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Topic: Video game "crash" - The middle falling out from under us.

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Action51

1. Posted:

It's late here and without being able to sleep, I pondered some things as I played on my 3DS into the wee hours of the night.

First off, if you read the topic of this post you probably have your own ideas and thoughts on the buzz and chatter about video game crashes. You may have an image in your mind of a dump site in the American desert filled with dusty old copies of ET carts, or those old commercials of the NES with ROB the robot and the zapper restoring video game greatness from the dark ages.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this topic was that I was playing Ridge Racer on my 3DS, and I was thinking how the middle has fallen out of the gaming market. Those titles that fill the void between the smaller, more basic indie experiences and the triple A, monster budget titles are becoming fewer and farther between.

The studious that make those games have been shutting down left and right. For example, Irrational Games, the creators of Bioshock and Impossible Creatures was effectively disbanded shortly after the critically acclaimed Bioshock Infinite. Never say never, but both Neverland, the developers of the Rune Factory series, and Neversoft who filled our childhoods with awesome Tony Hawk games both closed shop. LucasArts, THQ, Hudson Soft, Psygnosis, Big Huge Games, Paragon, Blue Fang, 3D Realms, The Code Monkeys....the list goes on and on.

On top of those closing, there are several divisions of still successful uber-publishers closing down studios. among them DICE Canada, EA Chicago, Eidos Manchester, EIdos Hungary...even wildly sucessful Activision has shut down Bizarre Creations.

What does all this mean?

It means what we all see and what we all instinctively know, but seem unable to properly define. It's a crash alright, but not a crash like the infamous 1983 video game crash. The market is larger, the stakes are higher, the acceptability of video games as a hobby for young and old is wider and so we can expect things to appear to keep chugging along with major developers reassuring us that everything is just fine.

In the meantime, we are looking at fewer and fewer retail games. If it weren't for the rise of acceptance of the digital marketplace, it might be even worse. What we aren't seeing...are games that take any kind of risk. When they do release, they tend to fail and we go back to safe sequels, established genres, and games that look and play just like other games flooding every console.

Those mid-level developers may have hit-or-miss track records, but often they provided some of the better niche titles and more daring projects that were motivated by a director's passion and not always by a bunch of marketing guys and suits with spreadsheets.

I guess the biggest argument against this idea is the rise of mobile, free-2-play, and casual gaming on powerful handheld devices...but is that really the same as dedicated console gaming? I know it can be in some cases, and I'm not looking down on those who primarily or only use their phones and tablets to game...but I think they've crossed over into a different category now.

Another factor might be that we've reached a point of diminishing returns on graphics and power...certainly on the PC side of things. In order to create games that live up to the promise of that leap in fidelity we saw each previous gen, budgets are going through the roof. Now we're fighting over pixels and Tflops...and spending hundreds of millions to make mediocre games look slightly more "real"....it's unlikely we'll see another jump like we'd seen in previous generations where it felt like something fundamental in how we look at and play games has changed.

Well, these are my late night thoughts on the state of gaming just a day before the 8th installment of one of the top selling franchises is released. This posting is not meant to be a singular, coherent, explanation represented as fact that you are meant to agree of disagree with as a whole. Hopefully responses and further examinations will provide interesting discussion.

Action51

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DualWielding

2. Posted:

I don't get why everybody is saying the middle is falling out..... most of my favorite titles are mid-tier and there is a lot of in between indie a triple A... there are a lot of different budget tiers: In between say the Retro City Rampages and hotlines Miamis and the Call of Duty's and Assasins Creeds you have stuff like: Telltales Walking Dead, Child of Light, Hyperdimension Neptunia PP, Rayman Legends, Drakengard 3...... there are lots of budget tiers but people seem to think we only have two extremes

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unrandomsam

3. Posted:

The only stuff in the middle tier is the bigger kickstarters. The AAA's rarely are as well. (The A for quality should be average review of 90% or more).

