Playing the Lame Presents: Discussions on the Current State of the Game Market


“Discussions on the Current State of the Game Market.”


“This conversation went to kind of a weird place.”

It might surprise you to know this, but the majority of my conversations don’t revolve around gaming. While I have plenty of gaming related discussions with staff members, most of my time is spent avoiding this topic of conversation unless something important is going on. Surprisingly, most of the people I talk to on a day to day basis don’t play video games, and even when talking to the ones that do, there are often more important and interesting things to talk about. People have lives, as it were, and if they want to talk about, say, how they’re moving soon or how their family is doing or how they got a new job, that’s more important than talking about Batman: Arkham City or whatever.

But when you do talk to people who play video games, even conversations that didn’t start at that talking point end up there eventually, as did a recent conversation Widro and I were having about his new job, among other things. Widro’s kind of a big picture sort of person, though, so I don’t have conversations with him so much about what games we like as much as about the state of the industry, and this one was no different. It was fairly topical, however, so I figured it might actually be worth doing something with, and so, I bring it to you to share.

There is actually a TON coming out this fall, they just don’t release stuff over summer. Plus I like weird genres like platformers and arcade racing.

Yeah, I don’t totally understand that, but it’s worse this year I’m finding.

It seems to make no sense, because gamers don’t like outside, we like inside; you’d think they would release more over the summer, and they don’t seem to learn lessons about killing off games and then developers by using wrong release windows. I think about May 2010 when they released Split Second AND Blur AND Mod Nation Racers. Not only were they all dropped within a week of the release of Red Dead Redemption, but those three games speak to the exact same market, so it split sales three ways. Blur caused Activision to shutter Bizarre Creations, and Disney just closed the Split Second developer. Both of those games are very strong, but got killed by insane scheduling, and Mod Nation failed too, only not considered such because its a first party game.

Also, it wasn’t very good.

Worst of those three I think.

Right. It was saved conceptually by the development mechanic but no one bought it anyway.

I think the onus is on Sony and Microsoft to better manage the schedules. They are the gatekeepers to the walled gardens they created for their consoles. It is bad for everyone for releases to be bunched like that.

Right. There’s virtually nothing of note coming out for the next three weeks save for digital releases.

Even just for me as a 2D platformer fan, I have Rayman Origins, Sonic Generations and Kirby Wii, likely released within weeks of each other this November. There is no denying those three games are reaching the same target markets. Why release them at once like that?

Because the publishers dictate the schedule, not the console makers.

But Nintendo and Sony are publishers too and they choose to release their games alongside the others.


Once Sony saw Split Second and Blur on May 2010, they should have bumped Mod Nation. Release dates aren’t sudden, they are in the works for months or years.

Yeah. We know when Modern Warfare 3 will come out. Anyone smart will avoid that week like the plague.

Instead I bet the week before and week after will have multiple major releases, FPS or not. If you have a game like that, you avoid it.

Right. Anything that draws millions of sales overall, whether it be first day or not, you should stay away from it. Instead we’ll get developers releasing multi-million selling games AGAINST each other, because the economy can totally bear that you guys.

(SIDE NOTE: I actually went and did the research to see how true this assumption was; turns out, IF the release schedules stay as they are right now, within a week of Modern Warfare 3‘s projected release date of 11/8/11, so far, Skyrim, Saint’s Row 3, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations AND Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary are scheduled to drop. GOD DAMN I hate being right all the time.)

It’s not even just price, you can only dedicate yourself to X many games. If I get Modern Warfare 3, that takes up my gaming time for X weeks. I might be more likely to buy a game now, when there is nothing, than a game as a second or third.

Also very true.

Nintendo generally spaces theirs out as if they are in a Nintendo vacuum, where if you only play first party Nintendo games, you get enough time for each, as a general rule. Not this holiday, though, because they are phasing out Wii.

Because no one buys third party games on the Wii.

I wonder why Nintendo or other companies wouldn’t take some of these popular imports and release them as limited edition print runs online-only? “Sure, we’ll localize Xenoblade, we’ll print 10K for $100 each”.

People talk about how the Wii totally crushed the PS3 and 360 sales-wise. Okay. Show me the strong selling third party game on that console.

