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(Escapist Magazine)   Would you kindly turn off the lights when you're done with that DLC?   (escapistmagazine.com) divider line 85
    More: Sad, Irrational Games, BioShock Infinite, BioShock Infinite DLC, DLC, BioShock, Take-Two  
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6340 clicks; posted to Geek » on 18 Feb 2014 at 5:46 PM (23 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-02-18 05:10:46 PM
How badly mismanaged does a company have to be to go out of business after producing one the the most successful game franchises in history?

Seriously, the Bioshock franchise has sold close to 15 million copies.
 
2014-02-18 05:14:23 PM
Nothing says the company is mis-managed and going out of business for that reason.  Sounds to me that he's just tired of the BS of running a large studio and dealing with all the crap.  So downsizing to something that he can deal with better.
 
2014-02-18 05:15:12 PM
This is sad news. I just finished playing through Bioshock Infinite last week, and it was the most amazing game I've ever played.
 
2014-02-18 05:23:02 PM

BizarreMan: Nothing says the company is mis-managed and going out of business for that reason.  Sounds to me that he's just tired of the BS of running a large studio and dealing with all the crap.  So downsizing to something that he can deal with better.


So sell the old studio and start a new one. We get new bioshocks and everyone keeps their jobs. Why scrap the old just to make something dinky?
 
2014-02-18 05:24:59 PM

Beerguy: How badly mismanaged does a company have to be to go out of business after producing one the the most successful game franchises in history?

Seriously, the Bioshock franchise has sold close to 15 million copies.


It sounds like a voluntary shutdown to me.  They want to make smaller, more independent games and running a big studio doesn't fit in with that plan.
 
2014-02-18 05:31:14 PM
Shiat, now where are the teatards going to get their propaganda?

img.gawkerassets.com
 
2014-02-18 05:36:23 PM

Lsherm: It sounds like a voluntary shutdown to me.  They want to make smaller, more independent games and running a big studio doesn't fit in with that plan.


Yes, and it sounds like Levine wants to take a core group of people with him. He couldn't really sell the studio but take the core talent. I don't know for sure, but I would think he also keeps ahold of the IP this way.

Given the games he makes, it probably takes 1-2 years of the creative process before they're really ready for production. He doesn't need a whole studio of people for that.
 
2014-02-18 05:44:08 PM

Fubini: Yes, and it sounds like Levine wants to take a core group of people with him. He couldn't really sell the studio but take the core talent. I don't know for sure, but I would think he also keeps ahold of the IP this way.

Based on his open letter, Take-Two (who owns Irrational) will keep hold of the BioShock IP.
 
2014-02-18 05:53:45 PM

Beerguy: How badly mismanaged does a company have to be to go out of business after producing one the the most successful game franchises in history?

Seriously, the Bioshock franchise has sold close to 15 million copies.


Also: "What kind of masochist continues to do a job he hates after making one of the most successful game franchises in history?"

He was the captain of a pirate ship. He got a big haul. Then he took on more crew and a bigger ship to get an even bigger haul. Now he wants to go back to the original smaller ship and crew. Translation: I want to make games, not be an office manager all day.
 
2014-02-18 05:56:08 PM

doglover: Beerguy: How badly mismanaged does a company have to be to go out of business after producing one the the most successful game franchises in history?

Seriously, the Bioshock franchise has sold close to 15 million copies.

Also: "What kind of masochist continues to do a job he hates after making one of the most successful game franchises in history?"

He was the captain of a pirate ship. He got a big haul. Then he took on more crew and a bigger ship to get an even bigger haul. Now he wants to go back to the original smaller ship and crew. Translation: I want to make games, not be an office manager all day.


That's how I read it too.
 
2014-02-18 06:08:46 PM
So, EA has finished destroying another developer...

I'm playing through the original Dungeon Keeper GoG was giving away.  Man I miss those old Bullfrog games.

//Won't touch the "new" one.
 
2014-02-18 06:09:51 PM

doglover: He was the captain of a pirate ship. He got a big haul. Then he took on more crew and a bigger ship to get an even bigger haul. Now he wants to go back to the original smaller ship and crew. Translation: I want to make games, not be an office manager all day.

phimuskapsi: That's how I read it too.

I get that feeling from it too, in a way, but as far as I know, Irrational wasn't that large. And his new venture is still going to be under the behemoth umbrella that is Take-Two/2K, so he's not exactly striking out on his own as an indie. To me this just feels like more of an internal reshuffling, with Levine and his team wanting to move away from the Irrational name a little bit so they don't feel obligated/pressured to keep revisiting the BioShock universe.
 
2014-02-18 06:10:04 PM

meat0918: So, EA has finished destroying another developer...

I'm playing through the original Dungeon Keeper GoG was giving away.  Man I miss those old Bullfrog games.

//Won't touch the "new" one.


Goddang it, I get Bioshock confused with Bioware...
 
2014-02-18 06:14:35 PM
He is basically going the 'I got rich and can afford to play with toys for a while instead of work so Ill fire all the guys who actually did the work, they can rot for what I care I got mine fark you lol' route.