“30fps Is Not a Good Artistic Decision, It's a Failure”

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Artwark

4. Posted:

With today's publishers, I doubt that any one of them will ever fall into bankrupty. Seriously though, Is EA ever going to get bankrupt? What about SEGA? Or even Ubisoft. Its because these publishers have a lot of money in them and they don't easily fall into bankruptcy(Atleast that's what I feel).

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Nintenjoe64

5. Posted:

I can see plenty of publishers getting hurt in this generation but most of the huge ones will always be able to auction off their assets and liquidate their dev teams pretty easily without going bankrupt.

On the other hand, sometimes you get executives that would rather kill a company in 3 years on a huge salary than actually admit they're in need of massive changes that would certainly temporarily lower profits. (Blockbuster, HMV, most of the major retailers of the 80s and 90s)

I only posted this to get my avatar as the forum's thumbnail.

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unrandomsam

6. Posted:

THQ was similar to Ubisoft (Other than they made some quite good games sometimes).

“30fps Is Not a Good Artistic Decision, It's a Failure”

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unrandomsam

7. Posted:

There is also the Microsoft trojan horse strategy which they have successfully implemented recently against Nokia. (If they can do that they can do it to any game publisher.)

“30fps Is Not a Good Artistic Decision, It's a Failure”

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steamhare

8. Posted:

There are many reasons these publishers you've spoken about go out of business. Some serve niche audiences (Rune Factory was surviving on crumbs, and only recently had an entry that received critical acclaim, for instance), others have key personnel who decide to move on (irrational games, which is arguably triple A), others suffered from diminishing sequel quality in a long running series along with competition taking market share (neversoft). I know a few of the other developers you mentioned had problems beyond "nobody cares about the middle". You're pointing at houses that burned down and saying the owners moved because the neighborhood went bad.

I'm much more concerned about the seeming disappearance of digital distribution profits; sales and profits aren't really reported to anybody, games sell much longer than they do in retail stores, and profit on each sale is much higher, but games that are likely to get most of their sales digitally seem most likely to be the ones which "fail to meet forecasts". See, I can have conspiracy theories too!

steamhare

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bezerker99

9. Posted:

The middle may have fallen out and video game studios from yesteryear may have closed up shop, but apparently Gamestop reported a rise in revenue recently.

Craziness! :O

EDIT: (Of course, that means nothing...just means that Gamestop figured out a way to make profits in this current video game market).

Edited on by bezerker99

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unrandomsam

10. Posted:

bezerker99 wrote:

The middle may have fallen out and video game studios from yesteryear may have closed up shop, but apparently Gamestop reported a rise in revenue recently.

Craziness! :O

EDIT: (Of course, that means nothing...just means that Gamestop figured out a way to make profits in this current video game market).

Revenue is not profit. Sony has loads of revenue. (About as much as Microsoft) but just no profit whereas Microsoft has about 30% or more (Even doing loads of basic research and stuff that other companies stopped bothering with.)

“30fps Is Not a Good Artistic Decision, It's a Failure”

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Action51

11. Posted:

@Artwark - Actually the big publishers are doing very well, and they have the ability to gobble up smaller publishers and studious, throw away all but their most popular franchises, and then milk a Sim City or Battlefield forever. It's the medium sized studios and publishers closing down.

@bezerker99 - Every time I walk into a Gamestop now, for a second I think I'm walking into a used phone, tablet, and accessory shop. Then I see the racks full of used copies of annual releases of Call of Duty, Madden, Just Dance, and Cabella's Big Game hunts. :)

@steamhare :
1) Yes, niche market games that can't survive in a world where the big publishers can spend more then an entire smaller studio's development budget on advertising and securing shelf space for the annual, big budget blockbusters. I think you make a good point there, and whether we like it or not, you described it pretty well.

