22 November 2009

Possible explanation...?

So i've been lamenting people's apparent selfishness in the gaming community quite a lot in my more recent posts and it turns out that there may be something to it. It turns out that those who have more tend to make decisions that are more self-centred/serving. According to the researchers:

This paper demonstrates that mere exposure to luxury goods increases individuals’ propensity to prioritize self-interests over others’ interests, influencing the decisions they make. Experiment 1 found that participants primed with luxury goods were more likely than those primed with non-luxury goods to endorse business decisions that benefit themselves but could potentially harm others. Using a word recognition task, Experiment 2 further demonstrates that exposure to luxury is likely to activate self-interest but not necessarily the tendency to harm others.


This suggests that luxury does not necessarily induce one to be “nasty” toward others but simply causes one to be less concerned or considerate toward them.

Now, it's by no means concrete evidence - they focused on the super rich and the tests were basic at best but gaming is a luxury. Is it possible to say that people who have more luxury goods (or more access to them) will view certain directions/decisions by the industry different from those who have access to less.

I'd probably, from my own experience, say no. I think that a person's character and upbringing would have more impact on these sorts of responses to different issues but i can imagine that someone who has more will be less likely to want to dilute what they have. It's one reason why people say: The rich just get richer while the poor get poorer. As someone who is well-off but completely broke i've found that my outrage or discomfort on certain issues has been made more apparent, however it was still there originally - when i had money, for example. Regarding matters within the game industry my disgust/disdain for certain practices and opinions has not altered (as can be evidenced by this blog and in certain other places).....

12 November 2009

The way the wind blows...

Now, i love Gamerswithjobs.com but sometimes i find (as with elsewhere) that i am at odds with the site's wordsmiths. This article is a case in point.

My main problem is the thesis behind the reasoning. Elysium speaks about how not supporting DLC, microtransactions and other piecemeal efforts that the gaming industry has introduced over the last ten years is resulting in the companies being unprofitable. He's railing against "the haters" to use a common phrase these days. To which he leads us to this part:

I hate to be dire, but I’ve seen 3 years of the Bobby Kotick doctrine, and if that’s what the future for companies like EA and TakeTwo and THQ is going to be then we’re going to sit back in a few years and long for the day when we got to whine about Day-1 DLC in a game like Dragon Age. Let me describe the future I see. Subscription based services married with microtransactions. Hobbled initial releases where the DLC is not just an optional quest, but key game mechanics. One-time required online authentication that prevents multi-player for used games. A virtual death of games like Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space, Ghostbusters, Brutal Legend, Borderlands or Dragon Age.

Of course, he doesn't see the opposite side of the story. The people who don't support those methods saw this writing on the wall years ago. Seriously, he's so far behind the curve that it's unfunny. I never supported DRM, DLC, microtransactions etc because i saw that it would lead to a future where we were nickel-and-dimed and it's strange that we could come to the same end through different conclusions.

On his worry that we won't see those innovative games? I don't have the same fear. There will always be companies willing to innovate and therefore people who want innovative products and therefore people who will pay for those innovative products. Innovation will not die because the current way of making the high-end games is unprofitable.

Also, on that note, why the hell are they unprofitable? Games were profitable 10 years ago... they were profitable during the last console generation.... some of them are even profitable nowadays and the market for games has increased by a huge amount. So what the hell is going on? Well, it comes down to this: The game companies (developers, publishers) are making products that make no financial sense and i don't mean that in the risk/reward way. We're not talking about releasing a hardcore product on the Wii (primarily casual market system), we're talking about just making a game which doesn't cost so much that it requires 2 million sales at full price to break even when there's not a large enough market to support that sort of sell-through rate for very many games. I've made this point before, but developers and publishers have no one else to blame for making games that are so expensive. Consumers were pretty happy with the lower graphics available five years ago but instead of moving forward slowly and growing their audience, they really jumped the gun with the Xbox 360 and PS3 - pushing almost more-than-state-of-the-art hardware - and in the process increased the development costs of a game by an order of magnitude and are now complaining when they don't make a return on their investment. Worse still, they've managed to convince a portion of their userbase that it's all down to a failure on the consumer's part that these problems are now rearing their heads for gaming companies. The worst part of his spiel is that he acknowledges that the game industry have backed a model that doesn't work but haven't changed it. If this were a conversation about the music industry then he would be chastising them for making the same decision.... why the difference?

Moving on to the piracy issue.... piracy has pretty much stayed constant on consoles and PC over the last 10 years. I mean, even if it has only grown 10% since 2000, that's still an 80% piracy rate if you take the most recent developer studies to date, the small jump to 90% just doesn't make that big of a difference. Further adding credence to this line of thinking is the fact that a large proportion of developers in the UK do not view piracy as a real threat to a game.

Finally, the nail in the coffin of his argument (from my point of view) is this:

Gamers have waged their own zealot war against a changing marketplace, irresponsibly made unreasonable decisions about their entitlements and bent the rules as they see fit to get what they think they’ve got coming.


Let me put it this way, if having Day-one DLC in a game like Dragon Age means that Bioware gets to make the sequel, and not having it means they don’t, I will happily take the opportunity to make my informed purchasing choice and I will fold my arms and look sternly at those who gripe and complain.


If you want an industry that can take chances. If you want an industry that can be agile and adaptable to niche demands. If you want publishers that are willing to explore new IPs and put resources behind projects like Dragon Age, then you, my stubborn and well-intentioned comrades, need to turn down the righteous fury.

