State Of The Game – Vol. 1: Prologue

So here’s how this part of State of the Game will work: I’ve got all sorts of ins and outs in the video game industry. I’ve brushed shoulders with big people in the industry. I’ve seen, played and heard things most of you probably haven’t. I’m also perpetually angry and sarcastic and I love to answer questions.

This edition’s mailbag will be understandably light due to the fact that, well, none of you even knew about this before reading this just now. So I’ve got a few questions from good friends to start off. However, if you want to see your questions here, send an email with your question and what name you want to be known by to mike[at]wegotthiscovered[dot]com with the subject line “State of the Game mailbag.” I’ll round up the best questions and post them here, with answers.

On with the show.

Alex S. asks: Is the game industry better than it was 10 years ago?

Well…yes and no. The video game industry is making more revenue than any other entertainment industry, but a lot of that is through a few key publishers and franchises. You can probably guess which ones. Your Call of Duty games, your Assassin’s Creeds, your Super Marios. There’s not a single professional in our industry that would say the video game industry isn’t at least more featured in today’s culture than it was a decade ago.

However, many companies are struggling. THQ had to put up a Humble Bundle of their own games because they’re not doing so hot financially. SEGA’s apparently not doing so hot either. Nintendo and Sony have both suffered financial losses when reporting their earnings.

It’s all due to the rising costs of development. Several years ago, you could make a game with a handful of computer programmers and someone who knew how to write a story. Nowadays, you have artists, writers, programmers, composers, etc. It’s a whole production. Where we were with video games a decade ago can’t hold up quite as well as it does now. There are indie devs working with the same amount of people as they did when games were made 10 years ago. An interesting thought, and one that makes you wonder if another decade from now we’ll have indie games with all these people.

What are some of the biggest marketing hits/flops?

Did you see the BioShock Infinite cover on the last page?

In all seriousness, I think the greatest video game marketing comes from when marketing teams aim towards the fanbase rather than trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Although that sort of sets the paradox that the fanbase wouldn’t really need marketing in general. So it’s tough to say.

I DO know that companies always seem to miss the beat when they try to be controversial. You can’t manufacture controversy about something specific; that takes the whole point of controversy out of the equation. Examples come when THQ dumped a bunch of red balloons in the San Francisco Bay area for the release of Homefront, or when Sony had a launch party of God of War that featured slaughtered goats as part of the scenery. I want to say that’s a great idea, but really, it’s not.

Unfortunately, most marketing teams are so far removed from their audience that they’re willing to do things like this. A perfect world would have people from the fanbase actually consult on these teams, but that would make far too much sense.

Robert P. asks: With the next generation of gaming on the horizon, what sort of things can we look forward to?

This is always a tough question. We aren’t seeing any big technology leaps like from the SNES to the N64, or the PS1 to the PS2, there’s just not that much of a way to move forward anymore. We might see slight leaps in clarity; I wouldn’t doubt the PS4 will be upgraded to be capable of 4K resolution.

We already know the direction Nintendo is heading in. They want to win the hearts of their hardcore fanbase back while keeping the casual fanbase they gained with the Wii.

Microsoft is distancing themselves from the Xbox being a game machine and focusing instead on entertainment as a whole. This probably means we’ll see more emphasis on Xbox Live and the services that provides. It’s entirely possible that within a few years, there’ll be an Xbox device on the market that doesn’t even play games, but instead chooses to focus on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. It’ll be dirt cheap too, at least compared to the game-capable Xbox. I wouldn’t doubt that we’ll see more digitally released games for the next Xbox as well.

Sony is a real wildcard here. They came into this console generation with entertainment in mind, but have taken a focus on gaming recently, sort of the opposite that Microsoft has been going into. Sony really can’t survive on simply releasing a new console with no big selling point, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, can’t really afford to rely on a gimmick either. Only time will tell.

Thank you all for your questions this week!

That about wraps up this edition of State of the Game. We’ll be back with an all-new edition next week. I’ll see you then!

State of the Game is the thoughts and opinions of WGTC Editor Mike Niemietz. The views expressed here are solely Mike’s and are not representative of WGTC as a whole or of anyone on its staff. Mike can be contacted at mike[at]wegotthiscovered[dot]com, or followed on Twitter @VikingGamesLive