Tuesday, July 03, 2012

It's Ok To Have An Ok Video Game

Where would we be
without Professor L?
As the future of the gaming business has been changing, we’re finding more and more of the mid-size developers going out of business. Radical Entertainment for example is being picked apart with the leftovers being sent to Activision for CoD. SEGA is restructuring and will be pulling out almost every single office in Europe, minus their UK base.
Yep. SEGA is a mid-sized gaming company since it began throwing itself into third-party titles and their primary IP’s were no longer the cash-cows as originally expected. Remember when it was Sega vs Nintendo, Sonic vs. Mario? Good times. Now Nintendo basically owns Sonic, the poor little rat blue bastard.

We’re in a phase of the business where you are either the largest company making billions or you’re a small company focused on phones and flash-based games. The middle-guys don’t really have as strong of a voice.

Before you ask, yes it is possible to be a mid-sized developer and still have a strong future. Gearbox for example has been plugging away at Borderlands 2. (By the way, if you Google Gearbox, I’m the second to last posting on the first page. Go me for turning down their test offer. *sad face*) Their past products have done well to keep the company going. Duke Nukem Forever wasn’t a big hit, but enough mediocrity that it made people happy. They haven’t allowed themselves to be bought out by the likes of EA so they really are working it for themselves to produce the games that they want to make.

There is nothing wrong with that. We could use more mid-sized gaming companies to make new content. These are the companies that give us dynamic products. Instead of the slew of Call of Duty’s (or is it Duties?), we get your Professor Layton and Dark Cloud (from Level-5 before it became a super power), PixilJunk shooters (Q-Games), No More Heroes and killer7 (Grasshopper Manufacture). They’re not all great games, but some are pretty good. Because these companies lie in the middle of the system, they can test the waters and pull off some crazy stunts. Sure sometimes it fails, but the failures can be just as grand as the successes. Duke Nukem Forever was the game that everyone wanted to play just to see if the reviews were right about its downfalls.

The trouble happens when these companies get absorbed by the larger devs. Being with EA isn’t a safety net. The companies have just as much of a chance of getting “restructured” as anyone else. In fact, the standards that need to be met are greater. When EA is expecting a million copies of Madden or CoD to sell in the first week, the mid-sized developers have to catch up to meet that demand. While Prototype 2 is a fine game with a pretty good-sized fan-base, with it's current sales it couldn’t reach EA’s standards. For a mid-sized company those are pretty good numbers (especially when you factor in the global economy). For an EA game, it’s not good enough.

We <3 you Will. Sorry EA
screwed up your games.
I know we don't have to apologize,
but it feels like we should.

The message that is being sent among the business community is that if you’re just “ok” it’s not good enough. You either have to be on the top or making phone games. What’s wrong with being in the middle? None of the devs started out on top. They had to build their way up, and probably got a lot of their good ideas in the process. Remember when Maxis was just a mid-sized company producing some really great content? I do.

Oh Will Wright. Come save us. Let us live in mediocrity again.


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