The content: Weighing the state of the current video game industry against that of the ’80s crash, the Optimistic Gamer highlights key differences in audience and developers.
The follow-up: Optimism is an accurate perspective for the current gaming industry overall! Since the ’80s, the market has grown significantly larger with a boom in consumers (and their diversity) and technological advances that have placed hungry indie developers in the same arena as triple-A publishers. While market saturation might make a professional’s entry into the industry at a certain tier more difficult, it provides more opportunity.
The threat of mobile games to PC and console gaming has been mitigated by developers and publishers creating mobile tie-ins, allowing players to enjoy different games from their favorite franchises on the go; thus, mobile actually seems more of a threat to Nintendo’s long-term portable console prospects than anything else. The overall concept of accessibility has driven a major shift toward cross-platform development and compatibility in the industry as well. For instance, Sega has long been pushed from the console market, but still had a successful 2017 with the release of Yakuza 0 on the PS4 and Sonic Mania on the Nintendo Switch; and, the Switch, itself, prominently features indie titles originally released for PC.
“…It seems entirely possible that the AAA games that we know today just aren’t sustainable; they cost a shitload of money to make, and by all accounts working on them is incredibly difficult. I have to wonder if we will begin to see the big developers struggle; then again, juggernauts like EA seem to be doing quite well,” the Optimistic Gamer points out. The industry response has seen triple-A publishers pursue partnerships with indie developers. As mentioned before, Nintendo gained a few indie titles, such as Hollow Knight, for the Switch, and Bethesda has persistently attempted to properly monetize third-party mods.
“There’s a big difference between growing pains/restructuring within the community, and pumping out such massive quantities of awful games that people lose faith in the industry.” –Athena|AmbiGaming
However, Bethesda’s recent review policy demonstrates a poor understanding of how gamers use reviews to decide purchases. “Rather than a more traditional review structure, it is becoming more and more about individual personalities, and how you vibe with them,” states the Optimistic Gamer, highlighting a pivotal difference in the present market. Since games migrated from the arcades of the ’80s to our homes and hands, the individual experience has become increasingly important. Many players engage with games with the same frequency as they buy groceries or read books or magazines; thus, reviews have become the equivalent of tasting a grape or reading the blurb at the back (largely because demos have gone the way of the panda, but that’s a different issue). One bad review from a popular critic might seem like a killing blow; but, good gameplay and a wide diversity and variety of reviewers typically attracts the desired audience. Mass Effect: Andromeda, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and Destiny 2 experienced shifts in player perspectives as more reviews were released. That’s not to say a game will be wildly popular; but, if it’s any good, it’ll eventually find its niche despite one bitter critic.
A major aspect of the current gaming environment versus the ’80s is innovation. The Optimistic Gamer suggests that “saying video games will crash is like saying film will crash… Innovation isn’t dead, it’s coming back to life.” Firstly, perceptions of innovation and its prospects rarely account for technological progress. For instance, LaserDisc to Blu-Ray might have been a somewhat logical leap; but, the progression of the phone into a portable device capable of wirelessly accessing a network and producing images and video, subsequently leading to the popularity of streaming media, was likely not a direction the telephone industry thought it would go even 30 years ago (during the cellphone’s inception).
“I have a feeling the third huge shift will be the transition into AR and VR. Depending on your stance, this could be good or bad… I personally think each major shift can alienate existing, as well as create new gamers.” -Ryan
Which leads to the second thing: format innovation. Technically, the physical media of film has crashed, made obsolete by an innovation in format, i.e. digital storage; however, the content, motion pictures (as antiquated as that sounds, but oddly accurate), is still very alive and well. And, the same holds true for video games. Although it might seem as though the gaming industry is having difficulty innovating in terms of genres, the technology has been persistently adapting and evolving in the last few decades. From digital delivery to VR, the industry has been dedicated to pursuing new formats of game media. The best thing about the Optimistic Gamer’s argument is that it gathers together and summarizes some of the most vital aspects of the industry’s growth; and, it demonstrates exactly that, that the industry is growing.