Times, Are They A Changin?
I am a gamer that has seen many trends come and go. I am an elder statesman of videogames, though not a proper OG who was playing Space Invaders in the arcade. Growing up, my gaming experience was mainly playing solo games and when friends came round I busted out the 2nd pad on the NES. Times have changed and apparently so have gamers tastes. This is something that is up for debate.
The EA Effect
Coming hot of the heels of all the EA controversy (which one you may ask) I pondered the question myself. Are solo linear campaign games a dying trend like they say? Am I a dinosaur (to be fair I always pondered that) and why am I hearing so much talk about story based games falling out of favor?
EA recently closed down a whole studio they owned and canceled the game they were developing. The studio in question was Visceral Studios, and the game they were developing was an Uncharted style Star Wars game. I personally found the games pitch incredible, it’s the game I have always wanted. Amy Henning who helped create a couple of Uncharted games was actively directing the project. We saw a demo at E3, then all of a sudden, boom, canned, studio gone, years of hard work thrown out.
EA’s official statement included something very intriguing, they want to make a game that “players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come. They were re purposing the game and making something entirely different. All signs point to a ‘games as service model’, simply put, EA wants a piece of the Destiny template. They want to keep selling content to players well passed the games release date. I am all about multiplayer games, I like the ‘games as service model’, when done correctly, I just don’t want people to loose sight of tight, focussed story telling in favour of current trends.
At the risk of keep banging on about EA, their boss Blake Jorgensen recently shed some light on the thought process that led to Visceral studios closing down. In an interview given at a tech conference in Arizona, he said “As we kept reviewing the game, it continued to look like a much more linear game,” Jorgensen then went onto say “people don’t like as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago”. This led to my original point, I don’t think this is true. I am sure people like solo games, you just can’t monetise them as easily. To back up my point, in the same interview Jorgensen added EA decided that it was best to “cut the bridge when you realise [you] can’t really make a lot of money on something.”. This is the crux of it folks!
Can Linear Story Games Make Money?
Games are so expensive to make. AAA games cost pretty much as much as a blockbuster movie. The problem is, they don’t reach the same audience numbers. Developers and publishers often offset the cost of production by monetising games post launch, loot crates and collectible items are becoming common place. How do developers keep selling content once someone has completed a single player story game? If that game has no multiplayer element, they kind of can’t. DLC can help, add a couple more hours of story and sell off chunks every few months. The problem with this is, the DLC is often seen as ‘non cannon’ or not core game. People just may not buy it or worse trade their game in. Game makers want to do everything possible to make us gamers keep hold of that disc. They get noting on resale but they do if that game has a active service attached to it.
The Story is not Written Yet
So what can be done? Well the main thing is sort out the finances. We have not had a price hike in games for a long time. In the UK new games have sat around the same price point for coming up ten years. When the next generation of hardware comes in, I would be fine with paying a bit more. 4k games can’t be cheap to make, and if Naughty Dog said they next blockbuster game was a bit more money out the gate, so be it. Of course gamer’s will expect more for their money, so maybe DLC prices would suffer. I think there is room for every type of game. The good news is consoles are still around (and thriving).
The games industry has always been very volatile, I am sure it can adapt and find a way of delivering powerful interactive stories. The payoff is they may be fewer of them about.