I was shocked to see in my messages, I received a nomination for gamespotter of the year. I have been a member for many years now, and I recently have started to post some blogs. It was definately nice to get some feedback from them. Previously, I spent all my time on the message boards and reading others articles and I decided it wouldn't hurt to contribute a little more than just game reviews. So I plan to post some articles more often. I am humbled at the nomination, as there are many qualified individuals here that contribute much to the gaming world.
"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal," is a quote that most of you have heard once or twice written by Thomas Jefferson and placed in the a post revolutionary war blog called the Declaration of Independence. Sadly this does not hold true to games, though developers like to believe it does. Recently I have read endless reports and analysis about the disparity between the sales of a select few games overshadowing other games. I wonder to myself why is this news, it seems like common sense to me that the properties of natural selection applys to consumers just as it does to evolution. I can think of many reasons developers could do to combat the ruthless tactics consumers use to try to sabatoge their companies. Since this is my blog I will name a few.
The number one reason is quality to cost. Modern warfare sells just under 87 trillion copies (rough estimate) in one week but games like Onechanbara: bikini samarai squad only sell about 87. This isn't rocket science developers. My advice is make good quality games and this will not be an issue. Lets just say you have a small developing company and are unable to compete with giants like Infinity Ward, there is a simple solution, don't charge the same price for a lesser product. You will likely make up in sales what you would lose in profit per individual game sales. Take Farmville, it is probably the most played game in the world right now, the reason quality to cost. It is a very simple in graphics and gameplay but incredibly successful. I know its free, but it solidifies my point, quality to cost is an important ratio.
Number two is a little trickier, Release dates. This is a twofold problem, I will explain. This involves competition and timing. Ill keep using modern warfare 2 as an example for being the pinnacle of recent games sales. Lets say you just made a kick ass FPS, it is solid, has great gameplay, multiplayer and replayability, but it is a less known game with little budget for advertising. So you think to yourself when should I release it. I know! Right before Christmas would be great, but every other developer has the same idea. Resulting in a tidal wave of good games. Example this year being Modern Warfare 2, Assassins Creed 2, Left for Dead 2, and Dragon Age all being released within several weeks. I would love to buy all these games, but I unfortunately can only play one at time. It sucks I know. I bought 2. Sorry Assassins Creed and Left for dead, though I want to buy you and you probably are amazing I haven't found out how to stretch the day longer than 24 hours yet (I was close once using Red Bull, jumper cables, a case of motor oil, and Funions, but that's for another blog). So developers unless you have the best game available for the year space the releases out. I promise it will help. Come every Febuary to about May there is nothing, not one decent game to be found. So I rummage around the bargain bin, and Bingo, I find Assassins Creed 2 for 72 cents. Not much profit to be made there.
The third reason being, make a game people want to play and be innovative. I mentioned earlier natural selection and evolution and how that applys to games too. It is true, games need to evolve faster than influenza to stay afloat. Innovation is the key, some subtle changes often make or break a game. Its not always the big things that make a game great. Take Left for Dead and Dead Rising, you would have thought the zombie games were washed up, but not true. Left for Dead took a real simple approach, just survive hordes of zombies to win. How could that be a good game, really, the answer is teamwork. They made the game incredibly fun by using teamwork. A simple concept but it worked. Dead Rising took a different approach; single player focus, but implementing an useable environment. All you needed to do was survive same as Left for Dead, but you could use anything in the environment to do so. Bowling for zombies, giving zombies a haircut with a lawn mower, and molotovs just = simple fun.
Reason 4, the most annoying in my opinion. Exclusives! I have owned all three current generation consoles (and a gaming PC), but I am a serious gamer. Most people I know own one of the three. Exclusives limit the market potential. I know it costs more to develop for different consoles, but if you want to establish a large consumer and fan base don't limit yourself. I myself have never played a God of War game or Metal Gear game (until 4) because of exclusivity of the past generation. It is not that I didn't want to but I owned an Xbox not a PS3. Both the developer and I were robbed of an opportunity.
Ill bring it to and end here as I could go on and on about the shortcomings of the gaming market and development. I just don't understand why developers and analysts expectations don't match real world outcomes. I am never astonished by outcomes, often they are easily predictable. I am sure things will not change anytime soon, but I will play on.
I was recently thinking about my favorite developers and one unusual pattern was beginning to develop in my mind. This pattern involves a certain letter in the alphabet. The letter B. When asked my favorite developers, the first five game developers I spit out all Started with "B". These happened to Bethesda, Bungie, Bioware, Black Isle, and last but not least Blizzard. These are easily some of the top game makers of all time. I will explain, my logic, which will be painful to your eyes and your intelligence.
