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Death to the Games Industry

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the damn-the-man dept.

Businesses 615

Greg Costikyan has an article up on The Escapist railing against the current state of the industry. Bigger budgets, obese publishers, and creatively dead franchises that continue to see publishing are snuffing out the opportunity for innovation in an increasingly mainstream market. From the article: "For the sake of the industry, for the sake of gamers who want to experience something new and cool, for the sake of developers who want to do more than the same-old same-old, for the sake of our souls, we have to get out of this trap. If we don't, as developers, all we will be doing for the rest of eternity is making nicer road textures and better-lit car models for games with the same basic gameplay as Pole Position. Spector is right. We must blow up this business model, or we are all doomed. What do we want? What would be ideal? A market that serves creative vision instead of suppressing it. An audience that prizes gameplay over glitz. A business that allows niche product to be commercially successful - not necessarily or even ideally on the same scale as the conventional market, but on a much more modest one: profitability with sales of a few tens of thousands of units, not millions. And, of course - creator control of intellectual property, because creators deserve to own their own work."

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Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (-1, Redundant)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455864)

What a suprise.

Re:Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (2, Insightful)

rob_squared (821479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455898)

I call it the Strangle-Hold Model. People who don't have power seek it, people who have power seek to keep it. Industries that thrive on personal ability will always suffer it. Its just a matter of scale.

So here's to the next revolution. I can't wait for more indy games, movies, music.

Re:Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (5, Interesting)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455935)

In many ways, the gaming industry has become a victim of their own success. When a certain business model brings in lots of cash, it's very tough to give up that model, even if it obviously won't work forever. Successful companies become very fat and happy and will resist change as much as possible. Smaller game makers can eat EA's lunch, since they will be able to effectively innovate as opposed to just tweaking last year's release a little bit. When another company offers gamers something that EA doesn't, the switch will take place. Like in any other industry, the giants will have to reinvent themselves or die off. It's just a matter of how long it takes them to see the changing marketplace.

Re:Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (3, Insightful)

notdanielp (244035) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456061)

Or EA could
-buy them out
-crowd them out of the market by buying up a relevant license
-kill sales by pre-announcing a similar product

The PC market is much more resistant to these tactics of course, people can go public with a finished game without EA ever even knowing about it. The barriers to entry in the console market are comparatively huge.

This is why you don't see EA dominating the PC space as much. God bless PC gaming.

Re:Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456069)

When other companies offer something EA doesn't, EA will just sit on them. Maybe they'll buy them out and destroy any future products made by the company while dismantling it. Maybe they'll just drown them in crap releases to make it less likely that the gem will be seen in the rough. But whatever they will do, you can be sure it'll be effective enough to kill the attempt.

Don't kid yourself, we are well past the point where 'started in our garage' company has any chance of overturning the state of affairs without the big developer's consent or the help of some bigger bully.

Re:Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (5, Insightful)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456111)

Like what happened when other companies started to outdo EA in their football games?

Re:Wow, it's like every other creative feild. (3, Interesting)

interiot (50685) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455963)

There's an inherent tension between financing art and producing art for its own sake that has existed for a long time, and is overall a good thing (otherwise no art projects could reach beyond a small group's income).

But other creative fields are facing a greater crisis now than they have before (most notably the movie industry [] ). I don't know if it's due to the internet resulting in broader exposure of people to more creative works, leading to disillusionment at the similarity between works, or what, but even if it's a problem that exists across all fields, it still may need to be grappled with now.

Feline Poop! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455867)

Fuck you, you motherfucking LambdaMOOers, you! That's right, fuck y'all!

No way. (5, Funny)

Musteval (817324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455874)

With such gripping, original, and sure-to-be-great games as "50 Cent: Bulletproof" coming up, I find this forecast completely unrealistic.

Nethack (0)

elmerf9000 (653148) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455883)

Finest game ever created

Re:Nethack (1)

hungrygrue (872970) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455979)

Nope. Can't compete with Zork I or Adventure. Now Those are addictive!

so stop bitching (-1, Troll)

BillFarber (641417) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455892)

and write a great game yourself.

Actually... (1)

NMZNMZNMZ (903066) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455983)

I am. My friend and I are developing a PC game that plays like a console -- an XBox controller (or maybe just a USB adapter) will be included with each copy of the game and is required if you want to play the game. We would have developed for the console itself, but PC development is much easier for your first game.

Our game (thus far untitled) will be similar in style to Mario 64 in that you have to collect 'goals' (Stars in M64), 'coins', and so on. However, it will include a full level and object creation system and documentation. People can create their own 3D platformer! We're also building a website that customers can use to upload their creations or download others' creations.

I'm wary to post the URL to our project's website here, as it's hosted on my own FuitadNET webspace, and I really don't feel like going over the bandwidth limit on the first day of the month. If you're interested, you can see what we have so far (note that the website is incomplete and screenshots are several months old) at bright night (remove spaces, obviously).

We plan to be finished by late October or early November.

Re:so stop bitching (1)

EvilMagnus (32878) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456021)

He has - this is Greg Costikyan [] we're talking about - he's an A-list old-skool game designer.

Nice troll, though.

Re:so stop bitching (1)

Epistax (544591) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456036)

Give me the budget that they have in their disposal and I will give you the best game since Civilization. Otherwise, what's the point in saying that?

Re:so stop bitching (1)

BillFarber (641417) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456091)

My point is simply that if a great game is something you really want, then I don't think you need that huge budget. I realize it takes lots of (unpaid) time and dedication, but so do lots of things.