Pretty standard stuff for this business.
 
2014-02-18 06:16:27 PM
Any game with a Barbershop Quartet is all right by me.
 
2014-02-18 06:20:45 PM

gaspode: He is basically going the 'I got rich and can afford to play with toys for a while instead of work so Ill fire all the guys who actually did the work, they can rot for what I care I got mine fark you lol' route.

Pretty standard stuff for this business.


15+ year game developer here.  Never worked on Bioshock.  Don't know Levine.  But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

The industry is in serious trouble.  A confluence of public market pressure, a static but increasingly demanding fan base, a wedged and broken price point vs. budget gap, a self-fulfilling prophecy between game reviews/Metacritic and dev patterns, and ever-increasing development/hardware requirements are making even games like Bioshock Infinite untenable.

Here's the thing:  your game can't just make its money back.  It has to make its money back, plus enough to fund your next game development in the meantime, plus enough pure profit to go back to your shareholders (in the case of a public company like EA) to keep from cratering your stock on mixed quarter expectations and resulting in everyone getting fired anyway.

There is a lot wrong with this industry, and no simple answers.  But saying this happened because one dude got rich and decided to get lazy and fire everyone is pretty much not one of them.  Guaranteed.

If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them.  But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.
 
2014-02-18 06:23:43 PM

jaerik: 15+ year game developer here. Never worked on Bioshock. Don't know Levine. But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.


Just for my own curiosity, what games have you worked on?
 
2014-02-18 06:24:39 PM

scottydoesntknow: jaerik: 15+ year game developer here. Never worked on Bioshock. Don't know Levine. But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

Just for my own curiosity, what games have you worked on?


Probably shouldn't be too specific in an anonymous forum or it would be pretty easy to triangulate.  =)  It's a very small industry.
 
2014-02-18 06:25:05 PM

jaerik: If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them. But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.


I for one would like an in-depth explaination if you're up to providing it!
 
2014-02-18 06:25:46 PM

Jormungandr: jaerik: If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them. But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.

I for one would like an in-depth explanation if you're up to providing it!

I swear I am neither drunk not overly tired
 
2014-02-18 06:28:44 PM

jaerik: scottydoesntknow: jaerik: 15+ year game developer here. Never worked on Bioshock. Don't know Levine. But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

Just for my own curiosity, what games have you worked on?

Probably shouldn't be too specific in an anonymous forum or it would be pretty easy to triangulate.  =)  It's a very small industry.


Roger that. Didn't know if it was a big publisher or a small one.

I do see your bio mentions MMOs, so good luck to you sir!
 
2014-02-18 06:29:50 PM

jaerik: gaspode: He is basically going the 'I got rich and can afford to play with toys for a while instead of work so Ill fire all the guys who actually did the work, they can rot for what I care I got mine fark you lol' route.

Pretty standard stuff for this business.

15+ year game developer here.  Never worked on Bioshock.  Don't know Levine.  But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

The industry is in serious trouble.  A confluence of public market pressure, a static but increasingly demanding fan base, a wedged and broken price point vs. budget gap, a self-fulfilling prophecy between game reviews/Metacritic and dev patterns, and ever-increasing development/hardware requirements are making even games like Bioshock Infinite untenable.

Here's the thing:  your game can't just make its money back.  It has to make its money back, plus enough to fund your next game development in the meantime, plus enough pure profit to go back to your shareholders (in the case of a public company like EA) to keep from cratering your stock on mixed quarter expectations and resulting in everyone getting fired anyway.

There is a lot wrong with this industry, and no simple answers.  But saying this happened because one dude got rich and decided to get lazy and fire everyone is pretty much not one of them.  Guaranteed.

If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them.  But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.


He is ditching the stuido that made him money because he WANTS to work on a small project. No suggestion at all of the problems you and I know so well (Ive been burned repeatedly exactly as you describe it all)
 
2014-02-18 06:35:59 PM
scottydoesntknow [TotalFark]


Shiat, now where are the teatards going to get their propaganda?


Notes the lack of fark libs whining about politics in a non politics thread
// also notes the naz-erators aren't deleting leftist troll posts .
 
2014-02-18 06:39:48 PM

jaerik: gaspode: He is basically going the 'I got rich and can afford to play with toys for a while instead of work so Ill fire all the guys who actually did the work, they can rot for what I care I got mine fark you lol' route.

Pretty standard stuff for this business.

15+ year game developer here.  Never worked on Bioshock.  Don't know Levine.  But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

The industry is in serious trouble.  A confluence of public market pressure, a static but increasingly demanding fan base, a wedged and broken price point vs. budget gap, a self-fulfilling prophecy between game reviews/Metacritic and dev patterns, and ever-increasing development/hardware requirements are making even games like Bioshock Infinite untenable.

Here's the thing:  your game can't just make its money back.  It has to make its money back, plus enough to fund your next game development in the meantime, plus enough pure profit to go back to your shareholders (in the case of a public company like EA) to keep from cratering your stock on mixed quarter expectations and resulting in everyone getting fired anyway.

