Turmoil is about the only word that pops to mind when I think about the current game industry. It’s always been turbulent, and this can actually be a good thing as new areas of opportunity begin to emerge in the wake of said turbulence.
Yet, it’s that exact point that makes me more than a little bit leery these days. It feels like more of a continual state of turbulence with very little tangible new opportunity emerging.
It’s true that the gates are basically wide open for developers from mobile to tablets to Steam (who recently announced layoffs) – but almost everyone from big studio veteran to complete newcomer are struggling mightily just to get along.
The 3% of developers actually able to keep the virtual office lights on at this point don’t really interest me. It’s hard for anyone to start to rise above the noise of the avalanche of new titles and options driven by a 99 cents/free/freemium with 2-5% paid conversion style situation.
On the traditional publishing side of things, the picture doesn’t get much better.
EA’s CFO recently said : “We’re much more focused now. We’ve got a core group of ten-to-fifteen titles. We’ll stage those in terms of the transition and manage those costs through that. Our goal is to keep the cost increase for R&D under $100 million. And some of that will be in this year, some of that in ’14, and some in our fiscal year ’15.”
So basically, we can expect the same ten-to-fifteen titles wrapped in “4th generation” clothes – with nebulous “R&D” money attached to the actual title construction costs to facilitate that “4th generation” platform support being sure to spend under $100 million split over at least 3-4 years.
(*All of this before anyone really knows the true level of market interest for these new consoles in a VERY different economic climate than that which hosted the last round of console wars/offerings)
If you’re not working on one of those ten-to-fifteen titles for a very small handful of mega-publishers — due to the disappearance of any middle tier publishers offering up any form of competition (they’ve either been driven out or acquired), you’re probably not working at all – or you’re angling around trying for the 99 cents/free/freemium with 2-5% paid conversion with an Ikea desk setup in your Mom’s garage.
What bothers me most is simple: Opportunity.
I’d like to think new developers have a chance. I know, maybe it’s naïve and old fashioned, but I’d like to see an industry that can actually utilize new developer talent building new games and attracting all new players to the fold. This keeps the ecosystem fresh, but it’s not remotely clear how that’s going to work right now.
I’m not quite seeing how we’re going to get the cord into the socket – and I certainly hope the “4th generation” provides much more than ten-to-fifteen of the same legacy titles with art uplifts.