Pulse Cannon (10.11.05)

Hello again. I being a damned Canadian, and it being hockey season, I figured now might be a good time to talk about how a determined effort might enable gamers to right some of the many wrongs that have gradually overtaken our once proud and magnificent industry.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how I’m going to make sense out of that sentence. Well, play along, or at least nod your head and humor me for a bit. For the past ten years the NHL was a league of haves and have nots. The haves won, the have nots didn’t. Every now and then you’d have a break out team from the have nots, but that would dissipate the next season. The rules were ignored, the customers became unhappy, and finally the league decided enough was enough. The fasted game on ice shouldn’t be played like the fastest game on slush. They went into the collective bargaining with the players association with a plan and stuck with it. In the end they got what they wanted. It took some pain, a lot of bitching and moaning, but eventually they righted (we think, seasons only a week old) the ship.

Ok so that’s hockey. Where do games come in. Well, since the start of the latest gaming boom, 4 problems have emerged in the game world. Firstly, the industry has gotten bigger and bigger, but at the same time smaller and smaller. It’s at the point now where one company, and you don’t need me to tell you who, can kill a console with their lack of support. How did we get to this point? Partly because EA have done an excellent job at identifying games the average gamer wants to play and then making them into franchises, pumping out sequel after sequel.

Secondly, small time independent game stores are virtually nonexistent now, since box stores and the specialty chains have muscled them out of the market. These stores used to be an outlet for gamers to hear about new and exciting games. Maybe they hadn’t been well advertised, maybe the game just showed up one week in the mail from the distributor and now the owner can’t get the kids away from the demo. It used to happen all the time and now thanks to the loss of these stores, all we buy are games we see advertised.

Thirdly, games are also more expensive to make and thus shorter in length or easier. This combined with a no return policy causes people to go to their nearest rental store and try before they buy far more often than they used to. EB’s policy of not accepting returns except for the exact same game is all but accepted as law now, when in fact it’s hurting the industry by forcing people into their local Blockbuster. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with EB or Gamestop trying to foil the attempts of many cheap bastards who would just buy one game and finish it, return it and ask for a different new game a few days later and then again after that. I just think that completely eliminating game returns is hurting the industry more than beating these people this way is helping it.

Lastly, we come to piracy. The Xbox was perhaps the most easily pirated console in history. Combine that with the fact it made for such an excellent multimedia machine outside of gaming and you had a system that may have been purchased by more people for use as something other than a console than for Halo. The PS2, while having a much larger install base, was also a target of pirates. And the fact is things are probably going to remain that way in the future.

So thats how things stand now. What can we do about it? And what did this all have to do with the NHL? Only this. We need to stand united, commit to doing things to affect the industry. You don’t have to do it all yourself. But a lot of good can come from simply buying more games you would normally just finish in a rental. Don’t wait for the price to drop before you buy. Help the people who are creating new and interesting ideas succeed at innovating buy purchasing their products, not pirating them. The more copies a game sells the more chance of that game being noticed. And don’t you want innovation to be repeated, not ignored? If you have a small independent store near you, buy your games there. Even if the guys a prick. OK, maybe not if he’s a prick. Anyway, until next week. Powering down.