There is a lot wrong with this industry, and no simple answers.  But saying this happened because one dude got rich and decided to get lazy and fire everyone is pretty much not one of them.  Guaranteed.

If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them.  But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.


You think the industry could actually crash outright like back in the early 80's?
 
2014-02-18 06:40:32 PM
System Shock 2 mentioned, good, but no one ever mentions their other PC gem ...

ecx.images-amazon.com
/nowadays this would be a Teabaggers wet dream image
 
2014-02-18 06:42:29 PM
This is why I ended up working in cell phones, and when that went tits up due to outsourcing, newspaper.
The money just isn't there for the complete lack of stability, plus the difficulty in getting a job in the first place.

Though this particular story has the same kind of hero-worship that goes on in the worst "all-hallowed be the job creators" CEO wank, where a particular name and face get to coast on the fame brought on by dozens or hundreds or thousands of people who are now laid off. I can't imagine working with such personalities on top of the already insane demands of the corporate overlords.
 
2014-02-18 06:44:20 PM
Good. That game was terrible. Bland. Boring. The story was boring.  It was a terrible Bioshock game.
Marketed out the ass.
Prepurchase?
Day one DLC?
Bullshiat "season pass?"

Ya, go fark yourself.
 
2014-02-18 06:49:13 PM

Practical_Draconian: System Shock 2 mentioned, good, but no one ever mentions their other PC gem ...

[ecx.images-amazon.com image 407x500]
/nowadays this would be a Teabaggers wet dream image


I had no idea Irrational Games made the Freedom Force games, I thought both entries in the series were great (as I did System Shock 2 and BioShock)
 
2014-02-18 06:49:19 PM

PiffMan420: You think the industry could actually crash outright like back in the early 80's?


I've heard it said there's too many indie developers for that to happen. It might bring down EA, and lag a console generation or two, but games are so ubiquitous, plentiful, and CAN be created without a multi-hundred million dollar budget, that it won't go down like the 80's, where video games almost disappeared.

Though that's from an outsider who would love to be inside if it ever seemed like a sane decision. Not right now.
 
2014-02-18 06:50:32 PM

jaerik: The industry is in serious trouble.


LOL. No it's not.  Big studio triple A games maybe. But fark them.
Indy games are really taking off.

Ever heard of minecraft? Starbound? KSP? Rust? Star Citizen?
The day of the big studio is waning. People don't want to play games that are thinly veiled mass marketing attempts. A pump and dump rife with bugs that the developer can't be assed to fix.  Personally, I want games that are made by people who have a passion for it.
 
2014-02-18 07:02:49 PM

jaerik: gaspode: He is basically going the 'I got rich and can afford to play with toys for a while instead of work so Ill fire all the guys who actually did the work, they can rot for what I care I got mine fark you lol' route.

Pretty standard stuff for this business.

15+ year game developer here.  Never worked on Bioshock.  Don't know Levine.  But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

The industry is in serious trouble.  A confluence of public market pressure, a static but increasingly demanding fan base, a wedged and broken price point vs. budget gap, a self-fulfilling prophecy between game reviews/Metacritic and dev patterns, and ever-increasing development/hardware requirements are making even games like Bioshock Infinite untenable.

Here's the thing:  your game can't just make its money back.  It has to make its money back, plus enough to fund your next game development in the meantime, plus enough pure profit to go back to your shareholders (in the case of a public company like EA) to keep from cratering your stock on mixed quarter expectations and resulting in everyone getting fired anyway.

There is a lot wrong with this industry, and no simple answers.  But saying this happened because one dude got rich and decided to get lazy and fire everyone is pretty much not one of them.  Guaranteed.

If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them.  But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.


I'm no gaming expert and don't work in the industry, so I'll defer to your expertise, but it seems to me that "the industry is in trouble" is something of a misnomer. Big studios may be in trouble, but the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and as long as people want games to play someone will make them.
Small studios and independent game producers are raising millions through crowd-funding, so it might be more accurate to say that traditional publishers are in trouble, or mega studios like EA are in trouble, but that's hardly surprising when they set aside innovation and creativity in favor of cashing in on more and more sequels.
 
2014-02-18 07:08:17 PM

Jormungandr: jaerik: If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them. But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.

I for one would like an in-depth explaination if you're up to providing it!


The problem is, like all really hard to solve problems, a confluence of factors that combine to form a tailspin that's really hard to break out of.  This is gunna be long, but hopefully it's helpful to someone.

Budgets: The budgets of games within genres has followed an exponential pattern over the past ~15 years.  Look at MMOs:  extrapolating from a few random data points, the budgets of MUDs to UO to EQ to EQ2 to FFXI to WoW to SWTOR has almost doubled with every generation.  Budgets can now top $200M+ a pop.  The reasons why are subtle, but mostly have to do with the fact that each generation of hardware and software builds on the expectations for visual, etc. fidelity of the last with no real drop in overhead.

