Sunday, March 31, 2013

Musings II...

I’ve re-subbed to The Old Republic again. I suppose it’s in preparation for the new expansion/DLC Hutt Cartel. I seem to come back every three or four months, like a habit I can’t kick. Though things are looking up for TOR, the next six to twelve months will likely determine how it is remembered. When World of Warcraft first launched, people said it was too quest heavy and didn't have enough party-based grinding. Then they fell in love and out of love with it; in the end though WoW stands at the top of the summit in the MMO world. 

The Old Republic which reportedly has massive changes to parts of its base game in the pipeline will have to prove that it can improve the base product while also churning out excellent new story product; not a small feat certainly not for the timeframe involved. Still I have faith in BioWare’ ability to do the improbable. They finished a Mass Effect trilogy in just five years when people said they’d never finish it in a single generation of console gaming. Bioware more than ever must be feeling the heat though. Their founders are gone and all work from now on will be graded as singular pieces of work; any old and beloved memories of the company are dead and gone. I believe Bioware will prove their mettle the closer they get to the fire but only time will tell.

Defiance, the SyFy network television show, showed off the first 15 minutes of its two part series premiere (here). The buzz around the internet is that people are impressed; I’ve even heard murmurs of a successor to Firefly and Farscape, two well-loved Science Fiction shows. I think in many ways, both the show and game have benefited greatly from a late game surge. A few months ago, most people wouldn’t have given much thought to either product, and while their success isn’t a given, they seem to be on far better footing than before.

I’ve been disappointed by the business side of gaming recently; it’s two parts really. The first, SquareEnix announced greater than expected losses and its President, Yoichi Wada, resigned. Blaming the losses on weaker than expected sales of three major titles in North America was at best throwing SE North America under the bus, at worst it points to a bloated company spending far too much money for too little result. The games in question: Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs (the spiritual successor to True Crime), sold exceedingly well and failed to hit ‘targets’ that were at their core a complete fiction and unreachable without a miracle. 

Recently I’ve heard gamers muttering amongst themselves that they wish all the big gaming companies would fail so that out of the ashes the small developers would rise triumphant. While it’s true that these sentiments show a singular lack of common sense and vision, worse they point to a huge gap in the video game industry; how to generate profit after the initial sale. While the movie industry generates more revenue in DVD sales then in the theaters, the video game industry doesn’t share the same success. The movie industry is starting to realize that less and less people go to the movie theaters every year, a fact that is becoming increasingly mirrored in the video game industry as fewer and fewer games are being sold. Unless the industry can garner profits in a stream other than the initial sale, times are likely to get tougher. It’s unavoidable; if the tipping point of game price tags is around $60; there are only a handful of ways to generate more profit. Either sell more games or make profits after sale. The solution or lack thereof will be the title of the next decade of the video game industry.

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