Archive for October, 2018

On The Price of Games…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on October 30, 2018 by chemiclord

In a post made just a few days ago, I made the comment that gamers were part of the reason why the financial environment of games it so terrible.  And I want to expand on that, because just that throwaway sentence in and of itself comes across as a bit unfair.

Jim Sterling (I guess you could call him a gaming pundit) has an excellent video on the topic of game cover prices.  You should watch it if you haven’t already, because it offers a lot of good counterpoints and context for what I’m going off about here.

 

First, what is he correct about? He’s absolutely right that adjusting the cover price of games won’t stop the predatory practices “AAA” publishers do now.  The toothpaste is already out of the tube, and there’s no getting it back in.

He’s also correct that worrying about major “AAA” titles going the way of mobile pricing is too little, too late.  We’re by and large already there.

But I also think he makes the same sort of mistake most pundits of most disciplines make; focusing too heavily on the top and the bottom of the food chain, and wind up ignoring the middle.

Right now, independent studios have one of two choices; either they stick to budget “retro-styled” titles that require little development costs, or they sell their souls to a major publisher.  You don’t hear more and more tales of big publishers buying studios whole hog because these studios want to be wage slaves to a big soulless corporate entity… it’s because unless they want to keep making titles that look like they came out of RPG Maker, they have to.

The independent studio is basically extinct at this point because it simply isn’t financially solvent to be in operation… and a large part of that is because a $60 price point for a modern styled game that doesn’t have huge financial backing is too massive a risk for any potential indie studio to make.

The profit margin for the sort of game Sterling wants is so paper thin that one title that doesn’t sell like gangbusters means that studio is dead.  Good luck finding too many people willing to take that chance.

There’s no salvaging AAA publishers at this point, and we really need to stop trying to shame them into doing the right thing.  If we want the sort of deep, immersive titles of old, we’re going to need to be willing to pay more for them.  That’s where the games we remember could potentially be found… but if we don’t show the willingness to support those attempts by putting more up front, the studios that might be willing to take that chance aren’t going to.

And that is something we have stubbornly and petulantly refused to do for nearly two decades at this point.  Then we wonder and complain why things keep getting worse.

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Gamers are What’s Wrong with Gaming

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , , on October 27, 2018 by chemiclord

I want to say this first; I would, by the colloquial definition of the term, be a “gamer” myself.  So as I unload here, I do so knowing that I am a part and contributor to this environment.

I write this in the aftermath of the revelations of extreme “crunch” (for the non-gamers among my readers, it’s overtime in the same way that Hafthor Bjornsson is a weight-lifter) at Rockstar Games as they pushed to make the publishing deadline for their latest title, Red Dead Redemption 2.

Now, the extreme levels of crunch that R* demanded of its developers earned itself a great deal of flack and scorn from a broad swath of gamers… who then promptly rushed out on release day and rewarded the company for the abuse of their developers by buying the game “Day 1” by the truckload.

Because publishers know that gamers’ words of support for developers are emptier than John Stumpf’s soul.  Publishers will continue to abuse their developers without any real concern of reprisal because they know damn well by now that given the choice between actually supporting developers, or beating them like mules to get their games five months earlier, that gamers would crack that whip themselves if they had the opportunity.

Because gamers are what’s wrong with gaming.  We are the Patient Zero of all of the industry’s problems.  Every single terrible, predatory, abusive behavior on the part of publishers and studio management can be directly Point A to Point B traced to some shitty behavior or actions on the part of the industry’s consumers.

Publishers impose crunch because they know the absolute biggest sin for gamers is to delay a title.  Hell, we live in a society where a reporter got threatened because he reported a potential delay.  That dude was only the fuckin’ messenger.  What do ya think happens to developers of a delayed game?

And before that, what was the big source of outrage before Rockstar’s “crunch” controversy?  Lootboxes and other microtransactions bilking us of our money.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It is predatory bullshit.  It is disgusting how much money they are making basically selling the equivalent of e-lottery tickets that you (mostly) can’t actually get any monetary winnings on.

But at the end of the day, this mess is the direct result of gamers repeatedly losing their shit every single time the industry tried to raise cover prices, and as such publishers decided they needed to get creative to get the profits they were looking for.  And now that they are making more money than half of the world’s nations, suddenly they don’t need to raise prices.

Good job, us.  All because we couldn’t accept that $60 in 1990 wasn’t the same as $60 in 2010.  We sure showed them!

Hell, we are a community so entitled that we have people comfortable enough to suggest without irony that laid-off developers for a studio that wasn’t even going to honor the contracts they had with those employees should work for fucking free to finish the game.

And don’t even get me started on the culture of toxicity that makes gaming or game developing as a woman such a unique hell that Dante Alighieri, if he were still alive, would have felt compelled to wedge it somewhere between his sixth and seventh circle.

And yes, I’m sure that these latter examples are all “minorities” of the community.  But ya know what isn’t?  The millions upon millions of people who despite knowing about people being worked up to “100 hours” for months on end still said, “But… my games…” and made Rockstar’s management a whole ton of bonuses.

Because we are the problem, and I’m kinda tired of hearing us claim we care about solutions.

On Elizabeth Warren’s Problem…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , on October 19, 2018 by chemiclord

Apologies for (once again) going political, but fuck it.  Here we go.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has a problem.  But not the one that mainstream media seems to be pushing.

It’s not that she lowered herself to Donald Trump’s level.  I think we’ve seen this story play out enough times that we should know there’s no smart play when Donald Trump decides to target you.  Like any elementary school bully, he’ll do whatever the hell he wants, and punch you in the crotch regardless of your response.  So, I’m not going to snarl and criticize that she didn’t pick the correct losing scenario.

It’s not that she invited a whole new round of racism on Native Americans.  Big business was building pipelines through their watersheds and big government was disenfranchising their votes and voices long before Senator Warren decided to declare she had a six to ten generations removed Native American ancestor.  And those things are going to keep happening long after she’s being lowered into the earth.

She is not responsible for the shit behavior of people looking for an excuse to be shit.  That’s just more blaming the victim crap that we aren’t supposed to be doing anymore.

But Senator Warren does have a problem.  And it’s one that she shares with a ton of families of predominately European descent, from sea to shining sea.

I’m sure every single person knows a family that claims to have some sort of Native American blood.  Hell, the overwhelming likelihood is that it’s their family.  Those stories are spread throughout said family like it some sort of mystic shaman ancestry where we could grow up to have magical powers that stem from our mysterious heritage.

We regard that real or imagined ancestry with some sort of awe that is patently ridiculous.  It’s not special.  It’s not a sign that we are somehow more sophisticated than our plain white brethren.  It’s not something to revere or speak of in hushed tones like it would somehow scandalize us to our neighbors.

And it certainly isn’t something you should be talking up by the time you’re in college, whether you tried to gain advantages from it or not.