People are used to each generation in something like film making or other engineering to result in slicker and better tools, which result in an ability to capitalize on previous success to capture better quality for less overhead.  The next gen in hardware is roughly the same price point for far better stuff.  But the nature of software (and gaming software in particular) changes the entire game plan so frequently that the payoff rarely hits.  Software devs will nod and smile at me when I say they're likely not even 100% working in the same language as they were 4-5 years ago, and game software, which has far more cross-discipline dependencies (rendering, physics, web services, server tech, etc.) is even worse.

Plus game art (being, you know... art, not something you point a better camera at or upgrade your assembly line machinery to make faster) is a static cost that scales nearly linearly with fidelity -- someone had to draw those 2000 textures instead of the 200 that might have worked for a previous generation.  We've managed to drive down these costs by outsourcing large swaths of the busy work to China and elsewhere, but there's a floor on just how cheap that stuff can get, and there's no automated process that can design, model, rig, texture, and animate a character for you.

Summary:  exponentially increasing costs for only incremental payoff to meet an arbitrary quality bar driven primarily from outside the dev studio.

Business Pressures:  Remember, your game can't just make its money back to be successful.  It has to break even, return its funding money plus payoff to its seed investors, plus give a healthy profit return to your shareholders (in the case that you roll up into an EA, ActivisionBlizzard, SquareEnix or similar public company, which is almost everyone now), PLUS provide enough overhead to pay for everyone to work on the development of your next game, or you will fail to bridge the next gap and be forced to downsize or get shut down.

The bigger the budgets get, the higher the stakes on these gaps, meaning the less people are inclined to trust the developers.  Most devs work out of love for the job (our industry under-pays severely in terms of software skill/experience vs. more stable software jobs) and don't want to involve themselves in bean counting, marketing, etc.  But that means we can't be trusted with $200M budgets or we'll probably waste it on stuff that'll make us very happy and proud but completely fail to sell.

This means there is intense pressure from business and administrative types (plus a whole 'nother layer of shareholder pressure) to not risk all that money on something risky.  Additionally, the industry has gotten very good at granular business intelligence, which is the art of tracking user behavior at a very detailed level to inform future design decisions about what gamers really want, rather than what they say, and that all feeds into a huge push to pump out episodic, sequel-based content (Call of Duty 17, Madden 2030, Final Fantasy MCMXVII) that is "guaranteed" to succeed (usually) and can re-use as much of your sunk overhead costs as possible.

Crunch/Skill Churn:  Working conditions in AAA are generally abysmal.  People are always incredulous that games are late and crunch is inevitable, but I ask any of you to point to any large construction project in real life that always comes in on time and on budget, and that's generally in markets that have been mature for 100 years.  It's almost a laughable inevitability that a home remodel will encounter unknown budget/timing issues (isn't there a whole TV channel devoted to this?) and yet a far more complex project, involving 500+ people across seven cutting edge and completely unrelated disciplines using tools and methods that may not even have existed two years ago, are a few months late and everyone freaks out.

Trouble is, production schedules are generally immovable because you must hit Christmas, or must hit your publisher's quarterly, or... whatever.  So you get behind, and then you crunch.  The industry has a long way to go in terms of production and scheduling expectations -- it's true -- but some of this is inevitable because of just how many things are unknown.  (Ex:  Blizzard has now rebooted their next-gen MMO several times because just in the few years of production, entire hardware generations, platforms, market trends, and consumer behaviors have changed.  This doesn't happen in construction or other forms of entertainment to the same extend.)  And like I said above, you're always one game not performing as well as projected away from them being forced to lay you all off at the end anyway.

The long hours, mandatory crunch, and generally low pay means that people tend to bounce out of the industry just as they're getting enough decent experience to not make the same mistakes over and over.  The lifestyle is simply not conducive to anyone who wants to settle down, have a family, and not lose their minds from the lack of stability.

Press/Metacritic/Reviews:  We have closed the loop between user/press reviews and development.  It used to be that you would develop a game, then wait to hear the reviews, and adjust accordingly for your next game.  But this is no longer the case.  We now have a situation where sites like Metacritic have so well-aggregated the data that individual reviews and individual gamer opinion cannot move the needle sufficiently and a game's public success can be pretty accurately predicted by such aggregate models.

This has created a vicious, self-fulfilling prophecy.  Because game sales can be pinned to Metacritic, many developers are now told that their paychecks will depend on whether their game hits a certain score.  This creates a self-interest even at the developer level, which feeds into the business pressure to make something that's a sure "win" and plays to the fans rather than try anything creative that could flop, and to make those decisions often before a project even begins.

Add into the fact that the gaming press is generally dependent on advertising revenue from the very developers that the press is reviewing, then add a layer of aggregation on top of that and pin people's jobs to the ability to predict the score... and it's a very bad cycle.

Gamers:   This is the most contentious issue, and the hardest to address.  But realize that every developer is also a gamer, and when we're not working on games, most of us are playing them, and our frustrations are the same as yours.  So it takes a certain level of maturity to turn a critical eye on ourselves as gamers and realize that the audience for core games is pretty farked up.

