Video game companies need to shut up and make more games – Reader’s Feature

A reader is frustrated at video game publishers for being so easily distracted from their primary business of making games.

I have been following with great interest the debate over who ‘won’ E3 and the current standings for Sony and Microsoft (and Google) going into the next gen. Obviously Sony wasn’t at E3 but that was largely because they weren’t going to show anything anyway, so It seems obvious that Nintendo would’ve won E3 whether they were there and not. And there’s a simple reason for that: all they talked about was video games.

But this feature isn’t about Nintendo. And nor is it about Square Enix who won Game of the Show for having a fully playable version of Final Fantasy VII Remake, as compared to the a non-playable demo of Marvel’s Avengers that many found less convincing. It’s also not about EA who did have a playable version of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order but bizarrely went out of their way to keep that, and the game’s true nature, a secret.

Next year Microsoft and Sony will take to the stage and show off large plastic boxes that you put under your TV (and streaming services that you don’t) and they’ll reel off streams of numbers that tech-heads will pretend mean something but which any veteran of previous console unveilings (anyone remember the Emotion Engine?) know will be no clear indication of how powerful the hardware is; anymore than the tech demos and pre-rendered cut scenes will be true illustrations of how the games will look.

The same empty promises will be made as they always are and the success of the new formats will come down to what they always do: the games. Baring any outrageous misjudgements like the PlayStation 3’s price or the Xbox One’s… everything console unveilings actually tend to be quite underwhelming and purposefully uninformative.

That’s because there’s usually not many games ready, and the only thing that matters is the games.

As Google already start to show cracks in their plans, over pricing and broadband reliability, they could easily pave over it by announcing some amazing, exclusive games. But they haven’t. Microsoft has had a terrible generation but they could’ve got through it so much easier if it had some classic games coming out on a regular basis. It’s had almost nothing.

And then you’ve got Sony who’ve had their best generation ever in terms of games and sealed their victory at E3 2015 by… announcing three really high-profile games. Or there’s Nintendo, who fell flat on their face with the Wii U, not just because of the dubious name and poor marketing but because there were no decent games for at least two years. They then immediately moved on to the Switch, which had a great first year and did extremely well as a result of it.

There is a pattern here and it doesn’t take a genius to notice it.

Of course, companies claim they’re all about the games (and the gamers, I love it when they do that – it makes me feel so needed) but what they say is irrelevant compared to what they do. There’s not a single games company that couldn’t immediately improve its position by making more and better games and stop wasting time with everything else.

Xbox One era Microsoft and Wii U era Nintendo will stand as classic examples of this for a long time but it applies to publishers as well. EA has had a bad generation as well and may well have gone under if they didn’t have FIFA’s microtransactions to rely on. But at not one point does it seem to have occurred to them that they could just, you know… make a decent game and make a lot of money, and fans, that way.

Apparently that’s too simple and everything has to be overcomplicated with game as a service models, free-to-play, microtransactions, subscriptions and all the other distractions of modern gaming. These things are not making gaming more accessible they’re just making it more exhausting. Especially microtransactions, which means companies are making profit from only a tiny percentage of their audience and only because they’re addicted and not because the game itself is any good.

That’s a whole other problem but even that can still be solved in the same way: just make more games. Fortnite was created in just a few months, Minecraft was created by just two people, most of Nintendo’s teams are extremely small by Western standards. The best, or more importantly profitable, games are not necessarily the most expensive at all.

Yes, there is GTA V but that’s more outlier than anything. And even if it’s not why is everyone trying to copy the ultra-expensive, ultra-risky option? Rather the much saner one that affords you the chance to experiment and innovate.

Rockstar can afford to put all their eggs in one basket, few other companies can or need to. Just make great games and then sell them to people in a manner that doesn’t make you look like a conman trying to convince someone to invest in a pyramid scheme. Video games are all that matters when your whole business is selling video games. I don’t know why so many companies forget this.

By reader Gifford

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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