Re:so stop bitching (1)

oldwarrior (463580) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456051)

common wisdom today says you need a staff of 50-100, art directors, project managers, legal staff, blahblah, server farms, marketing deals, and about 100,000 USD and two years expenses to even begin work. This is very far from the basement/garage game creators we had in the seventies/eighties. The development tools alone are priced to keep out noncorporate developers.

like the old saying goes... (5, Insightful)

phloydde1 (528605) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455897)

pretty graphics
good gameplay
small budget ..pick two...

Games Smames (4, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455901)

We all know that Nethack beats the competition hands down!

Seriously. (1)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456039)

I find it much more fun to play Zelda on ZSNES than any of the new games (HL2 and Icewind Dale were the only new games I finished, or even played for more than 5 minutes, for that matter). I spent countless hours of Super Mario on my gameboy, and that was way more entertaining than any game these days...

Marketing led (3, Insightful)

carndearg (696084) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455905)

I'm afraid when you let the marketeers out of their playpens and run an industry this is the inevitable result.

The most important people in a game publisher or development house are the games testers because their input is most relevant to shaping the product as it will apear to the users - people like them. Sadly the "important" people are the marketeers.

Re:Marketing led (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456055)

My wife is a marketing manager for one of the top game publishers in the country. She is personally launching several of the biggest games of the next 12 months. One will be awesome, the other is incredibly stupid (but will still be huge). She doesn't pick what games are published or not. She just has to sell the ones that are. Don't blame the marketing people.

Re:Marketing led (2, Insightful)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456065)

First step is to declare EA a monopoly. There is yet a standard Anti-Monopoly trust in the video game industry. Sure there is the Sherman Anti-trust act, but some politican needs to bend the same rules to apply it to EA.

All these politicans waste their time talking about video game violence and bad values, they should wake up. They should break up EA and use the big company benemoth as a cornerstone example.

If a democratic station like CNN is forcefully dominating all TV stations, Bush would have a fit. No one up high gives a fuck cause it's video "games". Let's call it video "media", then they'll care.

Sadly.. (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456116)

In order to shift the current paradigm of the public's perception of video games as "kid toys" we would need an extensive publicity campaign to increase awareness of the artistic merits of video games as a creative medium. This would departments. Who's got the biggest of them all?

EA. There is definitly a need for antitrust legislation in the vg industry, and on that I agree with you entirely.

Re:Marketing led (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456136)

Declare them a monopoly, even though there are countless others making games, and absolutely no barrier to entry?

Sounds like you'd enjoy it in Cuba.

Steam. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455906)

I got a chance to read this a couple days ago. I can't really argue with anything there. However, it doesn't really address whether or not the situation will be helped by popularizing alternative distribution methods like Steam. One would hope that this would be enough of a wake-up call for Valve to stop sitting on their thumbs about getting more content sent over their service.

Probably not the solution. (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455988)

Sure Valve has their Steam delivery system (whether you like it or not)

Certainly, they could push more 'content' through Steam.

However, this isn't addressing the problem of the content itself being lacklustre or just 'milking' previous successful products such as HL2.

Innovation will not be stopped; addicts (4, Insightful)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455907)

The problem here is not about bloated, vapid monopolies stomping on creativity: programmers like Carmack will always exist, and will revolutionize the gaming industry through sheer willpower alone.

I for one conjecture there just aren't enough good programmers in the world, otherwise we would see more games as revolutionary as Doom and Quake popping up on the interent.

When is the last time a solid freeware game caught the imagination of millions? About 15 years.

Don't blame it on corporations, blame it on the fact that genius is rare!

Maybe people are just too demanding: they want something new every week and the gaming industry doesn't move fast enough to satisfy the short attention spans of young adults. WHy? Because you just can't write a winner every 6 months!!!

Realize that inspiration only comes once in a great while, and for god's sake, find another hobby!

Re:Innovation will not be stopped; addicts (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456045)

Oh, for god's sake. Look, just because you happen to think Carmack roxors your video card's soxors doesn't make him the be-all end-all of game development.

This article is about creativity in game design. Carmack doesn't have much to do - indeed, doesn't want much to do - with game design. He writes the engines, and lets other people handle the gameplay.

Oh, and incidentally, the last three games id software published were, what? Doom 3, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Quake 3. In those three games, the most innovative feature offered was the ability to blow up Rob Zombie [] .

Re:Innovation will not be stopped; addicts (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456075)

sorry, this is bs.
it's not a lack of genius. let's say someone makes a genius game. the automatic result is that someone else copies it as best they can. everyone buys the copy, cause it's so much like the original. now multiply.
if it makes money, people will do it. making cheap knockoffs makes money, so people will do it. making a truly innovative game is just a huge risk that only people who don't care about money would consider, and last i checked, even the super-rich weren't lighting cigars with 100s, no matter how much we want to believe they are.

Games too expensive for publishers to gamble (5, Insightful)

L-Train8 (70991) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456083)

When is the last time a solid freeware game caught the imagination of millions? About 15 years.

That's because with today's hardware and the expectation of modern day gamers, it is not economically feasible for a couple guys in their garage to make a massively popular game.

Game development costs are huge. It takes as much or more money to make a AAA title as it does to make a Hollywood movie. And when an innovative and original title comes out and is met in the market with a yawn and no sales (Ico, Res, Katamari Damacy, Animal Crossing - great reviews, no sales), it makes it that much more unlikely that publishers will finance another one.