The price point for games, after inflation, hasn't budged in nearly 20 years and in fact has gotten gradually cheaper.  The $40-60 price point for a AAA product has been the norm forever, while budgets have increased by 100-fold in some cases.  This has been possible because the network reach of the audience has increased to the point where gaming is mainstream, meaning more people are buying games to make up the gap.

The problem is, the market for AAA gaming has mostly reached saturation in most developed markets, and there is intense resistance from the fans towards raising price points any further.  Alternative models have been tried (Day 0 DLC, microtrans, etc.) to try and "sneak in" the fact that games cannot be made for the $40-60 price point anymore, but fans rebel and show up with pitchforks and torches, accusing us of being greedy money-grubbing corporate tools, like the dude I originally replied to with this.

And I should know, because I'm right in the middle of it.  I sit there and come up with Day 0 DLC because there just isn't any other way to ship my damn game, then go home and flip tables in outrage over getting hit with Day 0 DLC in another game -- and that is often published by a friend who's in the same situation.  How's that for a microcosm of the problem?

The other huge problem is that the sheer metrics of the business show that what fans say they want, and what they're actually willing to pay for, are massively different.  Gamers claim they want a return to the low-budget "good old days" of the SNES, etc. but with VERY few exception (Minecraft, etc.) if you were to release a game like say... FFVI today, at the same price point as its 1994 release, it would flop.  Gamers, the press, Metacritic, etc. would scream bloody murder at the graphics, the "cliched" gameplay, the lack of originality, the single platform, the lack of physics, multiplayer, etc.  We can't go back, no matter how much we want to BELIEVE we can as gamers, and the sales metrics show it.

-----

Anyway, all of these factors create an ever-tightening maelstorm of demands.  The price point can't budge, the expectations and fidelity demands get ever higher, the press and Metacritic feedback loop is ever less forgiving, and the margin of error and costs for failure are so high that studios close or talent jumps ship just as it gets enough experience to learn how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

And this is just in AAA.  There's an entirely different rant about Social/Mobile/etc. that I haven't touched on.  But like all really hard problems, there is no easy solution, and the blame must be shared everywhere through the industry, because each of us is partially at fault -- devs, suits, critics, and gamers alike.
 
2014-02-18 07:13:01 PM

Practical_Draconian: System Shock 2 mentioned, good, but no one ever mentions their other PC gem ...

[ecx.images-amazon.com image 407x500]
/nowadays this would be a Teabaggers wet dream image


Only if it was a Mexican Nazi.
 
2014-02-18 07:15:03 PM

PiffMan420: You think the industry could actually crash outright like back in the early 80's?


The market for big-budget video games is already collapsing and has been for about four years.  It just hasn't been a huge, immediate collapse like the '83, where every major console hardware manufacturer and a large percentage of the major game developers went out of business, and almost entirely ceded control of the video game industry from one country to another (United States to Japan).  I'll guess I'll just go ahead and spill my thoughts on this.  Basically, it's not so much that games are "crashing", because more money is going into them every single year.  It's that the entire publishing model was stratified by the rise of digital distribution.  The old publishing model built a system where the sales of hardcore and casual games would all go into the same ecosystem, best demonstrated by the sales of licensed, portable, and sports video games.  So a company like Electronic Arts could use the sales of Madden to create games like Dead Space and Mirror's Edge, Nintendo could use the sales of the game boy to finance a huge risk like a Metroid Prime.  It's the same contract that financed movies for a good portion of their history.

Since the people who bought those licensed and portable games were generally oblivious to the quality of video games as a medium, the second that a cheap, disposable, mass-disseminated alternative came along, they stopped spending money on video game hardware and software, and that's what the mobile phones achieved.  There is no reason for the typical consumer to spend fifty dollars on a video game anymore, and it's been wreaking havoc in the places that it's been expected to.  The Wii U is going to go down as the least successful follow-up game console since the 5200.  The Vita is going to go down as the least successful follow-up portable game device ever.  The Imagine and the Guitar Hero series, which were at one point the best-selling game series for Ubisoft and Activison respectively, are basically dead.  Sales of sports games are pretty solid, but FIFA is the only thing selling gangbusters right now.  And licensed games for consoles have almost entirely vanished, and now manifest as free-to-play nonsense in browsers and phones.

So why spend money to attract an audience that is oblivious to quality when you can make it a cheap free-to-play game on a phone? And with it, the companies that are making big amounts of money--King, Zynga, and even a tweener company that appeals to both ends of the spectrum like Riot Games--have no interest in using the sales of their games to make what long-time video game players would consider worth their palette.  I suppose the best way to explain it is that it would be like a healthcare system where only the sick are paying in for the expensive treatments that the sick need.  All the companies which relied on the undiscerning gamer to finance the better stuff--Electronic Arts, Capcom, Nintendo, Square-Enix--are now left trying to find ways to make a profitable business model the games which were there to please the dedicated video game player, the games which are not necessarily a profit-making endeavor.  Occasionally, a game like Grand Theft Auto V comes along that more than comfortably makes back its 200-million-dollar advertising and publishing budget.  But most of the other games--DmC: Devil May Cry, Tomb Raider, BioShock: Infinite, Bayonetta--don't make that money back, and sure-as-hell not enough to make the shareholders who see game companies as little more than an ends to dividends.