Just Dance!!

Kind of proves my point, I think.


How many award winning games came out of that console, if not universally, in general?

I liked some of the first party games. Super Paper Mario, Kirby Epic Yarn.

Conduit. Trauma Center/Team. Zack and Wiki. Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles. Dead Space Extraction. Mad World. Monster Hunter Tri. But the Rayman games and Just Dance are the only third games to really make a significant dent, by all indications. If I’m Platinum Games, and I see Madworld do shit numbers and Bayonetta do great numbers, I’m moving my development to the 360 and PS3.

I liked Madworld, I didn’t play much though. I hate waggle.

If I’m Capcom and I see Tatsunoko vs. Capcom do worse than some of my online releases on XBLA, I’m moving to Xbox and PS3.

And then you saw Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on those and not Wii.

Right. That game killed. The Wii saw some novelty games and games developers were either willing to experiment with or willing to release, but not at the high development budgets of the PS3/360. At this point, it’s a dead console. It’s a barren wasteland ruled over by Nintendo as Master Blaster. “WHO RUN BARTER TOWN?” “MARIO RUN BARTER TOWN!”

I wonder why Nintendo let so many low quality games through.

Well, they did change the Nintendo Seal of Quality to the Nintendo Seal. Survey says they don’t care.

That’s so hard to measure, but I think that had a bad impact on Wii game purchasing.

Well, they still dominate the handheld market with the DS, and the 3DS will likely attract attention sooner or later.

Perhaps, it’s not looking great so far, with Angry Birds. Stupid Angry Birds.

Fuck the smart phone gaming industry. I can sell ten million people a one dollar game because those ten million people don’t have another gaming console but DO have a smart phone. There are something like four hundred million people in the US. Assume half of them are too old or young to factor in, two hundred million people. Two hundred million people are not going to go out and buy a DS. They’re just fucking not. They don’t play video games routinely.

But I see it on subways. People play games on iPhone, I see NO portables. Once in a long while I see someone.

Because two hundred million people CAN get an iPhone, or an Android or a Windows Mobile phone or whatever. Because they’re becoming cheap and universal. If I’m taking a ten minute subway ride, no, I’m not bringing my DS. I’m bringing my smartphone because I’m bringing it anyway. But you show me the one dollar cell phone game that does what Pokemon does. Fuck Gabe and Tycho and their “buy a forty dollar game and I’ll buy forty one dollar games, we’ll see who has more ‘fun’” debate. The average person has zero use for a gaming console and will use a smartphone to fill that void because they can get cheap games through it. Gamers will buy handheld gaming appliances because they play ACTUAL, COMPLEX games, and eighty million Smash TV clones and a couple physics based games aren’t going to satisfy that need forever.

I hope so. I don’t like games being cheapened. I’m rooting for PS Vita, and I like the 3DS. I think the main problem with the 3DS is there are no games yet that people will buy the system for.

Oh, there aren’t. But the system isn’t a year in just yet. The PS3 had no system selling games for over a year from launch.

And sales were poor, and the cost too high, and they never really recovered in this generation.

Okay, but the thing is, the same thing could be said about the PS2.

No, because PS2 at launch effectively killed the Dreamcast, and there were no competitors to it.

Not because of the launch lineup.

True. I still think Nintendo will do well with this.

What could we get? Orphen?

Ridge Racer V!

Fuck that. I bought Armored Core 2 and that was the only game I owned for a year.

I’m trying to think about what I bought in year one.

Wait, my ex bought me Fantavision and The Adventures of Cookies and Cream. So… that’s… something.

Oh, I had Cookies and Cream! That was pretty bad but I liked the split screen concept.

Right, but think in the reverse. The Dreamcast had at least two AWESOME launch games, relative to the time it came out.

I LOVED the Dreamcast launch lineup.

Right. And they had all sorts of great games in the first year. And none of it mattered. Because Sony came in with absolutely zero must-own games and murdered the Dreamcast.

I don’t disagree that it’s too early to call the 3DS a failure or anything, but it’s concerning that devs are dropping 3DS projects in development, and I think $40 for a game has to change.

Nintendo has a lot on their side. Backwards compatibility to the DS, first console at launch, price drop, and their own brands to market.

