drained until it is a dry husk of its former self. We find ourselves with publishers encouraging developers to produce the same thing over and over again in an effort to benefit off of what worked in the past instead of experimenting with new, innovative ideas.
In short, when it comes to the laws of supply and demand, we have more supply than we have demand for. Big budget games are being released in droves and aren't making enough money because they're not going through the rigorous testing phase that refines them into truly good games. Major brands are being mass produced and exploited instead of grown and shared. And stock prices are falling and John Riccitiello is making excuses.
Now, excuse me, I need to get back to work on reviewing The Secret World. I don't have time for this shit.
Are There Too Many Games on the Market?
Blog entry posted by Breefolk, Jul 27, 2012.