So right now, you're looking at a medium which for its first forty years of commercial development has been defined by its rapid technological process.  The novelty of new experiences is what kept people buying into games.  And now, all these companies which built themselves on that technological process can't get the money they need to keep pushing games forward, or even keep them at the very high standard that was fostered from the eighties up through now.  (Not to mention that anyone with creative talent is leaving these large publishers, exacerbating the creative brain drain at the publishers while putting the genuinely talented people in a situation where they don't have the resources to make the best games.)  The end result is that the people making awesome, awesome games like Wargame: Airland Battle or Dragon's Dogma are not only getting drowned out by nadir-defining games like Candy Crush Saga or Flappy Bird or Pig Crap Mountain, but those piles of crap are being used to finance bigger piles of crap.  So there's your issue.  The companies and developers who make the best games can no longer use the tried-and-true funding routes to make those games and that entire part of the industry is in complete chaos, even if it hasn't imploded like it did thirty years ago.

And just to add: I don't see "indie" games as the solution to those ills.  Anyone who has a good deal of experience with older arcade and console games--with world-class talent financed by those publishers--can see that those games are routinely superior to three dudes who decided to make a game in their spare time.  Those people are doing every bit as much to drown out the market as the mobile game developers, and by the time it's said and done, only a small percentage of those games are going to be worth carrying on and discussing in the future.  It's just going to take a hell of a lot of time to figure out which of those games are actually worth it.
 
2014-02-18 07:18:38 PM

Practical_Draconian: nowadays this would be a Teabaggers wet dream image


Why?
 
2014-02-18 07:18:44 PM

Honest Bender: jaerik: The industry is in serious trouble.

LOL. No it's not.  Big studio triple A games maybe. But fark them.
Indy games are really taking off.

Ever heard of minecraft? Starbound? KSP? Rust? Star Citizen?
The day of the big studio is waning. People don't want to play games that are thinly veiled mass marketing attempts. A pump and dump rife with bugs that the developer can't be assed to fix.  Personally, I want games that are made by people who have a passion for it.


I don't want to besmirch indy games at all.  I have a lot of friends there and I very well may up there too, in relatively short order.

But we need to be realistic about our expectations as well.  As gamers (and everyone in the industry is a gamer) we have a tendency to react to market changes like we react to class rebalances in MMO's:  holy-crap-the-sky-is-falling my-level-50-is nerfed I'm-going-to-re-roll sucks-to-be-everyone-left-behind.  This isn't a very useful way to discuss the situation either.

The point is, the gaming industry is rapidly maturing into a model akin to television.  In TV, you have offerings aimed at many different audiences and pricing models:  you have mass-reach over-air free programming supported by ads, you have subscription package programming done through cable/satellite, you have premium channels like HBO, and you have individual pay-per-view as well.

It would be silly to say that any of these is "winning" and the others are "dead," but that's what we like to do in the games industry for some reason.  Similarly, I think there is a spot for "indies" in the grand ecosystem, and I am excited to see them grow and succeed, but that entire model has a long way to go.  Remember, a lot of your examples aren't even shipped yet, and to somehow claim that cutting out the developer or reducing budgets/dev teams is going to miraculously fix everything is far too simplistic a view.  (And this is from someone who puts a lot of blame on publishers to begin with.)
 
2014-02-18 07:22:33 PM

geek_mars: jaerik: gaspode: He is basically going the 'I got rich and can afford to play with toys for a while instead of work so Ill fire all the guys who actually did the work, they can rot for what I care I got mine fark you lol' route.

Pretty standard stuff for this business.

15+ year game developer here.  Never worked on Bioshock.  Don't know Levine.  But I feel the need to come to his defense on this one.

The industry is in serious trouble.  A confluence of public market pressure, a static but increasingly demanding fan base, a wedged and broken price point vs. budget gap, a self-fulfilling prophecy between game reviews/Metacritic and dev patterns, and ever-increasing development/hardware requirements are making even games like Bioshock Infinite untenable.

Here's the thing:  your game can't just make its money back.  It has to make its money back, plus enough to fund your next game development in the meantime, plus enough pure profit to go back to your shareholders (in the case of a public company like EA) to keep from cratering your stock on mixed quarter expectations and resulting in everyone getting fired anyway.

There is a lot wrong with this industry, and no simple answers.  But saying this happened because one dude got rich and decided to get lazy and fire everyone is pretty much not one of them.  Guaranteed.

If you want a more valuable, in-depth explanation of any of the real problems, I'd be happy to provide them.  But if you were just going for dismissive snark, then I'll just leave this here and be on my way.

I'm no gaming expert and don't work in the industry, so I'll defer to your expertise, but it seems to me that "the industry is in trouble" is something of a misnomer. Big studios may be in trouble, but the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and as long as people want games to play someone will make them.
Small studios and independent game producers are raising millions through crowd-funding, so it might be more accurate to say that t ...