Take Bethesda do I need to say anything other than Oblivion. If I do you might as well not read the rest of this blog because it will be pointless and lame to you. This is one of my favorite games of all time. This one game, is now the game I compare all single player focused RPG's on. All new RPG's are either better, the same, or worse the Oblivion. Not to mention they made other Elder Scroll games that were great, and that little known game Fallout 3. They really are the Johnny One Note, when it comes to gameplay style, but they sing that note better than anyone else has.
Bungie, oh Bungie they have pulled me away from once being a Nintendo fanboy. I actually defend Microsoft now, I know, I dont believe it either. I love one of the largest monopolies in existence, who have suffered numerous antitrust lawsuits around the globe. It only took about 20 minutes of Halo Combat Evolved to steal my heart and soul. Not to mention they followed up the original with some solid sequels. And will continue to have my business for years to come, as long as it has a Spartan in it ill probably buy it.
Bioware, the company that never disappoints. They are as reliable as a family pet, and twice as likeable. Probably one of my first game developers I really trusted. Ever since the Balders gate series. These were the top of the line RPG's back in there day with beautiful stories and environments. Then they continued on with the Neverwinter Nights games. When I thought they couldn't be outdone, they did, by outdoing themselves with Knights of the old Republic. Bioware is truly the master of Story, especially how they put the player in the eyes of the characters. They pull you into the game content like no other developer. They probably developed the best single player RPG ever. This being Mass Effect of course. The gameplay was good, the graphics were good, the flow was good, but the Story was indescribably good (Mostly because I am really bad with words). The story kept we wanting more and more, and I hoped it would never end. And it probably won't if they continue to make money from it. I guess that is a good and bad thing. This makes the one game I look forward to above all others be Mass Effect 2. Oh I even forgot to mention Jade Empire.
Ok moving on, Black Isle, the kings of the old school. They made a couple small games you probably never heard about like Fallout, Icewind Dale, or Baldur's Gate (assisted). The company does not exist anymore but the legacy they left will last for years to come. They helped set the standard for an RPG. Over 10 years later that standard is still set high by them. They are similar to the Beatles that they are mostly gone, revolutionary, and never forgotten.
Ok, I guess its time to talk about the developer that withdraws $15 dollars from about half the people in the world's credit card account each month, Blizzard. The Warcraft series that has set the bar for strategy games at least 27 million times, and probably will be milked for another 10-34 million more times. But I don't care because I will buy it, play it, and enjoy it. I can actually remember the day I brought Diablo home and put it in the old Pentium II 266mhz. I don't think I blinked for about 7 hours. I was blown away like I stepped into a snowy (please brace yourself for a lame word play)...blizzard. This was the first game that really introduced me to online cooperative play and "loot obsession." Yes this game was the probably the gateway "drug" for the millions of currently loot obsessed people in the world. Can you honestly tell me you didn't waste hours upon hours trying to get that "legit" Stone of Jordan or Godly Plate of the Whale (If that even was truly legit)? And Diablo II didn't disappoint either.
Does Blizzard deserve their own second paragraph. I believe so. So after Diablo and Warcraft, Blizzard once again decided to ruin my life by taking Warcraft, improving it, and and sending it into space. The bastards (even all insults in this most must start with B, so please Bear with me)! The reason they are bastards is they made me suffer through several presidents to get a real sequel, even though it is still not here. And its not that the presidents I speak of had short terms. I was actually afraid they might destroy the world with incompetence and thus never get to see a real sequel to the game, but with the Audacity of Hope the outlook has changed. (Another crappy play on words here, as Obama's slogan was...and sequal coming out...and Ill stop..I promise).
Ok, one more paragraph for Blizzard. WOW, aka, also known as World of Warcraft, the 12 thousand stone (a very underused unit, imao) Gorilla walked into our home and punched us all in the face. Then continually steals our money, punches in the face again, makes out with your girlfriend, and yet we continually forgive him. Why I ask, is it the Barren's chat, the little pink haired gnomes, the Murlocs, the Loot obsession we developed from Diablo? What ever it is the Gorilla wont let us go for long, we always come back. Will we be saved by Bioware's upcoming 13 thousand stone gorilla.
Ok not all the best game developers exclusively begin with the letter "B", but I was surprised without thinking my first five I spurted out did. Ill give props to Codemasters, Nintendo, Rockstar, Lionhead, Square Enix, and manyothers. They all start with equally good letters. But If you are thinking of starting a company, I would suggest the letter "B", in this highly competitive market, it doesn't hurt to have any help you can.
P.S. I hold no responsibilty for the opinions stated in this Blog. I formally stand by the fact that everyone has a right to my opinion and Ill leave it at that. Oh, also, if you had time to read this whole article and have not played some of the games I mentioned here you wasted your time reading when you should have been playing them. It would have been much more rewarding.