It's not that there are original ideas are rare, it's that those ideas don't sell a million copies, and that's what you need to finance a game today.

Re:Innovation will not be stopped; addicts (1)

ezweave (584517) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456131)

there just aren't enough good programmers in the world

There is a world of difference between being a good programmer/developer and being a good game designer. Some of the lamest games can have the slickest, best designed, best performing code. That has nothing at all to do with it.

Could the problem be that everyone is gaga for 3d games that could all run off of the same engine (not really, but close)? Could it be the desire to sell a game that looks super slick and retails for $50-$60?

I don't really think that a crash (like the 83 crash) is going to happen. The world is a different place. I think enough people play games now that they will keep buying new systems.

OTOH, I think it is sad that most games are the same thing over and over again. That is the one thing in common with the game industry in the early 80s. The games all looked and played the same (or similar). The real problems are that the 3d "revolution" doesn't encapsulate enough genres and that many of us, who grew up with games, see the newer games as old hat. For me, with a few exceptions, nothing has really changed (aside from graphics/physics) in the last 10 years or so.

But, you have to realize that some of that is just growing up and having different priorities (i.e getting bored with games)... and some of it is that there are not enough new kinds of games.

Starting with EA Games! (5, Insightful)

IcyNeko (891749) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455908)

If they truly want to "challenge everything", they can start by bringing wing commander back and putting an end to the failure they call Ultima.

Re:Starting with EA Games! (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455987)

How's "bringing Wing Commander back" innovative?

Hey now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455993)

Ultima Online was the greatest mmo ever if you ask me. EA just took it and butt f**ked it into the ground. So don't say its a failure its simply they sucked all the life force out of it like a vampire.

Maybe it would happen if it was still Origin (2, Informative)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456024)

EA is responsible for breaking Ultima, including UO and Ultima 9. Ultima was probably the best computer RPG of all time before EA.

EA also ended Wing Commander. Wing Commander II and III were amazingly great games. WC4 and the movie just ended it. Instead of going for quality, they went for quantity and fast-to-market. So they blew it - again.

If RG hadn't sold out, and kept Origin as an independent company, all of this might be a lot different.

EA is the DEVIL (1)

jued0001 (95852) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456100)

Didn't take long for these to start. New record? Likely not...

People will vote with $$$$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455909)

Mebbe the game industry is where it's at cuz the people like what they're getting. Make product people want and they will flock to it. Buy low Sell high to make money. The sky is dark at night outside. Water is wet at room temperature on earth.

Re:People will vote with $$$$ (2, Informative)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456080)

Sorry, but no. You forget the power of marketing. We, as consumers, can be incredibly stupid at times. As much as I hate to say it, I have to be included in this. We're told this game is the greatest game ever. It's features are touted for months, or even years before its released. We read about it and desire it from the first trailer that gets released. And then, when it comes out, even when our friends complain it sucks, we buy it anyway, because we just can't seem to fathom how something that sounds and looked so good could turn out to be so horrible. We buy it. And then we try to like it. For hours, days, weeks, or months. We try, because we hope that, through mere willpower alone, we can make the game into something great.

But that's not how the real world works. And eventually we uninstall the game and put it back in its case, shoving it on a shelf, never to be touched again. I have about 30 games like that right now. And, for as smart as I supposedly am, I continue to do it, proving, without a doubt, that I'm not smart. On the contrary, I'm fucking stupid. I'm a sheep and I consistently make poor decisions when it comes to games.

Only, lately, it's been different. Instead of spending 50-100$ a month on new games, I just don't anymore. In fact, with the exception of Day of Defeat: Source, I don't think I'm going to buy any more games. It's just not worth it anymore. And I'm not talking money-wise, either. I'm talking about the emotional stress it puts me through. I am a gamer. I play games. Entirely too much, I agree, and the fact that it does put emotional stress on me illustrates that fact perfectly. But that doesn't make it less true. The bottom line is, I'm tired of getting let down. I've given everyone the benefit of the doubt - new development studios that I've had no experience with, old developers who have had great games in the past - and they're all letting me down. It's just not worth it. So I'll go back to Tribes 1. I'll play the occassional Tribes 2. And I'll play Tribes: Vengeance on occassion, just to remind myself how low a franchise can sink.

And I've just realized I'm rambling, so I'll stop. My apologies.

TWO!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455910)

While I admit this is the better article than what was linked the other day, do we really need TWO adverstisements for the Escapist this week? Get a slashbox set up and if they want to foster discussion they can host their own forums. Seriously, as much as I like the Escapist, the fact that their articles are passing for content here is pissing me off.

Uh, no (4, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455913)

And, of course - creator control of intellectual property, because creators deserve to own their own work.

The person who pays for the work deserves to own the work. This is the same idiotic logic where we have photographers owning the rights to YOUR wedding pics, even though you paid for them. If the creator wants to own the rights, then the creator should PAY for them.

Artists should have the same rights as any other tradesman. Does the carpenter own the rights to your kitchen just because he builds the cabinets?

Re:Uh, no (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456003)

"Does the carpenter own the rights to your kitchen just because he builds the cabinets?"

No. But a carpenter could own the rights to the design of the cabinets in your house.

Re:Uh, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456031)

Yes, the person who pays for the work should own it. An artist can sell the right to use a work or the rights entirely.

Re:Uh, no (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456050)

You can start by not being an idiot and negotiating this beforehand.