You're correct in that I was referring primarily to core AAA gaming.  But remember -- all the big AAA studios were little indy shops at one point.  Nobody started big.  We all started the same way, and a confluence of growing pressures all, over time, pushed us together into the mess that AAA is now.  Indies have a spot in the ecosystem, and it's vitally important we encourage them to fill that niche, but there is nothing magical about what they're doing that will prevent many of the same pressures from affecting them over time, even if just in miniature.

We must be very careful and not jump blindly at new models that make us feel good purely because they promise to let us offload all the blame onto the ones we think we left behind.  To do so would be to repeat the mistakes of the past.
 
2014-02-18 07:23:02 PM

jaerik: The problem is, like all really hard to solve problems, a confluence of factors that combine to form a tailspin that's really hard to break out of. This is gunna be long, but hopefully it's helpful to someone.


Wow, your post goes into a lot more detail on the specifics, but we seem to be pretty eye-to-eye on the matter.  Good, means I haven't been lying to myself.
 
2014-02-18 07:37:48 PM

jaerik: The problem is, like all really hard to solve problems, a confluence of factors that combine to form a tailspin that's really hard to break out of.  This is gunna be long, but hopefully it's helpful to someone.


Thank you very much for that. (I'm also a developer, 20+ years, 15-ish shipped games. I also won't say which, for the same reasons, but maybe half people may have heard of?)  I bailed out of AAA titles because ... "It's no fun anymore" isn't quite right, I have a home and kids to pay for. "It just wasn't worth it" is more accurate? Anyway, I'm in mobile now, I love it, it's a lot more like it used to be. Small teams, smaller scope projects, picking a mechanic you like and iterating the bejeezus out of it. The mobile game world also really volatile, but I've made peace with that. It's not like being on a AAA console/PC title was any guarantee of job security either.

May I offer some of my troubles in mobile (An entirely different rant, heh)

# App Store ratings. Angry gamers are BRUTAL. It really hurts when you've tried really hard and bugs still happen. It hurts more when you get a 1-star and a nasty "you suck, this game sucks" because of some issue that turned out to be fixable. I'm sorry things happen, but if we fix it, could you please revisit the rating? And maybe please not go straight to the 1-star?

# In-app purchases. I don't see them as evil, just prone to bad design. It's just another way to pay for a game, and you get to try the game out without paying a dime. But gamers are competitive and feel like paying is a failure if they could possibly avoid it. You've managed to play and enjoy the game without ever paying? OK. But I know many people -- DEVELOPERS INCLUDED -- that brag about how they've played X for Y time and have yet to spend a cent on it. Jeeez. Throw people a bone sometimes. A buck or two would really help those indie developers. Lots of those teams are less than 10 people.
 
2014-02-18 07:38:43 PM
Ken Levine ... hosed by the man again .. good luck to him in his next endeavor.

// Thief, System Shock 2, Tribes, SWAT 4, the guy has some gaming cred.
 
2014-02-18 07:40:20 PM

jaerik: The problem is, the market for AAA gaming has mostly reached saturation in most developed markets, and there is intense resistance from the fans towards raising price points any further. Alternative models have been tried (Day 0 DLC, microtrans, etc.) to try and "sneak in" the fact that games cannot be made for the $40-60 price point anymore, but fans rebel and show up with pitchforks and torches, accusing us of being greedy money-grubbing corporate tools, like the dude I originally replied to with this.


I am part of the problem.

For me personally, it's reached the point that I won't pay for a game on release day or even within the first few months.  Between bugs and DLC content being released in a steady stream, it's in my best interest to wait for the game to not only come down in price, but also be bundled with its DLC.

The last near release day games I got were Defiance, Diablo 3, Saint's Row IV, and Skyrim.

And dear god, Defiance.  What a waste of my money to play what appeared to be an ALPHA release.  I still check in occasionally, and it has greatly improved, but what's the point?  Interesting concept, but the lag time between TV seasons isn't keeping any interest in the game for me.  And who the hell makes an MMO with that farking bad of a chat interface.  I swear it's the quietest MMO out there.

I generally ignore all games where microtransactions are required to progress.  If spending money just speeds things up but isn't a brick wall you hit while progressing through the game, I'll play the game (like Rift, which I have spent real money on to unlock the extra souls and AH selling, but if I had been patient I could have unlocked them through playing, and even Plants Versus Zombies 2 was playable without paying any cash), but the model of SWTOR, or the myriad of other "free to play" games?  Fark that noise.  (I realize I am in the minority for games like Candy Crush, and they rake in a hell of a lot of money.)

Plus, I've got so many games on my backlog that it does not hurt for me to wait and see if a game was worth the hype, and save a few bucks when it goes on sale.
 
2014-02-18 08:01:14 PM

jaerik: Remember, a lot of your examples aren't even shipped yet


And they're already successes in their own rights.
My point being that while big studios are running around screaming about how the sky is falling because they can't ship enough copies of their games, these small indie studios are doing gang busters.