The internet is dying here, so I am going to take that as a sign to go home.

Sounds good. I’m off to stain my deck.

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments. I’m looking forward to it.



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10 responses to “Playing the Lame Presents: Discussions on the Current State of the Game Market”

  1. Chris Avatar

    You know. My girlfriend and I have had similar conversations to this. i don’t know what it is, but this generation is messed up across the board…and not for lack of trying either. For example, the JRPG fanatics from the PS2 era haven’t really found a home yet even though Microsoft tried super hard early on to coax them to be made (Tales of Vesperia, Eternal Sonata, Mistwalker games, Square Enix exclusives, and even a couple Atlus games). Nintendo didn’t bother even though JRPG fans tend to be a pretty consistent source of sales, and the PS3 only in the last 1.5 years or so (4 years into the the system life cycle) has them showing up, and a lot of them are kind of “meh.” (Frankly, the PSP is currently probably the best place for a JRPG fix, but that system is perceived as dead and not that successful.) Which brings me to another weird thing. The PSP actually has sold more in the US then the original Xbox did(which seems to have a perception of being successful in the US market. PSP 22mil vs XBox 16mil). Since when is PSP’s 68mil units worlwide a failure. Sure its not the DS’s 147mil, but still…with that many units, there’s plenty of room for profit to be made, and you don’t have to deal with Nintendo’s draconian liscensing deals. I could go on with all of the WTH!? moments this hardware cycle. Its like the concentrated idiocy of Sega’s hardware management and the dyslexia between the East and West branches of Sega was disperced across the entire industry when Sega’s hardware making came to an end.

  2. Aaron Sirois Avatar
    Aaron Sirois

    The problem with the PSP is that no one is buying games for it, due to piracy and people just not using it for games. Even the biggest titles aren’t doing well anymore. Both God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Dissidia Duodecim didn’t even come close to the sales of their priors, and most of the best selling games came out the first couple of years. It’s a damn shame too, and I have a feeling that the Vita is going to bomb hard.

  3. Chris Avatar

    Fair enough about piracy on the PSP. As someone who’s trying to make income from intellectual properties (I’m a musician) piracy in general is very frustrating. I understand that its cool to play old PSX, Genesis, and SNES games on the PSP…I don’t really have an issue with abandonware, either. However with new games, where you have smaller companies that live or die on the success of their titles… You get a bunch of gamers complaining about how a lot of games are just rehashes, and when something different comes out, its just pirated, and then you have the publishers exacerbating the problem with draconian DRM chasing away a percentage who might otherwise have legitimately purchased the game…

    I’m fairly certain the piracy issue isn’t as bad as the publishers make it out to be, but its still definitely a pretty serious problem.

  4. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Chris – Agreed on the lack of JRPG’s on the market at this point, though I suspect it also comes down in large part to developer apathy as much as anything else. Back when JRPG’s were a big thing, after FFVII moved multiple millions of copies, everyone jumped on board with it, but at this point outside of FF titles most JRPG’s aren’t moving the numbers to make a significant profit for their developers, outside of the rare release here and there. Developers go where the money is, more often than not.

    As far as the PSP being a failure, that doesn’t come down just to sales, but on the sales side of things, 1.) while the PSP sold around 68 million machines, the US only holds about 17 million of that total, and a lot of developers look at that as a failure because the US market is basically the “big” market for most developers, and 2.) it’s competing with the DS, which has an installed user base that is literally DOUBLE that of the PSP. If I’m looking at the PSP and I see that its best game moved five million copies compared to the DS’ best game moving twenty six million copies, I’m moving my development work to the DS.

    Also, addressing Aaron’s piracy point: while game piracy isn’t likely killing the console in and of itself, the easier it is to pirate a game on a console, the worse piracy will affect that console, and on the PSP, unfortunately, it’s not very hard to do this thing. Technology has made it feasible to find both the means and the instructions to completely crack the console because of Sony’s want to make the console available to modification (before they realized exactly how terrible of an idea that was), and once you get to the point where you’ve handed independent coders the means to basically rip your OS apart you might as well just hand them your checkbook because they’re going to do everything they can because they want the challenge. At that point, nothing short of litigation is going to stop them from following along behind you and cracking every update you make, and some people are going to take advantage of that.