Re:Uh, no (0, Flamebait)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456130)

The person who pays for the work deserves to own the work.

Thanks for supporting us! We'd really appreciate it if you become our official dungeon keeper erm, manager.

The EA executives.

Meta (4, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455915)

When I was working on the PLATO system doing some of the first networked games [] something that seemed to get people's attention was the idea of a per-contact-hour royalty. We worked this idea to our advantage in a meta-game called "Meta" which let you accumulate Metas -- a unit of currency -- which you could take between games. The player would accumulate Metas when the author of the game accumulates pennies (basically a gain of 100 to 1) -- however the player can also accumulate (or lose) Metas during play and can take Metas so accumulated to other games. Now the rules of each game are different, of course, but the idea of getting people to pay by the contact-hour with Meta is that you can get a group of game authors setting up an ecosystem of sorts, with the goal of making the whole ecosystem more valuable per contact-hour.

Ultimately, there has to be a tax imposed by the Meta system to remove Metas from circulation just as governments control demand for fiat currency by demanding said fiat currency for legal tender (primarily tax payment) -- but the principle should work to let small game authors get a presence and make money if the rules of their game are more appealing to the players than other games.

A Creative Market (1)

Krast0r (843081) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455917)

"A market that serves creative vision instead of suppressing it."
A market that serves creative vision will always be bought-out by someone in a market without it. What we really need is a combination of the two, working together.

Nintendo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455919)

That's exactly what Nintendo has been saying for years.

I beg to differ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455924)

Spore by Wil Wright looks to be f'in awesome.

One can only hope it'll be done properly, rather than rushed to market.

Some Games Never Die (0)

Snake98 (911863) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455925)

There will always be the simple games, and old games like Doom that will never die, people updated them and still play them on the internet.

Re:Some Games Never Die (1)

IcyNeko (891749) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455941)

People still play DOOM online? in Bizarro world?

Re:Some Games Never Die (1)

Musteval (817324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455947)

That's what I call innovation - ten year old games with improved graphics!

So he's basically saying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455932)

"There should be a world where I, as a developer, am free to do what I want, and people should buy games for MY reasons, not theirs."

There are plenty of creative, innovative games out there that didn't cost a million dollars to make, and to say that Burnout 3 is a glitzier version of Pole Position is ridiculous. Unfortunately, the 'We' he's talking about is developers -- as gamers, 'We' are doing fine, thank you very much.

eXistenZ (1)

Omega (1602) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455944)

Death to the Games Industry...Death to the demoness Allegra Geller!

Sorry, couldn't resist [] . :)

Hot air (2, Insightful)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455946)

The industry is growing quickly, outpacing the size of Hollywood. Yet the industry is 'dying' as more and more people are now buying gaming-capable systems - not just consoles but cell phones - and the growth spreads across all demographics (older people, women) to nationalities (China).

Just because you can make a good game, Warren, (or can you - blackandwhite) doesn't mean you are somehow an economist in of the industry.

These wankers should stop paying attention to the 'industry' and just look at themselves and ask - 'How can I make the most money possible?' The inevitable answer is to make great games. Build it and they will come. Taking that step alone will address all of their concerns about the 'industry.'

What better example than Blizzard?

Re:Hot air (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455972)

Further - take a look at the article immediatly after the doom and gloom one. Guess what it's about - 'getting rich slowly with casual games.'

I actually paid for the indy game winner - Oasis.

From the back-in-my-day-dept. (2, Interesting)

pwnage (856708) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455948)

I recently began playing (and, in some cases, re-playing) many of the old text-only games from Infocom. I'm reminded of what a rich gaming experience many of these companies were able to provide in such limited computing environments. Quite honestly, some of today's major "blockbusters" can't hold a candle to some of computing's earliest computer games (you could probably say the same about Atari & Intellivision vs. certain PlayStation and Xbox games).

Seriously...I remember the thrill of buying a 16K RAM card so I could play the original Castle Wolfenstien on my Apple ][+.

Halt! Shizen! That game was awesome!

Re:From the back-in-my-day-dept. (2, Insightful)

Musteval (817324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456020)

Well, of course, the massive quantity of new games makes it inevitable that there are lots of turkeys. There are still quite a few fun games out there for Xbox, PS2, and even Gamecube. (N-Gage, not so much.) Of course, it seems to you that there was a much higher percentage of good games back then, but that's mainly because - guess what - you don't remember or replay the bad games!

No one to blame but ourselves (2, Insightful)

DigitalBubblebath (708955) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455952)

Most creative industries reach this cookie-cutter, shrink-wrap product stage because people just buy it.

Why innovate or take risks? The business model has evolved to a guaranteed-sales stage. People are stupid. They're happy with top production values and no emotional depth or innovative concept.

Please stop buying crap, people!

eXistanZ (1)

GodWasAnAlien (206300) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455953)

For some reason I am reminded of this movie.

Wow, (4, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455957)

I've been saying this for years now.

"what" new textures?"

And now someone else repeats it and it's brilliant insightful news...

The problem is this isn't a game specific problem. Most of industry is based around re-hashing last weeks ideas. And last weeks ideas are re-hashes of two week ago ideas, ... etc

Look at TV? When reality TV shows really blew up we saw quite a few genres [love or hate em] like fear factor, those dating ones, etc.

Now it's all the same BS. We're in the 12th season of survivor $PLACE and the great race is getting set on sound stage C.