2) I am also curious about how we can continue to ignore digital sales and pretend we're getting an accurate picture of overall sales in 2014? - Those digital marketplaces are better for mid-size developers who can localize and distribute their games without the burdensome cost of packaging and shipping retail. Digital distribution may be the only way those mid size developers and their "niche" titles survive in the future.

Action51

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SMEXIZELDAMAN

12. Posted:

Atlus :O

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Action51

13. Posted:

SMEXIZELDAMAN wrote:

Atlus :O

OMG, how could we forget them!

Actually though...Atlus' holding company had some legal and financial troubles that caused them to be put up for sale. They were actually pretty successful and had become something of a mega publisher for quirky Japanese RPG properties and so Sega bought them up.

Action51

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bezerker99

14. Posted:

unrandomsam wrote:

bezerker99 wrote:

The middle may have fallen out and video game studios from yesteryear may have closed up shop, but apparently Gamestop reported a rise in revenue recently.

Craziness! :O

EDIT: (Of course, that means nothing...just means that Gamestop figured out a way to make profits in this current video game market).

Revenue is not profit. Sony has loads of revenue. (About as much as Microsoft) but just no profit whereas Microsoft has about 30% or more (Even doing loads of basic research and stuff that other companies stopped bothering with.)

GameStop's shares rose as much as 5 percent in extended trading on Thursday, after the company also reported a better-than-expected first-quarter profit.

Looks like they made profit.

Edited on by bezerker99

"And [Sting!!!], I'm not coming to show YOU or anyone else who the better wrestler is. I'm coming...to hurt you...for real...for a long, looong time. WOOOOO!!!" - 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair
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SMEXIZELDAMAN

15. Posted:

Action51 wrote:

SMEXIZELDAMAN wrote:

Atlus :O

OMG, how could we forget them!

Actually though...Atlus' holding company had some legal and financial troubles that caused them to be put up for sale. They were actually pretty successful and had become something of a mega publisher for quirky Japanese RPG properties and so Sega bought them up.

Yeah, but they're still doing fine.... >_> Who cares about their holding company?

Lord Head Admin of SonyLife
♥♥♥Videogames are lame♥♥♥

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Tops

16. Posted:

SMEXIZELDAMAN wrote:

Action51 wrote:

SMEXIZELDAMAN wrote:

Atlus :O

OMG, how could we forget them!

Actually though...Atlus' holding company had some legal and financial troubles that caused them to be put up for sale. They were actually pretty successful and had become something of a mega publisher for quirky Japanese RPG properties and so Sega bought them up.

Yeah, but they're still doing fine.... >_> Who cares about their holding company?

As long as we have Atlus the world will be okay :)

Edited on by Tops

Formerly: LaytonApprentice; TopLaytonsHat

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shingi_70

17. Posted:

Hasn't the middle tier been sort of mixed with the indie tier. I mean to name a few games from the last year and a half that would be considered middle tier.
State of Decay
The Wolf Among Us
The Walking Dead
Max and The Cursed Brotherhood
Strider
Outlast
Bound by Flame
Trials Fusion
Child of Light
Call of Juarez Gunslinger
Far Cry Blooddragon
Crimson Dragon
Lococycle
Racht and Clank into the nexus
Strike Suit Zero
Transistor
Resogun
Super Time Force

A few coming up in the coming months

Pusmo World

Futuridium EP Deluxe

State of Decay: lifeline

Valiant hearts

D4

Helldivers

The middle teir did sort of leave toward the middle of last generation in favor of only AAA and Indie, but its been making a steady comeback since 2012. The thing is dont expect to see many Middle Tier games on sale at retail unless its in europe or something.

Also how do you define middle anyway? I consider the Metro games or dead island middle tier, but some might disagree.

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kkslider5552000

18. Posted:

I don't think middle-tier gaming is dead as much as AAA gaming have given us a new perspective of mid-tier. That perspective is "this game isn't being changed by the marketing team and publisher, thank God".

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