image by Flickr User: marioanima
Nostalgic individuals like myself often like to look back and reminisce about the good old days of gaming; When effort was put into every single game and large publishers didn’t know about the phrase “annual release”. Yep, those were the days alright. No crummy movie tie-ins, template games, or silly controllers. Only one problem though, those days never existed. Excluding DLC, just about every problem a person can have with the video game industry has existed since almost the very beginning. Video game companies haven’t changed all that much since the days of the Atari 2600. Indeed, for as much as we like to complain about the modern state of the industry (and I do so love complaining about it!), we are most likely better now in this day and age than we’ve ever been before.
There are three things that greatly affect game developers in this day and age that we have a great deal of control over. Three things that keep them more in check than they’ve been in the past. Those things being Coverage, Accountability, and Access.
These are the days of games being popular and accepted. What’s more, these are the days of the internet, of nothing being secret for very long. Thanks to the coverage provided by the internet media, developers are now held more accountable to their customers than they ever have before. If a developer tries to pull something that could be considered “shady”, such as that “on-disk dlc” controversy Capcom started, it inevitably gets brought to light and the offending developer then has an PR firestorm to deal with. That kind of coverage makes for a nice deterrent don’t you think? Imagine if Nintendo tried pulling today what they did with Super Mario Bros. 2 back in 1988? They’d have an incredibly difficult time living it down. A bait ‘n switch of that sort would be all over the internet for months to come!
Furthermore, unlike 10 – 15 years ago, game information is very accessible these days thanks to the myriad of gaming news site and blogs. Even a cursory search for a game will tell you whether or not it’s worth your time and money. Sure some still get made, but such paltry effort no longer yields the reward it once did. Bad games just don’t sell well anymore, we simply don’t let them.
To further discourage making bad games, we have indie developers. Game development has never been more accessible than it is right now. Anyone who has the inspiration and determination to make a game now has access to all the tools they need thanks to free development tools and crowd-funding platforms like KickStarter. Indie games are growing ever-more popular and even now pose a threat to those traditional developers who still think they can get away with phoned-in offerings. For the first time, we are in an age of gaming where AAA developers actually have real competition for our gaming dollars, and the more they realize it, the better the games they’ll produce. Publishers especially, since the more indie games succeed, the more obviously irrelevant they’ll become. (I’m of the opinion that publishers hamper innovation more than they help it.)
Of course there’s things happening in the industry that are still worrisome; the continued push to redefine games as a service especially. Seriously, how isn’t it enough that we pay $50-$60 for each game we buy? Do those pushing this really think that they only way gaming can continue is if they have a record for every single second we spend with our games?!
Anyway, there’s still plenty wrong with the video game industry, and we do have problems that didn’t exist before, but on the whole, it’s better. We’ve gotten wise to the old shady practices, and more and more gamer’s are learning to recognize when they’re getting ripped off. All we have to do now, is do more to leverage these powerful tools we’ve been given!
What long-term problems have you noticed in the gaming industry? Would you say we’re better off as a medium today than we were 10 years ago? How would you keep the problem companies we still have in check?