Why do people watch this crap? Because it's what's on TV. People would rather watch crap then nothing! [News at 11!!!].

Imagine this, why do people buy Intel machines? Because it's all that's out there [e.g. Dell, Gateway and HP].

Totally amazing that the EXACT SAME problems occur in computing and TV, two totally unrelated fields... And now people are realizing it's happening in software and games too.



It seems pretty easy to me. (4, Insightful)

provolt (54870) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455959)

This doesn't really seem like a problem. If there are enough developers that feel that they don't want to work for a giant company, why not start your own?

The main reason not to start your own company is that you are risk adverse. Big companies are also risk adverse. It's a natural thing. Why start your own company, when you can work for an established company? Why try a new game format when you have a formula that makes a lot of money.

There might be other reasons not to start a new company. Many developers are not business types. That's fine, find a business type and make them a partner. If no business type will touch your business plan, then that probably is your answer as to why such a company doesn't exist.

I think there probably is room for smaller game development shops that make lower budget games. However, if that's what you want, then buck it up and start your own businees. Don't just piss and moan that someone else should do it.

As for me, I'm going to go play some Unreal Tournament and wait for Civ 4 to come out.

No more football? (1)

cloudkiller (877302) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455965)

Wait a second, does this mean that Madden '07 should be blown up too? Hell, can't EA just buy up the rights to be the only one who gets to make games? Wait a sec, I think Creative just bought, I mean was granted that patent..

There are some games... (1)

RichM (754883) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455966)

Looks like the article forgot games such as Half Life 2, Doom 3, Far Cry, World of Warcraft, UT2004, Call Of Duty and Splinter Cell.
These are excellent examples of creative products, which made millions for the companies, and still do - especially WoW.

Re:There are some games... (2, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456015)

How many of those are sequels?

Re:There are some games... (1)

cloudkiller (877302) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456076)

These are excellent examples of creative products, which made millions for the companies, and still do

Nail on the head Rich.

look at TV. gaming is moving towards, or already is in that type of mass-market. sure their is a ass load of crap on ~nearly~ every channel. but the good stuff is still out there, and even in reruns it gets more viewers than most prime-time crap.

my point, i guess, is innovation and creativity will take care of itself. So don't loose sleep worrying that when you turn on your PC/PS(whatever)/Xbox that it will suddenly be boring. People don't buy boring stuff.

Doomed eh? (3, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455968)

We must blow up this business model, or we are all doomed.

No pun intended?

can someone post the story for us suckers at work? (1)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455970)

I think the subject line pretty much says it all.

Creator-ware. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13455973)

"And, of course - creator control of intellectual property, because creators deserve to own their own work."

The word you're looking for is shareware.

Good Programming to make good games, BRILLIANT! (1)

ajgeek (892406) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455976)

As a gamer, and an avid one at that, I find that this is really becoming true. It's really hard to find a game that's not reminiscent of something of past games. Last game that left me utterly stunned was MGS, still one of my favorite games of all time. Now in Everquest II, I think this particular report is speaking more truth than not at it's kernal. (Corporate America != Good games, GAMERS do!) This is yet another situation where I think people who want to make good games should get off their butt and go out and do it. It's just like any other job, a lot of friggin hard work. I want to be one of those people too, so I'm pursuing a degree in programming. If you don't like what's available you have three choices; deal, ignore, or change it. I opt for the third.

What? Clones aren't innovative? (2, Informative)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455977)

C'mon! Derivitive, cloned, and licensed crap doesn't equal great games?!? Get Out Of Town! From all the "unbiased" reviews all you need is either FPS, Stealth, Sex, Violence, or a rapper to be a hit.

The game industry for some reason is set up to mimic Hollywood... and for even more puzzling reasons people think this is a good thing. Morons. The 360 and PS3 will do nothing but ensure that big dev studios keep cranking out the same FPS/Sports/Licensed garbage en masse as they are "safe" genre's and are fairly guaranteed returns when development costs are through the roof. I mean, who wants to take a risk on an "innovative" or "fresh" title when millions are on the line?

God, I so hope Nintendo mops the floor with the 360 and PS3 so the industry can get back to some semblance of innovation and gameplay. When will morons get sick of their damn FPS clones and crave a real game... do people even remember what a totally new and innovative game is like anymore? Hint: GTA:[insert city name], Doom[insert roman numeral], Madden[insert next year], etc. are NOT innovative!

If Clones aren't innovative, they'd be Real (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456033)

God, I so hope Nintendo mops the floor with the 360 and PS3 so the industry can get back to some semblance of innovation and gameplay. When will morons get sick of their damn FPS clones and crave a real game... do people even remember what a totally new and innovative game is like anymore? Hint: GTA:[insert city name], Doom[insert roman numeral], Madden[insert next year], etc. are NOT innovative!

You and me both - FPS and driving games are becoming so boring that you can literally feel the paint peel off of your eyelids with all the me-too games.

It's all about the fun and the story - and not adding realistic rain drop shadow effects with ray tracing chrome.

Re:If Clones aren't innovative, they'd be Real (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456098)

heh, you mean someone else besides me is tired of Midnight Club 1, Midnight Club 2, Midnight Club: Bling Bling Edition, Super-duper-bad-ass-mofo-illegal-pimp smackin-crack smokin-street-racing with gangsta rappas? No Way! But they're the COOLEST!

