Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pop the bubble

I read a great post about the market for video games that talked about how things are headed for a meltdown for many game creators.  The basic premise is that there are so many games out there available for so little money that anyone hoping to build a game has two options - tiny production with no budget or massive advertising from an established brand.  Middle range options with some budget just have no place because they can't demand $60 for their product and they can't compete with the $2 options, much less all the free stuff out there.  People either tend to be hunting for a specific game they have heard about, in which case they are willing to pay, or they are randomly looking for deals, in which case they want the dollar store options.

I think the real challenge here is for game companies that want to make the leap from some person creating games in their spare time to the big leagues with real employees and an HR department and such.  You need a ton of funding to be able to build blockbuster games and getting that funding is rough when there isn't any sort of progression between flappy bird and Call Of Duty.  There are outliers there who could probably get a bunch of investors together for a big project, like the guy who built Minecraft, but they are very few and far between.  I suspect in the long run this is going to mean that big companies who are already established and companies that do other things are going to be making all the games that cost more than a couple bucks.

While this is going to make things harder for game creators in many ways I don't think it will be bad for the average gamer at all.  The availability of cheap, good games is increasing at a fantastic rate and there is nothing suggesting that it is going to slow down.  Our ability to search for games that push our very specific buttons is increasing and the competition between so many different vendors and products is going to lead to people making ever better games.  Even if the game creators don't learn anything at all the sheer volume of product out there will lead to gems being found by pure luck if nothing else.

So I think the future is a pretty tough one for game creators.  The competition is going to be ever fiercer, not least because there are so many people in the market who make games just for love and will do so for starvation wages.  The dream of working at a games company is too common for it to be lucrative but at least the products made from such labours of love will give joy to those of us that consume them.

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