It’s very clear were the gaming industry is going: Charge more for less but make it seem like your getting more. With the obvious setup that EA is doing for a permanent online presence (…read: get your credit cards ready…), it really is no wonder that all we’ve been presented with over the last 5 years are endless streams of sequels and WoW knock-offs. One starts to wonder where the value has gone. Remember the days when you bought a game and it actually had stuff with it? A manual, some goodies and and actual DVD? Yeah…me too. Now-a-days they call those “Collector’s Editions”. My current copy of Cataclysm has a pamphlet, a “manual”, DVD, and some friend invite cards. With applications like Steam, you don’t get any of those and yet they’re still charging the same (…or ballpark…) as they would for the box.
It’s not as if companies like EA are hurting financially:
Fiscal Fourth Quarter Results (comparisons are to the quarter ended March 31, 2009)
GAAP net revenue for the fourth quarter was $979 million, up $119 million as compared with $860 million in the prior year. During the quarter, EA had a net benefit of $129 million related to the recognition of deferred net revenue for certain online-enabled packaged goods games and digital content.
Non-GAAP net revenue was $850 million, up $241 million as compared with $609 million for the prior year. Sales were driven by Battlefield: Bad Company™ 2, Mass Effect™ 2, Dante’s Inferno™ and digital businesses.
…so I’m going to go on the current corporate “hate bandwagon” trend that they’re just not making enough and want to make more…which means giving us less. Gamers…will of course…accept this with the usual “gimmie gimmie” attitude helped along by the “gaming journalist” sites we’ve all come to love. Gamers won’t put up one single fight in this because apparently it’s much more painful to go without than to refuse purchase based on principle. In other words, companies like EA got gamers trained like rats waiting for their next hit of crack-laced cheese.
With most big names hitting the “social gaming” train, very few see that the bridge has all been blown out from gaming’s current trend of providing less service…or no service…for more or the same money as the early 1990’s. Very few companies are providing meaty experiences and opting for the skeleton thin experiences of platforms like Facebook. Ahhhh…Facebook…the gaming equivalent of pressing a button and getting a small orgasm…along with a healthy amount of STDs for good measure.
But I’m a dinosaur. I get that. “Games aren’t made for you anymore, Darren”. Clearly, that is the case…but I propose that games really aren’t made much for anyone right now. I think the main goal of most games is clearly driven by marketing/PR and not by the imagination…especially with companies like EA. Once…gaming was a bottom up process; fans creating games in their basements because they wanted to create something fun. It’s top down…and now companies like EA are say, “Here. Play this, because it’s fun!”. Platforms like Facebook, drawing in great developers…tired of failing at “traditional models”…because it’s cheaper and easier, are saying the exact same thing; “See? Isn’t clicking a cow fun? Now pay us $1.00 and you can click him while he wears this groovy top hat”. Yeah…cheaper and easier…don’t believe the crap about anything “social”.
There is hope. We have brave and bold companies going against the current trend of “less for more”. My eye is on Trion right now to be one of these bold companies. Stardock is probably the gold standard and still manages to deliver HUGE value to customers..and oh my God…they still make some pretty great games.
Here’s my wish. Companies like EA need to be broken up and split into about 5 or 10 different little companies. They’ve become so large that they are now just creating candy coated shovel ware and lazy attempts at “improved gaming experiences”. Facebook needs to become a tool for bringing gamers together but NOT delivering the game experience. Clearly I have a huge issue with the path that we find ourselves on. I find it unsustainable and untrue to the spirit of what gaming should be.