I mean and if I can't smack a hoe or two per game it just doesn't feel "right." ooh, oooh... or like games where I get to pretend I'm playing by not moving for minutes on end while waiting for guards to turn their backs or fall asleep and then quietly run by? WTF? There's nothing wrong with current games!!!

Re:What? Clones aren't innovative? (1)

jswalter9 (695759) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456093)

It's been working in Hollywood for decades.

Irony (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455982)

It's interesting that the author chose to write an article with a main point that games shouldn't have to be all about the pretty graphics, and then put said article on top of pretty graphics that make it hard to read.

Black on white: it works. White on peacock? Not so much.

Katrina (0)

Murmer (96505) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455984)

I can't help but think that "news for nerds" might not be "stuff that matters" for the next few weeks.

Wow. Games became like movies. Go figure (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455989)

For years the movie industry was predicting that the game industry would overtake them. And once it did movies would just give up and suck. Now that Games are king, they suck too. Wowie.

Same old, same old. (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455991)

This is the same problem that will soon occur with podcasts. It's not at all the industry's fault. It's the fault of the public. To put it in terms of the podcast community, the reason the big name casts are the most popular is that you see a name you recognize and check it out, and continue to check it out, despite that it might not be the best there is. Now, you check 20 other things as well that are all independent, and you think "oh, i'm supporting indy more because give them more attention." The problem is that the indy things you check aren't the same 20 indy things everyone else checks, but the corporate america things on your list are the same as everyone else's, so when you multiply your individual model across everyone, you get a spike in the big corporations and little tiny spikes for indy. I'm not throwing stones. I'm human. I have a CNN link under my news with slashdot and drudge and a couple tiny sites nobody checks, but that 1 CNN link is crushing everyone else. DOES ANYONE REALLY HAVE A SOLUTION TO THIS?! It's a human condition concerning pattern recognition, which is the nature of our consciousness. What can you really do about that?

Officially Tiresome (5, Insightful)

mrbooze (49713) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455992)

This doom and gloom stuff from game industry people is becoming officially tiresome. So the game industry is becoming like other mass media industries. Whatever. Just because Hollywood spits out Fantastic Four or War of the Worlds doesn't mean someone still isn't making lots of smaller perfectly good independent films. And it doesn't even mean that the big budget hollywood films are always bad. (Though IMO they generally are.)

I could really give a crap about the latest Madden release or Final Fantasy XXXIV or most of the big gaming franchises. I still find lots of games coming out that I want to play, more than I even have time to play.

So yes, shocked, shocked I am to discover marketing and profiteering going on in this establishment. But so the fuck what? If you're in the game industry and you don't like games with billion dollar budgets and bleeding edge graphics, then make your own damn game on the cheap and publish it yourself. What's that? It's hard to get reliable income that way? Oops! Welcome to the entertainment industry. Where independent filmmakers have for decades been living on ketchup soup and maxed out credit cards to try and get their films in front of people.

Online distribution the way to go (2, Interesting)

marcybots (473417) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455996)

As long as you have to get shelf space at a game store, stores will go with what has worked in the past and products from major companies. When we see game consoles with built in Rigths management that can download games from online then indie games will boom.
      Lets face it, the most imaginitve games come from nintendo, one of the 500 pound gorilla of the industry, who can afford to be creative. Small developerds can only get shelf space making copies of grand theft auto.

Too many FPS and racy games (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13455997)

With more and more chrome.

Just like the auto industry, it's going down the tubes. Even back when I was a SMOG, in the old days before the Steve Jackson raid, the trend lines were becoming obvious.

So, you can either ask yourself: what are we doing - and why? Or you can keep down the same path and then be surprised.

Look, I'll be honest - the future is games like Nintendogs and Sims: The Urbz - not FPS and race car and gangsta games. You either adapt or die.

So either choose to do a simple game design that's fun or a multi-market game that has multiple linkages - or go for the chrome spif and watch your industry go belly up.

Meanwhile I'll be playing Japanese games and Flash games, cause you've gone down the wrong road.

it has always been like this (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456004)

I've been playing video games since the Atari 2600/286 PC, and guess what: the industry has always been like this. 90% of the video games ever released are derivative, unoriginal, poorly thought-out crap. The ratio of good games/crap hasn't changed substantially in 20 years. Fortunately the industry manages to produce more than enough fun, original games to keep people interested.

Creator Control of Intellectual Property (1)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456008)

And, of course - creator control of intellectual property, because creators deserve to own their own work.

Great - another arena in which the same mantra will be repeated over and over again. Video game creators can retain control of their IP just the same as a musician can. But they routinely GIVE IT UP for profitability. If they want to do that, that's their perogative. Distribution isn't a barrier anymore, but marketing and advertising is. Without exposure, your art won't be profitable, and musicians and video game designers are willing to give up control for that.

It's -their- choice to do that, not your excuse to pirate the art that they produce.

Only in North America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456011)

In Asia, video games have a wider varieties in themes and controls. Over there, your choices are just FPS, RPG, 2D/3D Fighters, or Sports games. Games like Katamari Damacy [] are innovative and unique , just the type of thing that you'll never see from a North American publisher.