The industry isn't in trouble. Development studios that act like douchebags and shake every penny out of their customers are.
 
2014-02-18 08:13:42 PM

meat0918: jaerik: The problem is, the market for AAA gaming has mostly reached saturation in most developed markets, and there is intense resistance from the fans towards raising price points any further. Alternative models have been tried (Day 0 DLC, microtrans, etc.) to try and "sneak in" the fact that games cannot be made for the $40-60 price point anymore, but fans rebel and show up with pitchforks and torches, accusing us of being greedy money-grubbing corporate tools, like the dude I originally replied to with this.

I am part of the problem.

For me personally, it's reached the point that I won't pay for a game on release day or even within the first few months.  Between bugs and DLC content being released in a steady stream, it's in my best interest to wait for the game to not only come down in price, but also be bundled with its DLC.

The last near release day games I got were Defiance, Diablo 3, Saint's Row IV, and Skyrim.

And dear god, Defiance.  What a waste of my money to play what appeared to be an ALPHA release.  I still check in occasionally, and it has greatly improved, but what's the point?  Interesting concept, but the lag time between TV seasons isn't keeping any interest in the game for me.  And who the hell makes an MMO with that farking bad of a chat interface.  I swear it's the quietest MMO out there.

I generally ignore all games where microtransactions are required to progress.  If spending money just speeds things up but isn't a brick wall you hit while progressing through the game, I'll play the game (like Rift, which I have spent real money on to unlock the extra souls and AH selling, but if I had been patient I could have unlocked them through playing, and even Plants Versus Zombies 2 was playable without paying any cash), but the model of SWTOR, or the myriad of other "free to play" games?  Fark that noise.  (I realize I am in the minority for games like Candy Crush, and they rake in a hell of a lot of money.)

Plus, I've got so many games on m ...


The whole DLC crap really turned me off to games in general. I don't mean DLC like additional multiplayer maps, new guns, etc, but I mean DLC akin to things like release-day DLC.
 
2014-02-18 08:28:26 PM
The independent guys aren't going to outright save the AAA industry, but the good ones are sure as hell putting out fantastic product. Hotline Miami, Papers Please, Gone Home, Jazzpunk are FANTASTIC titles.

Then there's the awful and sometimes outright broken drek that's unfortunately flooding Steam at the moment.
 
2014-02-18 08:38:00 PM

Mike_LowELL: jaerik: The problem is, like all really hard to solve problems, a confluence of factors that combine to form a tailspin that's really hard to break out of. This is gunna be long, but hopefully it's helpful to someone.

Wow, your post goes into a lot more detail on the specifics, but we seem to be pretty eye-to-eye on the matter.  Good, means I haven't been lying to myself.


You guys are pretty right on the money.

/I'm going to ignore the guy who said game programmers who work on AAA titles don't have a passion for it
 
2014-02-18 08:51:49 PM
PiffMan420:
Then there's the awful and sometimes outright broken drek that's unfortunately flooding Steam at the moment.

They really need to revisit the Greenlight program.  The crap that's getting through is mindblowing.
 
2014-02-18 08:54:43 PM
efgeise: The whole DLC crap really turned me off to games in general. I don't mean DLC like additional multiplayer maps, new guns, etc, but I mean DLC akin to things like release-day DLC.

The worst DLC is DLC for XBL avatars.

I BOUGHT YOUR GAME! And you want to charge me to wear a costume that essentially advertises your game to my friends list?

Also, DLC to get new character skins? I'm sorry, I'm from the Quake/Quake 2 era where the community made shiatloads of skins and put them on the internet so that we could download them with our 33.6k modems. I'm not paying a single penny for DLC skins.
 
2014-02-18 09:00:36 PM

lordargent: efgeise: The whole DLC crap really turned me off to games in general. I don't mean DLC like additional multiplayer maps, new guns, etc, but I mean DLC akin to things like release-day DLC.

The worst DLC is DLC for XBL avatars.

I BOUGHT YOUR GAME! And you want to charge me to wear a costume that essentially advertises your game to my friends list?

Also, DLC to get new character skins? I'm sorry, I'm from the Quake/Quake 2 era where the community made shiatloads of skins and put them on the internet so that we could download them with our 33.6k modems. I'm not paying a single penny for DLC skins.


Hell remember the Fable 3 shiatstorm where you couldn't use the multiplayer unless you both had all the exact same DLC?  That was outright criminal.
 
2014-02-18 09:36:31 PM
Shame, Bioshock Infiniate was an amazing damn game.  Only beef was with the ending.

Non-tardis based time travel always leaves a bad taste in mouths.
 
2014-02-18 10:00:23 PM

Satanic_Hamster: Shame, Bioshock Infiniate was an amazing damn game.  Only beef was with the ending.

Non-tardis based time travel always leaves a bad taste in mouths.


Unless the game/movie/book/etc is specifically about time travel, it's only going to muddle at best and ruin at worst any other storyline it's injected into and usually proportionally to how often it is applied.
 
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