A few years back Microsoft made a rather bold statement regarding the video game industry. They claimed that it was "recession proof". Back at the time it actually seemed plausible. In a time of economic turmoil, the industry was doing remarkably well. It seemed even though people were weary about dropping hard earned money on cars, houses, or going on vacations, they were still more than willing to plunk down sixty dollars for a video game. Though here in the year 2012 it seems to be a very different story.
This article mainly focuses on EA. But also mentions Take Two, THQ, Zynga, and Activision. Every one of these companies (with the exception of Activision who is more or less towing the line) has had a significant drop in stock value this year. Some more drastic than others but a drop in value none the less.
So what happened? When did some of the biggest names in our "recession proof" industry start this dangerous downward spiral? Dedicated industry follows have probably seen the writing on the wall for awhile now. I know I have.
There is no one reason. But in my humble opinion the biggest singular reason is this: Customer Trust. Or rather, an almost total lack of it on the part of the big developers. This manifests in many ways, from needless DLC released mere days after a games launch. Yearly rehashing of franchises with little to no improvement or innovation from title to title. Anti used game sales tactics. "Free to play" games that employ horribly predatory tactics that play on human compulsion to get your money. Lastly, the borderline paranoid need for developers to dominate the users experience.
Many developers over the last few years have begun to make it very clear that they don't care, or are at least not horribly concerned with, what we the consumers think of them and what they are doing. The focus seems to be shifting from making a product that the customer will like, to seeing the customer as the problem. That their game is some perfect and innocent child that needs to be protected and coddled from all the horrible things that we consumers could do to it.
To quote Sci-fi guru Joss Whedon: "Great art is meant to be interpreted in ways you never intended. Your art isn't your pet, It's your child. It grows up and talks back to you." But right now, many of the biggest names in the industry are being overprotective and overbearing parents.