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Is Capitalism Devolving Games?

During this holiday season games will no doubt top several sales charts. Given this year's major releases I ask how the games industry is evolving? From Fallout: New Vegas to Gran Turismo 5, how has quality effected what we buy?

Isaiah Taylor, Blogger

December 4, 2010

7 Min Read

In an age where the games industry is one of the biggest cash cows, it seems only fitting that consumers should question the quality of products sold. What happens when companies do just enough to appease the general gamer?

Before you dart down to the comment section of this article and begin feverishly typing prior to reading, it should be said that I’m an avid supporter of most [not all] forms of capitalism. However, as this term applies to the games industry, I think its a pretty rotten time for consumers. Though there are small glimmers of the games industry doing right by the developers and gamer, this era marks an odd turn. Bethesda, Lionhead and now Polyphony Digital studios were the first group of studios to spark my interest in this new development. Capitalism typically thrives off of the quality of a product. Traditionally, if the consumer has qualms with the product there is an outlet in which they can be heard. Unfortunately, we live in an age where we can only vote with our dollar. 

This argument of how we game and why we game comes into play when thinking about the terms. I say the production and promotion of games has [in a way] devolved as an all-encompassing argument against the industry and how they treat their consumer, and how the consumer consumes. This art. This hobby. This culture will always be one-step forward and two-steps back if laziness on both parties become the new status quo. The biggest benefit of playing a $60 game is the polish and varying options available to us that wasn’t in previous generations. But as a famous rapper once said, “Mo’ money, mo problems”.


 Where should we draw the line when recognizing a game of quality has a glaring flaw? Fable 3 expects the consumer to report said flaws. Is this a positive step for both consumers and the industry? [image courtesy of Eurogamer]

We’ve all heard the tired comparisons, “If I bought a car and it didn’t run...”, “If I bought food and it turned out to be rotten.” The problem with these loose interpretations is that gamers make so many caveats for what they enjoy. The excuse common for the bug-filled Fallout: New Vegas is the scope of ambition. Since this game is attempting to do so much, the average bug is to be expected. Why not reel in Icarus a couple paces away from the sun? Rewarding developers for their ambition is a thought I champion [see also: Heavy Rain review], however this year has proven that a gamer’s tolerance is one based on hope instead of logic.

With Lionhead’s Fable 3, we see both an admission of guilt and incredible foresight. Fable 3 ships with a bug reporting feature. Honestly, I’m of two minds about this. Unlike Bethesda, at least Lionhead has the moxie to tell the gamer, “We know you spent $60 dollars on our fine product, but would you mind helping us do our job?” See in one sense, you play a direct role in your enjoyment of the game. See a problem? Report it. Pray to the code crunchers that its patched at a decent time. The flip side to this is when your issues go ignored. When developers are just as pressured to work on a game after its release as they were prior, this could create more issues with the game and the relationship between the consumer and the business.

 Fallout: New Vegas' bugs and glitches range from comedically endearing to game destroying!

So how is capitalism at fault? One of the cool things about capitalism is that if you’re a business and you make a product, you [pretty much] make your own rules. You can decide the when’s, where’s and how’s of the manner in which your product is made for the people. If you have industry history or brand recognition then your reputation typically speaks for itself. Fallout: New Vegas has been met with positive reviews and even more positive sales. Assuming that the typical consumer knows what I know, there were millions of gamers who bought Fallout: New Vegas knowing full-well of the flaws of the graphics engine. This idea of consumers being ‘okay’ with buying faulty merchandise spans decades, but typically those brands fade or improve -- the business-side of gaming seems to be absolved of this issue.

I see the effort. The games industry is this ever evolving organism and consumers are following suit. When Microsoft was suffering from their huge PR nightmare three years ago, I and I’m sure the rest of the community gave them a bit of credit when they made a billion dollar effort in appeasing their consumer base. However, to paraphrase Chris Rock, “Why should we give them credit for what they are supposed to do?”

 How much leeway must be given to a game's ambition as it relates to time and money? Gran Turismo 5 could serve as an example as both a game of quality and a game missing its focus [image via Playstation University]

There is one more small issue I forgot to address. Gran Turismo 5 was recently released and after going with a friend to purchase and subsequently play this 5-years in development game, I noticed a rather lengthy install followed by two hefty patch updates. Barring my feelings on my first impressions of the game, the loading times and plethora of menu options seemed extravagant. Millions of dollars have been poured into this one game and though Polyphony Digital may know its audience on this venture, it’s really unfortunate they didn’t at least try and bring in a newer generation with something a little less sterile. This idea, of driving a car in a racing game that looks graphically worse than one of the prized vehicles smells of development issues. Again, games with large scopes get a pass. 

When I see the Super Meat Boy’s and Limbo’s of the indie game scene, I see simple and concise games that also have a lot of ambition. I see Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft taking a chance on the little guy. I also see a gloomy future for sequelized games that only fix their previous efforts more than they push the envelope forward. And I’m willing to be wrong, because the numbers show that I currently am. This industry loves sequels, as do I, but the second I feel like my time is being wasted, I’ll be returning back to the indie scene for those bit-sized ideas. The triple-A publishers would be wise in paying close attention to what is happening to the sudden slump of the rhythm game genre.

 "If these triple-A developers and publishers don't get their acts together -- watch how fast the Super Meat Boys of the world eat away at the market" - Justin McElroy

Development of games has no doubt grown more complex. Seeing a pixellated level on the NES carries a certain charm now, but then it was just as frustrating and annoying. We made it out of that generation and hopefully, with a little teamwork we’ll make it out of this one with some lessons learned.



via My Brog 

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