Many of today’s influencers seem to peddle an idea that the games industry is broken beyond repair. Every popular Twitter account or YouTuber will at some point have a swipe at either the public, EA or a specific genre. They often claim that games as we know them today have become permanently broken. Or That many key industry players seem only prepared to splash their cash on the next “sure-thing”. I say this is far from the truth.
Many publishers in the modern industry seem to have a hard time being convinced that the little pink blob bouncing between seventeen walls whilst avoiding the falling meteor shower is going to break any kind of records. But in my eyes, this shows that the industry has matured to a point of constant instability. This has been a process in the same way as it’s entertainment forefathers, film and music, have also been through.
Games Industry and the Hollywood Studio System
Once again, it’s the Sony effect. Without Sony rearing their financially-weighted head during the mid-90’s it’s almost impossible to see how the industry would have seen such dramatic growth. True, the market was at a consistently-high rate of expansion anyway. However, within two years of the PlayStation’s launch the buying public had amassed and revenues double of that seen in the late 80’s were abundant. The industry had achieved a level of respect within society and was destined to leave the basement forever. It’s comparison that shows us why the industry in current form is exactly how it was always going to be. The film industry as a whole is dominated by Hollywood “blockbusters”, that’s hard to deny. However, within this line-up of big names and bigger budgets, we have options. We have B-Movies, straight to streaming releases and, most importantly, arthouse films.
The games industry is now is easily comparable to this main influence. With companies such as EA and Ubisoft perching themselves atop the hierarchy with an often ridiculous amount of AAA releases within weeks of each other, it’s clear to see where the “blockbusters” are coming from. But not so obvious are the arthouse comparisons. Every major developer has to have their AAA’s (where would The Batman be without The Worst Person in the World trailing along behind to pick up any lost pieces?), but it’s in the smallest development teams that we find our arthouse productions. Those little gems that cost relatively little to develop. Yet stull they can pack quite a punch sitting before you on that previously glittering screen. A romantic view maybe, but no less a statement borne of fact.
Modern Indies Finding Success
Indie games are now more prevalent than ever. And some manage to gain the clout of publisher funding. It’s no longer a case of the successful debut of two games a year on Xbox Live Arcade or self-publishing on Steam just to wallow in single-digit sales. If you position your indie title right, there are plenty of publishers willing to sign a check to spread across the console spectrum.
Indeed, two publishers spring to mind which have made this exact situation key to their business model. Both eastasiasoft and RedDeer.Games specialise in finding obscure but interesting indie titles and bringing them to a wider audience. The likes of Demoniaca – Everlasting Night and Pro Gymnast Simulator may never have graced console store fronts without AAA titles supporting the games industry at scale.
Big Boys Playing Games
The clearest example, although coming from a developer with an insurmountable resource pool, is the Wario Ware series.
The series offers pure gaming delight through a series of minimally graphical representations. The cost of development for the title in no way reflects the level of enjoyment ascertainable through play. Further to this, the subtle narrative the series has presented not only attempts to comment on the state of play within the industry, but also appears to be overwhelmed by it. A position not wholly impossible to understand when at the launch of the first title in the series the competition was fiercely poised for moving the industry in the opposite direction. Bombastic story telling was the trend at the time. For which Wario Ware has little care.
Games Industry Media – Gotta Get those Clicks
It seems almost comical that many influencers choose to demonstrate their disgust for the current trend, only to consistently push the latest sequel or remake game as being the next big-thing. A catalogue of errors that lead the public down the wrong path. Just as publishers push their latest craze with all their might, so too influencers run big names with big headlines. Surely, playing such a key part in the industry as influencers do, the obvious route would be to downplay the presentation of such titles? Lead their cover with their latest craze, as opposed to what the public is expecting to see? However, this would obviously lead to a downturn in views. The fact that modern media is so reliant on clicks taking that risk only further strengthens the position of such titles they resent.
The publishers within the games industry only stand to reflect those of the other entertainment sectors. But they are also reflected by those on the outer circles of the industry. The small amount of funding available for those niche titles has grown over the years, but only at the same rate as AAA titles do. The industry isn’t broken, it’s just found its home. As every other entertainment sector has evolved from it’s amoeba into it’s dove, so to has the games industry. While those on the inside may not like what it’s become, it was easily predictable from the offset of the “outsider” companies grabbing a piece of the pie. As soon as Virgin Interactive published their first title, the games industry was only ever going to be the younger sibling to the behemoth of Hollywood.