Re:Only in North America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456087)

Correction, "Over there, your choices are *NOT* just FPS, RPG, ..."

everybody calm down (1)

Chimera512 (910750) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456016)

i've heard people talk about the doom and terror that is coming to the gaming industry in the near future for months now. huge studdios will stifle the creation of quality content, only what sells will get made. you'll notice these articles only pop up in between big releases, no one was talking like this right after Battlefeild 2, World of Warcraft or Half Life 2 game out. the gaming industry is just like television now, there's lots being realeased and there's still the same ratio of crap to quality, just more crap total. good games will still be made, you just may have to wait a second and realize awesome games don't come along every 3 months or whatever.

modern gaming (1)

sedyn (880034) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456023)

I think a large part of the problem with developing creative games, is that developing a game that will be complex enough to reach the mainstream is that it typically requires a lot of resources.

Of course, business people have the resources, and they don't like to take risks. They have to answer to shareholders, be responsible to their employee's job security, etc.

Unlike the 80s and even 90s when a group of programmers, sitting around could say: "Hey, that's a great idea! Let's build it!"

Then again, that sounds like every other facet of the modern computer world anyway.

Damn.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456029)

How I miss saving up my pocket money to buy the latest sega master system game, back then no one cared what went on behind the scenes.

Look familiar? (1)

Loopy (41728) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456035)

Sounds like the same thing the movie industry went through long ago. Look at the crap movies we have to deal with today. The biggest difference is that games can be bought and sold totally online. Look at DOOM shareware for a great example.

Break the games monopoly (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456044)

Any company should be able to make games for any games console without payment to the games console. Its just like any other restrictive market, it needs to be broken open. Selling a console below cost is dumping.

Sounds like Hollywood to me (1)

jzuska (65827) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456058)

This sounds like EXACTLY what's going on with the current crop of movies. But this has lasted for 10+ years. Crappy movie, put out a video game, then put out a sequal, and a sequal to the game. Lame.

3D was Downfall? (1)

NMZNMZNMZ (903066) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456064)

(This post is a little scatter-brained. Sorry)

Personally, I think that the creation of 3D games was really the downfall of the industry. It seems to me that the requirement for games to be 3D has stifled industry creativity.

Being something of a game developer myself, I've found that 3D games are _much_ harder to be creative with, and also make the games _easier_. It may seem odd to the outsider that the one little additional dimension makes that much of a difference, but once you've tried making both types of games, you can really tell. I think the games industry would be much better off if we dropped most of this 3D nonsense and went back to good ol' 2D games.

Here's an example of where 3D makes games "easier." Let's say you're standing in a cave in a 2D game. Enemy in front of you shoots at you. You have to time your jump correctly so that you don't get nailed by his projectile. Now you're standing in the same cave, but in a 3D world. Enemy in front of you shoots at you. Simply sidestep to the left once and you're done. There's no timing, no skill, no fun. In this case, 2D is vastly superior from a gaming standpoint.

That's not to say that 3D doesn't have its place. FPS games would be absolute crap in a 2D environment -- hell, would they even be possible? Other games such as Myst require a level of detail that is only possible with 3D graphics. But for the vast majority of games, especially on console, I think that 2D helps invoke creativity, brings down prices, and takes _much_ less time to develop.

Shenanigans (1)

canolecaptain (410657) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456068)

I call shenanigans.

The gaming market is growing annually at a frantic pace, and so many games are being produced that customers now have to make difficult decisions with their gaming dollars. At the same time, *lots* of decent quality gaming / media engines are available for free ( id, CrystalSpace, SDL, etc ) or low cost( torque, etc ).

To fill the low cost void from the major producers, many little companies are jumping in to provide simpler but interesting games (mostly 2D), websites offering free older games within browsers, or open source levels for existing games.

The only problem I see with gaming is the lack of open tool solutions for the consoles. The biggest reported reason for this is that the console producers are generally losing money on every console they sell, so providing an open API reduces the revenue they desire to stay profitable. The solution for this would be to release an open API for consoles after a couple of years. That could then spur sales of the consoles at the time when their sales are beginning to drop off (and presumably they have already made money through other game sales). A second solution looks strikingly like what the press reports are alluding to with the PS3 - it's a computer! (gee, ya'think?). If it could profitably be released with a supported OS, games could be produced on that.

It's true that company's like EA are milking franchises for all their worth, but they'd stop doing that if they didn't sell so well! Capitalism is a great thing. If 3 million people stopped buying every version of every Madden title available, EA might actually be willing to invest in alternative titles. Innovative titles that are actually *fun* to play sell remarkably well - just look what happened with RTS, Sims, Creature based games...

Artists, not programmers (2, Interesting)

Andrew Cady (115471) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456070)

I took another look at Day of the Tentacle recently, via the free software ScummVM. The game feels like it was made by an animator with aspirations of film-making -- with a programmer offering only a little assistance. Entertaining writing, consistent and attractive visual style (far better than anything created through a 3D graphics card), childish game-play... but it was a kid's game.

Games are made poorly probably because they're made by the wrong people, viz.: programmers. Game production should perhaps be something like movie production -- the programmers should correspond to the set designers, not the director or writer.

The Gamers Are the Problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13456074)

With every complete moron that spends $50 for the newest Final Fanatsy game, or $50 for flaming turds like Doom III, or shells out $12/mo. for the lastest flaming turd or a MMORPG that has the same gameplay as they have for the past decade, it only kills the reason most fo us grew up loving games.

Blame the common gamers. They're the ones buying the complete pieces of sh*t over and over again.

And that's why it's dead, and noone can really save it.

We must be cruel to be kind, and kill the industry so it can come back the wya it once was.

I see another side to this... (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456081)

I recall and interview back when Doom III was being developed. Something about Carmack indicating being tied to the first person shooter genre because of the popularity of Doom, Quake, etc.

