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What Are They Afraid Of?

“Do video game publishers know something that we don’t?” This question has been buzzing around my head ever since I learned about Square-Enix’s plan to retroactively make the upcoming Hitman game into an episodic “experience.” At first I thought it was just another money-grubbing move by a major publisher, but then I watched January 28th’s episode of Jim Sterling’s “The Jimquisition“. In Sterling states that, according his sources, Square Enix and some other major publishers entered this current generation with no faith in the console market. They were convinced that games released on consoles were all going to perform poorly, and that microtransactions, DLC, and the PC market in general were going to be the future. Now regardless of how you may personally feel about Mr. Sterling or the news he reports, certain publishers’ actions in the recent past begin to make sense if this does indeed prove to be true. After all, why go through all that trouble and bad press if you didn’t think you had something to gain? Still, one has to wonder where they got the idea that consoles were a bad market in the first place.

Well, after an admittedly small touch of investigating, I believe I’ve found at least one piece of that puzzle. It seems that there may have been a general downward trend in revenue across the board in the video game industry for these past five years. Since 2010, total industry revenue (in the U.S.) may have fallen from ~18 billion dollars to ~13 billion dollars. Those aren’t nosedive numbers (at least, I don’t think they are), but a possible difference of 5 billion dollars is still rather significant. I’m not sure I can completely trust the data I’ve found, so this by itself is not to draw any conclusions. However, it is enough to spark some questions I think. What kinds of numbers were the higher-ups at Square-Enix seeing, and what could have caused such scary numbers in the first place?

Sterling’s video states that game sales in general were flagging in the months leading up to the launch of the new generation. This makes sense to me, and it probably makes sense to a lot of you out there. We weren’t seeing a lot of exciting games coming out for the now last-gen consoles at the time, and we wanted to save out money for the jump to the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U. Still, that was then, and this is now. The current generation has been the current generation for just over 2 years now. We’ve had time to get our consoles, and we’ve had time to buy games for them. We only started getting real worthwhile games for them last year, and those games sold incredibly well too! So why the heck are they still so scared for the future?

The only thing I can think of is that perhaps our buying habits have changed. It could be that they’re not seeing pre-order numbers that are as favorable as they used to be. I could definitely see that happening. After everything that’s happened with the likes of Destiny, Watch_Dogs, The Order: 1886, and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, I could definitely see pre-order numbers taking a hit. Oh, and there’s also the general call to stop pre-ordering games from gaming media sites like Kotaku, online forums and Youtube personalities like Boogie2988. I know that I and my own circle of friends almost never pre-order, and with all this negative attention the practice has received, I’m sure we’re not the only ones who’ve stopped doing it. With that in mind, the fears of Square Enix and other publishers would make sense if they’re still using pre-order number to judge consumer interest in their games.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if there is something more to this somehow. I wonder if we all, as a group, have been buying fewer games these past few years. It’s not the case for me, though I have been more inclined to wait until after the inevitable month(s) worth of patches to buy my games. I’ve also been more inclined to buy games for my PC too; something I would never have done a year ago. I wonder if maybe more gamers out there are doing the same, and if that’s what’s got Square Enix and their like stricken with this incredibly irrational fear they now find themselves gripped with.

What do you think of all this? Does Square Enix have just cause to be as afraid as they are? Have your video game buying habits changed at all over these past couple of years?


Image by Flickr user: goodrob13 (cc)

15 thoughts on “What Are They Afraid Of?”

