Opinion Articles

State of the Games Industry

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Mobile Games Effect On the Games Industry

As much as the “hardcore” market wants to spit, tout and rage about anyone who says that the mobile market doesn’t affect the games industry, it does. $60 for a AAA market game is a price tag that is hard to justify to parents that see thousands of games at a $0.99 to $2.99 price point. More to the point should we, as gamers, be OK with seeing $60 price points on a decent amount of games on shelves today? While smaller developers work for cheaper, use better marketing tactics and create sizable games that sell for $1 should we be OK with the status quo of $60 for a console game? I think not.

A lot of the cost added to games comes from old practices and marketing tactics that cheaper games don’t use. Take for example licenses fees. A lot of the times a console, or even handheld games on the Vita and 3DS, have practices of going through the ESRB and platform licensing fees that immediately increase the cost of a game significantly, content aside. Mutant-MuddsTake for example the 3DS downloadable game Mutant Mudds. The title released on the 3DS eShop for roughly $8. The game was received relatively well at that price. The developers then released Mutant Mudds on the iOS app store for $0.99. Why the price difference? Well for one the game had to go through the ESRB which has costs associated with it and then had licenses fees on top of that from Nintendo. Plus, on the eShop the game has to sell a certain amount of copies before the developer, Renegade Kid, sees a dime.

This leads to another problem that these fees and restrictions lead to. A platform should be wooing developers and creators like the mobile market does. Not putting restrictions and road blocks along the way. One of the creators of Mutant Mudds relates this problem specifically on the console side of development for the sheer amount of people that develop for iOS and other mobile platforms. While people that do make it through the roadblocks of licenses and fees charge $8 for a downloadable game, others are forgoing the hassle and the delays to put out their game on a mobile platform for cheaper. It’s a simple supply and demand model of economics. If there was more games on a downloadable market, the games themselves would be cheaper. This would lead to more people using the downloadable service and game developers having a bigger install base. This leads into my next set of games that are influencing the games industry, downloadable games.

Downloadable Games Effect On the Games Industry

The above argument, the sheer amount of games on a downloadable service, has been tested time and time again by one company, Valve. I don’t know if you have noticed, but I sure have, Steam is a big deal. It is shaping the games industry every day. The practices of Valve through the Steam Store have made deals possible on games that have never been possible before. Steam Sales alone affect not only prices of games everywhere, but also everything in the games industry, including Gamers Heroes. When there is a big sale on a game like Batman: Arkham City, everyone feels it. Our site traffic sees a significant increase and is visible before we even see the actual deals on Steam.

In the end it is a win, win for everyone. Downloadable game services take away some of the barriers that are put up by brick and mortar stores, consumers get easy access to games that they want and developers get to sell to a large number of people more readily. All of the major consoles have started to develop downloadable stores that have really taken off over the past couple of years but they still have a few things to let go from their old days.

gaming_valve_logoFor one there is no reason for a downloadable game to be the same price, or sometimes even more expensive (I’m looking at you Xbox Live games on demand) than their retail release counter parts. I understand that the Gamestops and the Wallmarts of the brick and mortar stores sell a majority stock of the video games now, but that will not be the best option in the future. It is not fair to punish the developers, and the consumers, for problems between the relationships between publishers and retail stores.

A subset of these downloadable titles that have been doing well because they rely on the downloadable market is the indie scene. Smaller indie titles use all of the principles of the downloadable markets to maximize their own profits. Take, for example, Minecraft. The graphics are not fantastic and the gameplay mechanics are not that in depth. What they did right, was make the game available to everyone. With the availability, cost of entry and other barriers lowered the community was allowed to expand which also is a characteristic of the last community I want to talk about, free-2-play games.

Free-2-Play Games Effect On the Games Industry

Free-2-Play games are the evolution of the local arcade. They tap into the most addicting part of gamers minds. On one hand, they allow players to play games for completely free. On the other hand though, the way the games are developed to make gamers pay constantly for boosts, upgrades and unlock can be seen as cynical by many.
Blacklight Retribution Logo Stroke

We have already started to see their influence on AAA titles today. A perfect example of the unlock system can be found in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer. In the multiplayer, players can pay for booster packs that act on a roulette system. Maybe they will get a great character or weapon, but maybe they will just get a regular unlock that you can receive while playing the game regularly. This type of game design, to me, is pretty insidious. If the micro-transaction is used as a way to lower game costs, I’m all for it. But in Mass Effect’s case, it is still a $60 game.

The introduction of the micro-transaction could be a good thing for games in the future though. A lot of free-2-play games like Blacklight Retribution and Planet Side 2 have used these models very effectively. Giving people a good reason to use the micro-transaction, while still giving free players good options for playing is a win-win for everyone. Players get a good AAA like game, while developers a lot of the time wins out in the end. Plus these games are no longer have the negative connotation to them that used to be prevalent in the past.

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