I can see how a publisher can become known for a certain game genre almost like an actor can become typecast. I can also see how business considerations can put heavy pressure to "stay with what you are known for".

Don't know the answer. Perhaps companies that are doing well can decide to risk capital in exchange for expanding into a different genre. To do that, however, you'd have to be prepared to take losses, at least in the short term. I suppose you could rationalize it as allowing more creative freedom to your staff - thereby attacting more creative designers to your group.

Other than that, however, it seems that innovation would be less of an initial risk for the small time independent developers. In fact, it's just about mandatory since copying an existing genre will likely just get him squashed by the bigger publishers. Therefore, innovation is his only potential edge.

This makes it a good thing that companies like Id Software are willing to release source code from time to time - it gives the next generation something to cut thier teeth on.

Is he saying progress is bad? (1)

Paralizer (792155) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456096)

The problem is that once something becomes technically feasible, the market demands it.
True, some developers spend most of their time working to reach the new bar set by the hardware developers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Take the case of id Software's Quake 3. The engine was revolutionary at the time (like all of Carmacks work), but some argue that id games are all the same; they are reincarnated to fit the current market. Well, that may be true, but this sort of technology helps others too.
As hardware becomes capable of displaying better-detailed graphics and higher polygon counts, it becomes mandatory to provide them.
Perhaps, but not all developers have to spend the time to create these new engines that can produce high polygon rendering and reasonable speeds.

Once this sort of technology is out there, other developers can get their hands on it and begin to create their own games based off of it, that's the idea behind the engine-game relationship. It allows developers who may be skilled in designing games, but lack the manpower to reach that level of technology, to produce games that are of the current market standard. And when they do, other developers come out of their closets and do the same thing. The result is a market with new and interesting game ideas that developers were able to paint over the canvas that was the engine of what other companies were able to create. For example, I do not think American McGee would have been able to create Alice (a very unqiue game with several aspects never seen in the market before) base off of Carmack's work.

A lot of people seem to be making the argument, like this guy is, that these new games such as these new Halo's, Unreal's, Doom's, Quake's, etc, are all eyecandy glossed over old games. Well some people like to play them, and others like to use them to create different games.

That's the theory, but empirical evidence bears it out. Back in the day, a Doom level took one man-day to build. A Doom III level takes two or more man-weeks.
I know this guy isn't comparing the detail of a 12 year old game to todays, how is this proving his point? Obviously there will be more polygons, just like in any other field.

Now one might argue, of course, that the improvement in graphical quality improves the gameplay experience so much that the cost is worthwhile. But if that's so, why was Doom so rapturously received, such a huge hit? And why do the critics basically agree that Doom III - well, it kind of sucks?
Not many people make that arguement. Many people perfer gameplay over graphics, but if the graphics are there and do not interfer with the gameplay, why not have both? Doom was revolutionary for it's time - it brought in a whole new wave of gaming concepts; Doom 3 expands on that, not in the gameplay area but in technology. Doom 3 showcased Carmack's engine, and eventually it will be used for innovative new games (I'd like to see American McGee do something with it). In 2 years no one will be criticizing id for developing the game when 20 other smash hits are in the market place which are built off it.

Worker burn-out (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456110)

And don't forget to stop treating the employees like disposable wage-slaves.

Insane hours, outlandish conditions, high turn-out, it WILL come back to haunt you. I got out, I was tired of having 60-70 hour weeks scheduled by management routinely .

They are squeezing the life out of their people, because they know a fresh batch of naive workers comes out of schools every year, eager to get into the glamourous biz. It's how it is now, it's not a sustainable way of going at it.

Blah Blah, same old recycled complaints (4, Insightful)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456133)

The same old tired arguements like this tend to reappear in 6 month cycles. "New games suck. No creativity."

I call bullshit.

In the entire history of video games, there's *always* been the leading games with something new, and dozens or hundreds of copies. How many games appeared that were similar to Pac-Man? How many games were similar to Pole Position? How many games were just like Mario Bros?

You can't point at today's games and say there's a problem. This has always been a "problem" (I don't think it really is one.) When a successful formula is created, a lot of people follow because it's what people want. FPS's became immensely popular - and people wanted more. Game publishers were happy to accomodate them.

Think about it in terms of the technical aspects. A game like Doom wasn't really very original. You killed monsters in an A-Z fashion to the end of the game. The only reason it gets recognition is because it was one of the first mainstream FPS games. But it was really evolutionary - we have two eyes, we see in 3D, and so it makes sense to make 3D games as soon as computers are fast enough. There were lots of 3D games BEFORE Doom - especially in the arcades (albiet many of them utilizing vector diaplys.)

It's all been a big process of building on top of the ideas that other people came up with. This isn't a bad thing, it's a GOOD thing. Little steps. There will be a fair share of crappy games, but that's always been the case.

To say there's been no creativity in games of recent times is to admit that you haven't played any.

I mean, what do you expect from games? If you're looking for the Holodeck, you need a reality check.

Indie Games (4, Informative)

wviperw (706068) | more than 9 years ago | (#13456137)


"but in gaming, we have no indie aesthetic, no group of people (of any size at least) who prize independent vision and creativity over production values."

Umm [] , yeah [] we [] do [] .

I think there is a lot more than this author admits to. Why do you think there exists open source 3D engines like Ogre3D [] as well as a ton of websites devoted to game design techniques , etc? Yes, the indie scene could be bigger, but it is by no means non-existant.
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