It's a classic mistake and one that many others have made before him. It's also another thing i've highlighted here in the past. I'll let you into the secret one more time:

The hardcore gamers - especially those on PC - are a small part of the market. Out of that small part of the market the people who find DRM, DLC etc offensive on whatever level are an even smaller part. We're talking about a noisy but financially inconsequential part of the gaming market. Any action we take, any stance we make.... any code we break, any line we stake..... we'll be inconsequential....

We don't affect the bottom line on very many games and it's incredibly egotistical to think that we do.

11 November 2009

The gaming class system....

There's been a lot of clashing between people who are complaining about increased prices or games, DLC on day one and other issues related to gaming where features have been removed for PC players and people who will literally take anything that is thrown their way by developers.

Honestly, i think there's a class system coming from society that is breaking into gaming now. Originally, and this is just my opinion, gaming was taken up by the upper and middle classes as games consoles, PCs and games were all very expensive. Gradually the prices came down and the mass market penetration that is allowed by that also followed. Now, however, you're seeing developers and publishers pushing the prices of games up again - whether that's an extra cost at purchase or if it's day one paid-DLC (downloadable content) for more of the game. There's also the issue of DRM, whether that's transparent DRM (like securom) or if it's obfuscated through "signing up" services like Impulse and Dragon Age's community site (which allow you to get updates and unlock certain content).

Accompanying this push is the aforementioned gamer arguments and i tend to find that once again the middle/upper classes with lots of disposable income are willing to let anything slide. They have money and can spend it any way they wish. On the other side of the argument are the poorer people and those who are philosophically opposed to the particular practices that the gaming industry is evolving.

The thing that's interesting (but also personally annoying) is that those "haves" who don't mind all the crap that's continually happening each have their own breaking points - decisions made by companies that they oppose on philosophical or monetary grounds - but until they reach that point they continually dismiss and deride those other people who take issue with other decisions.

"It's just another facet of society", you might say..... We have already experienced this sort of behaviour many times throughout history (perhaps even constantly) and it's just seeping into gaming. The annoying thing is that it really doesn't appear to exist in any other entertainment media. Books, films/TV and music - you can freely complain about the price of an album or how it's not good value for money, you don't have to pay for extra chapters of a book that the author might think it was cool to write but didn't get them ready in time for the original printing run. No one bats an eyelid and yet in the gaming community you are constantly labelled as complainers or angry internet men. Whatever happened to having an open mind? What ever happened to people realising that a company "making money" isn't bad but a company "making money in whatever way possible" is?

IMO, there is a large swathe of the gaming community that has gone from being interested in the rights of the consumer to being company focused. There can be no questioning company decisions, they read from the manual of the Ministry of Truth and never look up to question those words.

We'll see how it plays out but i'm not confident in the game industry surviving in the future other than minigames, MMOs and free indie stuff. There's just no reason for you to pay the amount we do for a game only to discover that on day one you don't own (sorry, license) the full game.

6 November 2009

Tabloid roulette and the demise of PC gaming...

I've come to a conclusion: Modern Warfare 2 is the tabloid of first person shooters. Not only that, but it's not the only game to be this way....

Shock! Horror! Teh boycotts!

Anyway, i think you might understand why i think this if you read my reasons.

First, tabloids thrive on appealing to the lowest common denominator. They keep their language and punctuation at a low level because there are a lot of poorly literate people out there and they don't want to alienate those people by making them feel stupid. Hence their stories and writing are geared towards those people and the media interests in their lives. They also prey on fear and ignorance by using sensationalist tactics which they defend as "thought-provoking" and "challenging/hard-hitting" journalism.

Believe it or not i think this sort of tacit reinforcement of low levels of fact and literacy makes people more ignorant and fearful. It also makes them more likely to keep on using these "resources" as they go forward in their lives as opposed to more challenging resources that they might find boring and difficult at first but which they would never give a chance because they immediately dismiss the resource and switch back to their comfortable media.

I view the continuing pre-release of Modern Warfare 2 in the same light. They're utilising sensationalism in their "play as a terrorist" aspect, for one thing (we'll have to wait for the rest of the game to be leaked or released to really find out if this theme is extended) and also in their F.A.G.S. grenade video. They, through the implementation of IW.net and the non-support of modders and dedicated servers, are dumbing the audience of the game down - appealing to only the lowest common denominator which reinforces the uneducatedness of the general gaming population.
I mean, if you look at the history of gaming and modding, the modding community has always been very small but (and perhaps this is just my opinion) has usually been spawned from the larger, more popular games like Unreal Tournament, Doom, Quake, Total Annihilation, Command and Conquer, Warcraft, X-wing, and Diablo. These modding communities become larger as time goes by because there is the support from PC developers there and their games are not walled gardens devoid of any content outside of those boundaries. From these pools of modders (aside from lengthening the game's lifespan) new blood and ideas flow into the development community, it's not just some sink of pirates and jackasses that alter "your game" and by stopping that and not supporting those people or new modders to get into gaming you're (whether intentionally or not) partially strangling the future of game development where one of the avenues to get into gaming is removed.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence then, when there are so many companies turning their back on the PC and PC development, that Epic have released their software development kit (SDK) for their engines as free for all modders and non-commercial releases in a similar vein to id's engine licensing. It's certainly strange when considering that Epic are practically a console-only development house these days and have certainly scaled back their presence on the PC. Maybe there's still hope for the future of traditional (not mini- or casual games) PC gaming if the gamers themselves will release free games as proof of concepts or just fun projects before moving on to be snatched up by the "real" game companies.