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My bleak perspective on next generation consoles

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Yup, so another generation of games consoles is upon us. Both of them are a million times more powerful than anything that ever existed before. ever. Or at least, thats what marketting wants us to think!

I sat back and watched the Sony press conference the other night. Nearly two hours long - plenty of fluff, a bit boring, but some interesting/useful stuff in there.. If you've got the time to spare, I recommend it.

Towards the end of the press conference they summarise a lot of the games that they're hoping to release, including a section on "new and original IP only for PS3". Sounds great - maybe we'll get something thats not just another sequel.

In watching the short montage of clips, I actually thought - No, don't do that! please - no!!



Y'see, I've read a few very good articles in Develop Magazine (if you're in the UK, you should get it - it's free!) that games developers are making too many games that they want to play - games that the hardcore want to play. This isn't necessarily what the (potential) customers want to play; and at the end of the day - they pay the bills. It's not an exclusive trend, but you must be able to think of a few examples.

So, step back. I'm cringing at Sony's new and exclusive IP showcase - almost (if not all) of it was very violent, very aggressive. Lots of shooting, explosions, hack-and-slash type stuff. Admittedly, this is quite common for the games industry.

I'm cringing because they look to me like titles that will appeal to the existing players, the existing hardcore. I don't see it drawing in many new audiences and new players.

Why is this a problem?

Well, I've read a few things about the budgets required for these next generation titles. 100+ employees and anything upto US$100m to fund it's development.

Now, they can (and I've also heard speculation that they will) increase the unit price - say GBP50-GBP60 a title (from around GBP35-GBP45 last I checked). You can't push it much higher or even the hardcore will start to be pushed out of the market.

So, with a similar hardcore market and slightly inflated unit prices - yet astronomically high production costs something really doesn't add up.

As I see it, sales must also increase - you need to shift more copies in order to see the profit. If you don't see the profit then you'd better have deep pockets or you won't be making many more titles [sad]

How are they going to ship enough extra copies if they don't draw in the bigger audience?

Games are loved by a growing number of people, and it'll probably continue to grow as a popular form of entertainment. But it doesn't seem like games have really hit the mainstream yet - they're still a bit niche, a bit "uncool" in alot of some peoples mind.

Some games do tap into the mainstream (The Sims anyone?) but it is still seems to be the exception rather than the rule.




So, in conclusion... I see a possible bleak outlook for some studios - over the last few years a lot of talented teams have gone the way of the dodo mainly due to financial problems. With what I described above, I'd also be surprised if some of the bigger "super publishers" could hold out to more than a couple of "flops" for next generation titles.

I understand that what I wrote above is one of many possible outlooks, and I really hope I'm wrong - I would rather that these new consoles bring the good times along with them.

Jack
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Interesting perspective. I am wondering what specific types of games and or marketing needs to occur in order to reach mainstream audiences? Violence is not a plot, but it is incresingly used as one. How long will this last?

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I am wondering what specific types of games and or marketing needs to occur in order to reach mainstream audiences?

I've wondered if the lack of emotions (other than anger/violence/aggression!) in stories is one of the aspects. Killing things and blowing stuff up is great stress relief, but I find that sometimes I don't really want to be destructive. In those instances, the only games that I own that I could play are racing games...

Which, counter to my original entry, maybe this obscene amount of power that the PS3/X360 has will allow for more emotional attachment to stories and characters, thus attracting more players...

As for marketting, I'd say thats as much the "bad" image that computer games might have. The fact that a lot of people still see them as things for sad lonely people who have no friends and don't like to leave their dark dingy bedrooms [smile]

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How long will this last?

Probably not for that much longer... unless there are millions of virgin customers who love to kill things and blow stuff up, somethings gottta change if companies wanna keep making money.

Money talks - for example, if EA were to see a lot of next generation violent games flop then they'll probably be a lot more sceptical about funding new projects. That means developers can't get the funding for what they might well want to make and have to think about proposing other ideas that stand a better chance of securing the funding that pays their salaries...

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And why has the Sims done so well? Just look at it. Complete opposite of eveything you said about hardcore games. Thats some good evidence for your viewpoint.

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And why has the Sims done so well? Just look at it. Complete opposite of eveything you said about hardcore games. Thats some good evidence for your viewpoint.

Exactly.

I can't really comment on The Sims as I've never played it - it's not the sort of game I'd choose to play. Which in itself, might be interesting. I'm no hardcore gamer, but I'm probably happier with my FarCry and Racing games than I am with some super advanced tamagotchi toy (sp?) [smile]

I mentioned Develop magazine and it's recent Top-100 companies publications. Some figures:

Maxis, 3rd of 100 ([oh]) - £31,907,533. Of which The Sims 2 raked in £13,038,743.

Bungie is 11th of 100, but their Halo-2 clocked up slightly higher figures of £16,645,568.

Valve's HL2 is recorded at £5,629,134 - but I'm not sure that's a good figure to use as it's probably still doing a good number of sales.

Good old ID Software are in 48th position, their flagship Doom-3 recorded at £3,696,562.

I suppose that Halo-2 is the exception rather than the rule though. The Sims 2 probably made a lot of accountants very happy [smile]

Jack

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Ths Sims makes you care about your character and their development so it must do well with those who have a certain strong maternal mental component. Kids, both girls and boys and women as well, maybe some metrosexual men [smile] would find this game enjoyable. And since there are a lot more of them than the demographics of your standard male gamer 18 - 40 or whatever the number is they will have more of an impact than the aforementioned group. Note also that these people are unlikely to find games that are catered to them in the market and so are more likely to be able to spend money on whatever game and its expansions (see sims) that meets their tastes that comes out. Also accessorization is probably important to this group and that is probably why the Sims Expansions sell so well.

But from what I heard Halo 2 is different as well. It is supposed to have some amazing multiplayer. The key, I believe, is that it takes advantage of the competitive nature of men and provides one of the greatest medium ever digitally offered for the living out of such. And as such probably among the best ways (with safety and likely hood of hurt also taking into consideration) to relieve these stresses to do with residues from the primitive days. Im certain if you looked at the multiplayer aspect there is something it does and very well that little other games do.

This is my take, I have played neither of these games and can only make inferences.

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