  1. I can totally understand that games are expensive to develop to this day. They always were. However, the only difference now is that companies are more or less trying to swindle everyone into paying a lot more for what the content is really worth. I don’t mind MT’s if they are done well. Hell, I don’t mind buying DLC whatsoever. But I don’t like to when it feels like the publisher had hacked it out of the main game. Look at what Gamestop has been doing, look at what Destiny has been doing for proof of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s completely true. Games cost more than ever, but I definitely don’t feel like I’m getting more or a better product as a result. Quite often nowadays, we actually get less than ever. I don’t like paying $60 for only part of a game. Likewise, I would be quite disappointed if I paid full price for a burger and only got half of it. No one likes getting less than what they paid for.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s an interesting issue, see I think the game industry is the only industry where they could get away with what they do. No one would ever be ok with getting half of a hamburger, but that’s the food industry. Gaming is entertainment, it’s art. It’s value can’t be easily determined. Which is not the main reason for broken games, but it’s a factor. But what about when you sell episodes of a game? How would you know it’s worth say 15$? It’s hard to put a price tag on art, which makes this such a quandary :l

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  2. I know I’ve been buying less games lately than I used to, and I wait longer than ever to buy consoles. It’s not that I don’t like consoles anymore, I just don’t see many games that interest me anymore, and I won’t buy a console until I can get a decent number of games for it. Many series I love have ended, while the other series I enjoy rarely produce games anymore. For me, it feels like the video game developers have created the very problem they fear, by making fewer games worth buying. Final Fantasy games, for example, just aren’t as good as they used to be. It’s Square Enix that has changed, not the gamers.

    But, that’s just me. I don’t know what’s making them think consoles are going to end. Maybe people are just getting tired of buying new consoles that perform about the same as their old ones. What are we paying hundreds of dollars for if it looks and acts the same as the previous generation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point in regard to consoles, Duck. Many of us wouldn’t buy them if we didn’t have to.

      Still, as it stands, we do have to buy them if we want to stay current. So, Sqaure and other thinking that they won’t sell is just strange; don’t you think?

      Based on what you’ve said, perhaps it could all stem from them misinterpreting consumer reluctance as consumer disinterest.

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  3. I generally think the dip in sales has been because consumer confidence has been eroded now. Lie you said, the call against pre-ordering has just been growing over time. Fueled by really buggy, terrible games that are being charged at full price with a lot of the major companies and franchises being the problems.

    I also think the loss is due to the sales mentality a lot of us have now. We just don’t buy games at full price as often anymore and often you don’t have to wait long for a decent sale either. And then there is the growing indie market with great games at a far lower price.

    The next few years are going to be interesting to see how the big companies changge their ways. It is either going to get worse or better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point. Not only has the landscape changed, but much of the goodwill they used to enjoy has been eroded by shoddy release practices.

      They are going to change their ways, that’s true. The question is whether they’ll see what’s really going on or double-down on these practices instead.

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  4. I agree with what others mentioned about games releasing with bugs, needing patches right away, etc. It’s frustrating and feels better to wait to purchase (if you end up purchasing at all). There’s also a real indie, Kickstarter-type spirit that makes the video game industry much different than it used to be; the competition has changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely good to wait on buying consoles, that’s for sure. The ones released first usually die frequently or have other issues, so I always wait. I’ve had better luck that way. I’ve also gotten interested in all those indie games being released on the PC, so my attention has gradually been moving away from console games.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My habits have changed a lot! Because now I refuse to purchase a game without renting it first unless its from a gaming company I know and trust. I might buy anything from CD Projekt Red or BioWare but I will hesitate from other companies. Perhaps because of disappointment after disappointment. I’m lead to wonder if it is worth buying their games when they don’t do anything but rehash the same storied and never update their graphics and pretty much make the same character models.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Buying games in general feels very different now than it used to, don’t you think? I mean, just a few years ago, I could do research and be confident in my decision to buy a game at launch. Now though? Now I won’t even be convinced if I liked the demo or open beta. Just about everything pre-release can be misleading these days, to the point where I don’t really trust any of it.

      Better to wait until the reviewers and the rest of the internet has had its say.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! Hence the reason I will only rent a game until I’m confidant that it is worth my money and even then I’ll wait until the game is released with all of it’s DLC which is what I should have done with Dragon Age. Just like Mass Effect Andromeda, I hope I can talk my husband into waiting until the release their potential GOTY edition.

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