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Thomas Kaira

Game Industry Crashes: Real or Conspiracy?

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I'm putting this in the discussion forum because I just read a rather enlightening article:

 

https://medium.com/steam-spy/on-indiepocalypse-what-is-really-killing-indie-games-3da3c3a1ea76#.s1jeadhcf

 

The author is mainly discussing what the future might be like for indie developers now that its easier than ever to develop and publish a game thanks to platforms like Steam providing distribution and toolsets like Unity and Unreal being available at low cost for enthusiasts.

 

But the main thing I wanted to discuss is this: did the Great Gaming Crash of 1983 actually ever happen? Because if you look back at everything that came after, the answer is no. Games didn't crash, Atari did. If games crashed, wouldn't the effects have been felt in Europe and sales for personal computer games on ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 have plummeted? And wouldn't Nintendo have gone out of business as well, and not have brought video games back to the spotlight with the NES?

 

And what about the great PC gaming crash of 2002? Shouldn't we all be playing games on consoles and posting in this forum on tablets now?

 

There is only one correlation between all these "crashes" that occurred throughout the years: business interest. The great crash of '83 is called that because retailers were dumping all of their cartridge video games into clearance bins and re-allocating the shelf space to Cabbage Patch Kids and Transformers toys. The only casualty of the "great crash of '83" was Atari. In reality we should be calling it the Atari Crash, and the only reason people said the "crash" had happened was because there was a gap in the time it took for companies like Nintendo and Commodore to get their products to the American market to fill in the hole Atari left behind. Remember, we didn't have Amazon back then.

 

But the point I'm getting to here: anyone who is saying the industry is going to crash again, they are wrong. The industry will not crash; it never did. All that will happen is business interest will shift in a way that causes a major change in the gaming market. That's what happened in '83: Atari's bankruptcy opened the way for Nintendo and Sega to rise to dominance.

 

If Call of Duty dies, it's not the end of the world. Someone else will just find a new sacred cash cow to exploit.

 

As far as the article, it is about how Indie gaming is starting to divide up into two entities: hobbyists and entrepreneurs. Game development tech has come a long enough way that people can make their own games just because they can, and the modding communities of all games thrive on this hobbyist approach. In order to actually see the health of the actual indie games market, you need to filter out all the hobbyists for whom profit is not a goal (and if you're looking at Steam, all the Early Access shovelware titles). Only when you know how well the games that want to be sold are selling can you determine the health of the market. The so called #Indiepocalypse is nothing more than a byproduct of hobbyist game sales data and business game sales data getting lumped in together. Hobby games that were never intended to be profitable (and zero-effort shovelware) are just noise in those sales figures. Get rid of those, and the Indie market is as healthy as ever.

 

In short, the argument I'm trying to make here is unlike what most doomsayers will tell you, the game industry will NEVER crash in the foreseeable future. Because it never did in the past.

 

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

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1983... man that's ancient history. It's slightly before I got into games enough to notice these things (I was 12) so I can't say for sure I ever noticed any "crash" in the industry then. We got our Commodore 64 in 1985 and I got my first commercial games for it in 1986, and by that time this "crash" had already come and gone.

 

For me, the gaming crash was in the early 90s when Commodore went under and PCs weren't quite up to snuff yet. There was a gap of a couple of years before the 386 achieved dominance and games began to become more than ugly 4 and 16 color monstrosities on PC. Of course, I have rather specific tastes in gaming and I was quite content to keep playing the pile of gold box D&D games I had amassed before the C64 was officially a dead platform.

 

I don't recall there being any "crash" in 2002 either, cause, well, for me that's when Morrowind came out and I had all I needed :P

 

I don't think there's really going to be much of a crash in the Indie market so much as there might be a culling of poor quality showings. A whole lot of earlier entries into the fray are going to get swept aside after having realized how difficult making games really is, and even more difficult to make them well. It's never going to collapse completely as long as Indie friendly distribution platforms like GoG (and yes, Steam too) exist.

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The "great PC gaming crash" was simply another business shift, where retailers started massively downsizing their shelf space for PC gaming (games, systems, parts, etc.) because consoles were becoming a much more reliable revenue stream. But since Half-Life 2 was released around this time giving birth to Steam and with online ordering becoming big business for the people who already had a decent PC (and as a byproduct internet access), the "crash" went largely unnoticed.

 

As far as Indiepocalypse, I agree with you. The most that will happen is Valve will finally buckle down on Early Access having become a shovelware dump and get rid of it all, and lay better groundwork to make sure devs use it the way it is intended. Since that's what GOG is doing, and Valve will need to compete.

Edited by Thomas Kaira

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I think the only real "PC gaming crash" that could be identified is the demise of retail game sales, which I am still somewhat annoyed by. Thankfully GoG is gaining prominence and making the transition to digital the painless experience it should have been all along.

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I think the only real "PC gaming crash" that could be identified is the demise of retail game sales, which I am still somewhat annoyed by. Thankfully GoG is gaining prominence and making the transition to digital the painless experience it should have been all along.

Agreed.  I notice it too and sometimes I miss buying retail games with a quite thick manual.  Nowdays the manual are usually a PDF document, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the manual if the user hasn't installed it.

 

For example, I remember when I bought NASCAR Racing 2003 Season and as soon I got home I open the game box and could smell the ink from the manual when I opened it.  I miss those days of well made retail games package.

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