Why the Video Game Industry Is Becoming Unsustainable
Something's gotta give in the video game industry.
I have been gaming for most of my teenage years and adult life and I have slowly watched an industry that is very close to my heart start to curl at the edges. My very first console was the Nintendo 64 and I remember being blown away by the graphics at the time and staying up until all hours playing Majora’s Mask. As I moved through the various consoles, from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, I have noticed some glaring problems that, in my opinion, could bring the industry down to its knees.
An example of these issues can be seen in one of this year’s releases – For Honor. I followed this game right from E3, through all the marketing and even played the Alpha and the Beta before getting my hands on this game and reviewing it for Cultured Vultures. Now that I look back, I should have seen the problems raising their heads during the early stages of this game, and the review score I gave it was far too generous for what this game deserves. In short, I fell for the hype surrounding this game – hook, line and sinker.
The campaign of For Honor is basically just a tutorial with a storyline. I have since returned to the game and played it and I feel it is empty and devoid of any kind of character. It is basically a stepping stone that you can take before you venture online (I’ll get to that shortly). What gets me is that they had so much potential here to make a game that has never been seen before, and do it well. The combat system is intuitive and fresh and the whole idea of three of the baddest warrior classes clashing on the battlefield was the stuff of dreams.
Yet what we were given was a measly six-hour campaign where I don’t think anyone knew what was going on. Then when you had completed that and were ready to head online, you were met with poor matchmaking, servers that just couldn’t handle the pressure that was being put on them and a levelling system that practically forced you to spend real money on the ‘pay to win’ services. In fact, somebody worked out that if you refused to spend real money on the in game currency then it would take you three damn years in order to purchase every unlockable.
I would like to say that this is an isolated problem, but the truth is far from it. On FIFA, you have the Ultimate Team mode where you need to buy cards to unlock players, where the odds are stacked against you and Call of Duty now offers supply drops to aid your online gaming experience. Even Battlefield, one of the best war games of this generation, is starting to head that way.
The reasons why publishers are doing this can be narrowed down to a number of possible reasons. One of them is that games are becoming ridiculously expensive to make and they have no option but to add in-game purchase in the hope to reap some of the money they have spent back. Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain needed to sell a ludicrously high number of copies just to break even, and by the looks of it, the same could be said for other games that are being developed today. Either way you look at it, online gaming has become part and parcel of the gaming industry. Although Rockstar nailed it with GTA V, some developers are seriously lacking in what they bring to the table. Bolt on the fact that the single-player campaign will probably become the stuff of legends in the next decade, and we are heading for a rocky time for the industry as a whole.
If the gaming industry continues down the path it is treading, then we are going to be left with games that are online only, stacked full of in-game purchases and that require you to re-mortgage your house in order to access the full potential of the title. In the current economic climate, that kind of format is not only unsustainable but also completely realistic.
One developer was featured on BBC News a few months ago and they argued that in-game purchasing is the way forward and that every game needs to have it. They also claimed that as long as people still buy the extra currency or EXP boosters then they will keep offering them. I am willing to call them out on this because when you look back such games as Shenmue and the Final Fantasy series, it is clear that they did not need it in order for their games to become a success. For in-game purchasing to stop, we need to act as a community and say that enough is enough.
But what all this boils down to is that gaming is starting to become expensive for the people they are trying to market and as a result, you will find that the industry will soon become unstable.