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PostSubject: Mini Games - Big Games   Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:37 am

I've wanted to talk about this matter for a while, but really the reason to do it at this time is coming across this http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-09-25-ea-weve-asked-for-too-much-time-too-much-skill-too-much-money

The matter at hand is what I prefer to describe as "industry confusion" in regards to mobile games (as well as browser and facebook games) versus proper video games. The distinction is discriminating as it suggests one is not a video game, but I am sticking to it. Most of us have seen a lot of mentions of the mobile game market and how that threatens the gaming market. Mobile games have very small production values, meaning of course they are much easier to make, and at the same time they produce large revenue, while when video games are compared to them they seem to soon be unable to meet the cost efficiency of mobile games, if that is not the case already for many. Still, they go through a similar process to create, between mobile games and video games you need more or less the same people and same resources to create, albeit on a different scale. So from an aspiring game designer's point of view, they are the same thing and both viable options to choose from, and that's how it should be. Said game designer can choose to offer his skills to either field so what is left is to consider just risk and reward.

That is the main source of the industry confusion. For a game developer, video games and mobile games are on the same plane and are competing fields on the job market. That however does not mean they are on the same plane for a consumer and as the consumer is the criterion upon which the market is shaped, it does not mean they are competing in the same market. Imagine this: you go to a toy store with a certain budget in hand. You can buy a 3DS game and you can also buy a board game as they are sold in the same shop in that instance. If you are buying a present for someone, at that point those 2 products are competing, in the same way many entertainment products are competing in a wide spectrum. However that is not direct competition, direct competition would be when an individual with certain interests and a specific goal in mind went in the toy store with a certain budget and had to choose between 2 or more items for himself. Those items would most likely not be a deck of cards, a barbie and a copy of call of duty. Instead in they could be a copy of the latest iteration of call of duty and FFXIII-9001, or in a narrower spectrum call of duty and gta V, or in the most specific spectrum, call of duty and battlefield.

Considering that from a consumer's point of view those two may not be the same thing, let's ask the question of whether they are or not the same thing. Can a mobile game substitute for a video game? When I decide to go buy Bioshock Infinite, can I change my mind and buy Cut the Rope instead? When we are talking about a high fidelity game and a good gameplay experience, I find that possibility unfathomable, at least for myself, as I simply can't get myself to play a mobile game, and for a certain kind of consumer in turn. When considering their purposes, video games are as far away from mobile games as Checkers, with the only difference being availability. Now, even if Checkers were as available as mobile games, they would still be unable to substitute for a full video game experience for most people.

Game developers and publishers are shaping the industry; understandable as they are the industry. As they shape it they view mobile games as competition as the development process is similar. The issue comes when those people superimpose their perception over the perception of the customer and therefore create the false impression that this is the same market. It is safe to say that if you are a gamer, you will not regress to mobile gaming as a substitute. However they are not completely wrong at stating there is direct competition among a certain consumer base. There are people who played video games before and could easily substitute them for mobile games, now or in the future as they improve, and rightfully so on their part. Game publishers have repeatedly tried to make Pavlov's dogs out of gamers, by creating certain habits, addicting them to time-wasters and iterations of the same product which repeats very simple mechanics attempting to create simple cash cows, the worst offenders of them being sports and racing games, coming all the way to the massive quality decline of the FPS industry of today. The resulting gamer that does not seek a deeper experience in his video games is much more likely to switch over to mobile as they do the same thing with a lower price. FPS especially has declined to simple point and click -> rewards, why would many of the players not switch to the cheaper and more convenient experience instead to use as a time waster? There are many gamers who will only play sports games which repeat the same mechanics every time because they give the illusion of said sport. Why would those simulation gamers not switch to something easier? And to be frank I could easily see a mobile or browser moba working if it had the appropriate budget and solid mechanics, why not just play those on the go if you can and if it's functional, it is repeating the same actions over and over after all. It's not like those people are bad gamers or unfaithful or anything, because most of them may not have been into video games to begin with but just started playing those things for the simple experiences they are and it just may be that all that cashing in was just a bubble made of continuously diluting quality that now is bursting due to the arrival of a more appropriate platform.

When you look at it that way, it makes perfect sense that Richard Hilleman of Madden and EA is making those statements. When you simply tweak, gloss the graphics and re-release the same video game, you are not making video games. When you take your audience for brain dead and re-release the exact same thing with different names and minor changes to justify that you made a different game, you are not making video games, heck EA skipped even the minor changes with FIFA 14 for the 3DS where they renamed it, updated the roster and released the exact same video game as FIFA 13 (as in same code/assets) with a full retail price. It has been the same process over and over for many big franchises for ages which seems to continuously escalate all the way till today, let's just make something that people will buy. Unfortunately though, without quality, without real work, without innovation and without creativity you are not really making video games, and I will call stupid on many occasions creativity as an arguement on many fields, but when you are making games, it sure matters, it is the very nature of the product. And so it is ironic yet fitting, that all these endeavors of the lowest acceptable quality are under attack by even lower quality. It won't happen today or tomorrow, or it may even be masterfully avoided, but the software that is currently threatened seems to be on its way to adapting to those cheaper platforms or disappearing, simply because a large part of the audience which sustains it seems to at least be possible to substitute the experience they are offering for a cheaper one, thus creating competition in that market. Then again, competition is competition and they might as well manage to win the war of bad quality.

So I think a distinction needs to be made. We are indeed moving in a new era of technology, but to call everything similar would be just viewing them as old and technologically inept folk. Just because books and toilet paper have the same base material does not mean they are the same. In the same way, just because video games, mobile games and decade old expansions named new games share similar mediums and production methods, doesn't mean they are the same. In a way it's a good thing, as mobile games are knocking on the industry's doors, it becomes apparent that within the main industry itself there is a clear distinction between games, that would also be the great industry confusion and it is also something we can learn from.

Now, does the games market have something to fear? In a way, it does, change will happen as we did have a certain kind of inflation in the games industry, publishers were drawing in and profiting from people who weren't really interested in video games, over time they took those people for granted despite being in the games industry and now they view the competition as a loss, with some trying harder than others to salvage it, like microsoft for example with its case of identity crisis (although let's be honest, that's not new for the xbox). I believe that parts of the market, those parts being those that depended on people who weren't really gamers, will inevitably shrink. As a result several publishers may lose part of their capabilities to fund other titles resulting in smaller productions, although great games are self sufficient and don't have as much to fear even inside the same company. Another effect on video games may be developers being not as abundant as many will seek to work on mobile games which carry a smaller risk. The bubble looks to be bursting, it's certainly not a real decline for gaming, good games and an industry existed before it started massively taking advantage of people, in fact we may be as lucky as to see a rise in quality as a result in the future, creativity, innovation and quality survives regardless, but in the meanwhile we will see many a corporate figure running like headless chicken and randomly leaving the field chasing what they were looking for in the first place.


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