  5. Aaron Sirois Avatar
    Aaron Sirois

    The really odd thing is the PSP is still doing gangbusters in Japan, with new games constantly coming out and selling well. Meanwhile, I couldn’t find anyone to play a new game on ad-hoc party with except Kingdom Hearts when it came out.

    1. Alex Lucard Avatar

      Aaron – that’s not uncommon though. The Dreamcast and Saturn lasted for years longer in Japan and Europe than it did here. devs/publishers/hardware makers in the US tend to pull out far sooner than the rest of the world.

  6. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Well, it’s relative to the population vs. installed user base. for the PSP, Japan has nearly identical numbers (15m in Japan vs. 17m in the US), but the population of Japan is nearly one third the size of ours. In that respect, there’s greater market saturation for the console and they can feel more confident that sales will be better in their marketing meetings, so they’ll release more games for the console.

  7. Chris Avatar

    Especially if its a Monster Hunter clone. Those games are doing stupidly well there.

    I guess here in NA, people would rather play video games on their big flashy HDTVs, versus carrying a dedicated game portable around with them. Stupid little flash games are good enough for the commute here in NA. Most of us aren’t sitting on buses and subways for 40-60 mins which is more normal for both Europe and Japan. Instead, a majority is driving themselves (or at least car-pooling). If I were on a public transit for 1.5 to 3 hours a day, I’d definitely find more time to do portable gaming, and it sure as hell wouldn’t be Angry Birds.

    I wonder…if Sony can achieve the synergy between PS3 and PSVita that they’re advertising on all but the most system intensive PS3 games…I’m still undecided if that would be a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand it could lower development costs for the games themselves (especially if there’s some good portability between the two, which I suspect there is). On the other hand Sony could be setting themselves up for a situation where their hardware is competing with each other rather then complimenting each other, which could cannibalize sales from one or the other.

    Alex – I’m convinced that the majority of gamers in NA have gaming ADD or something, and the devs/pubs have learned to follow suit with that…even though, for a number of the smaller dev/pubs it might have been more cost effective to stick with what they were working on (with the Dreamcast at least) then lose their shirts on PS2/XBox development, and (if memory serves) a couple of small European and Asian companies did just that.

  8. Mark B. Avatar
    Mark B.

    Because Monster Hunter is the shit, son, I’m not even playin’.

    Basically, at this point, there’s a lot of novelty to the idea of smartphone gaming; developers are getting a lot of capability out of our phones at this point and goofing around on your phone for fifteen minutes on the bus is as good an idea as anything else. The thing is that there’s a limited amount of functionality you can get out of any smartphone game; Angry Birds is beloved now, to be sure, but anything of reasonable technical capability that’s released to the smartphone market generally gets crapped on for being limited and weak, and that’s not likely to change as long as developers are making money hand over fist over throwing birds at blocks. The market will crap out eventually and the 3DS/DS/Vita market will pick up amongst gamers regardless so I wouldn’t be calling doom and gloom at this point.

  9. Chris Avatar

    Oh, I would never dream of dissing Monster Hunter. That game’s a good time with some pals to play with.

    You’re right, of course about the fact that core gamers will likely return to dedicated hand-helds, and that the smart-phone craze will plateau. I know that the clouds will clear, but its hard not to notice the little black rain cloud that’s directly overhead.

    I don’t begrudge the Angry Birds dude his millions of dollars (I have my own idea for a cheapie puzzle game that’s somewhat different, but not too different), or any of the other really successful casual games for that matter. Its hard enough to make money in this industry even when you’re pretty sure you have your built in base like Atlus or NIS have. I wrote music for a company that were one of the direct competitors in the JAVA games market with Pop-Cap games 10 years ago. Our stuff didn’t take off, theirs did. We made a 200hour Tactical RPG that ran out of a browser, they made casual puzzle games. At this point, I’ve made my peace with it (it helps we have a new project in the works :D), but I do understand that to make money in the industry there needs to be some measure of accessibility, and you need to go where the audience is.

    So, yeah. i know it’ll get better, but I still shake my head that so many people are missing out on some of the really deap and rewarding gaming experiences out there.

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