The future of the gaming industry. At the crossroads

Short description

The author reflects on how the gaming industry has changed over the years. As a child, any game was enjoyable, but as adults, we become more selective with our time. The quality of games has deteriorated, and the prevalence of loot boxes and paid add-ons has become off-putting. Despite this, there are advantages to the industry, such as indie developers being able to create unique projects and advancements in technology such as artificial intelligence. The author concludes that while the industry has made revolutionary advancements, it has also taken a step back that could bring it to a standstill.

The future of the gaming industry. At the crossroads

At a young age, you play games a lot and suffocate, and it does not matter what kind of game it is and what quality it is. But over the years the attitude changes. You become more picky and selective about your pastimes, and that’s okay! The value of time is changing. Being a child and not having a gaming perspective, it usually doesn’t matter what to play! But with the advent of work, family and other important activities, you have to choose what to devote yourself to. Therefore, not every product will be worth the time spent.

I began to notice that the desire to play has dropped a lot (compared to what it was even a dozen years ago), and sometimes I’m just too lazy to learn something new. And new projects have become less interesting, so it is more comfortable and easier to include something old, already familiar and familiar.

On top of that is the falling quality of games and the gaming industry as a whole. These, sometimes raw and unfinished products, would have been impossible before because the Internet was not widespread. Therefore, if the game came out with a bugged piece of code, most often it was a commercial failure.

And the widespread use of loot boxes, paid battle passes or, worse, releasing a game with cut content and the need to buy add-ons for the full gaming experience – all this is just off-putting. It is worth noting that the new generation of gamers first “cooked” in this game industry, and for him this is an absolute norm. The “Overton window” is already wide open, and the big question is what awaits us next…

I think the reason for this situation is that in the past, a large number of developers were originally fans of games. They either individually or united created those projects that they themselves would like to play. You don’t have to go far, the values ​​of the “old” Blizzard were “Game Above All” and “Quality Priority”. Nowadays, the majority of large game companies are headed by career managers, not gamers, for whom the financial side of the issue is important, but they may not understand games.

But sooner or later the transformation of the gaming industry will happen, and how it will change depends largely on us. What awaits gamers: further commercialization and “Pay $5 to level up” or a 1983-like explosion and rebirth of the industry?

Fragments of a box of cartridges recovered during the excavation of a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico in 2014. Game fragments are different ET, Centipede and other Atari-related materials.

My point is not that the grass was greener before, it’s just that things were different then. The current game industry has a lot of advantages.

There was a chance to prove yourself by making an excellent indie product (for example, as the creators of Vampire Survivors or Stardew Valley did). Thanks to engines like Unreal Engine or Unity, game development has become more accessible. There is no need to run around to publishers, hoping to agree on the promotion and sale of the game. Now you can do it yourself using various platforms like Steam (yes, the method is not perfect, but it used to be much worse). There is an opportunity to get money for such products, which in the past no one would have given the green light – crowdfunding. Without platforms like Kickstarter, we wouldn’t count the many cool projects, for example, Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin, Star Citizen, The Banner Saga, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (which I wrote about recently), etc.

If you think about the future and where the game industry will go, the most obvious thing that comes to mind is the use of artificial intelligence. This can be help both in writing basic code or dialogues, and in design, for example, when creating art for the game. Take at least the recent mod for Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, which uses ChatGPT to “animate” dialogues with NPCs, making them more realistic. This will reduce the number of specialists needed for development, which should make game production cheaper. After all, as game corporations say: “Development becomes more expensive.”

NPCs in Mount and Blade 2 Bannerlord will know their age, kinship, about wars and world geography, will remember past events

Do not forget about the improvement of already existing engines. The Unreal Engine I mentioned earlier tries to make things easier for developers by making it easier to work with the engine with each new update.

In my opinion, the industry of the past was not so flexible, with a lot of difficulties both at the stage of finding investors and at the time of promoting the project. A large number of well-known companies such as New World Computing, Id Software (the list goes on and on) very often used word of mouth to promote their product. This method was especially liked by developers of shareware games, who hoped that their project would be passed from hand to hand and people would like it so much that they would willingly pay money for it. There were also many who personally went to the publishers or knocked on all the stores, trying to agree on the sale of the game.

Continuing the comparison of modern and retro games, you can see that due to the weak computing power of computers in the past, it was not possible to emphasize graphics. That is why they invented various mechanics, interesting stories, outstanding gameplay – anything that can attract the user to the game world, despite the meager appearance!

If you take the big AAA projects of today, very often they do not look like creative works of passionate people, but products of obtaining maximum profit with minimum investments. This all boils down to the banal “squeezing out of juice” from studios by titans of the gaming industry, such as Electronic Arts. Once the studio stops making a profit, it simply closes. Oh, how many fine companies have been lost this way…

Graveyard of Electronic Arts game studios

And only indie studios working “in the old way”, using modern capabilities that their predecessors did not have, regularly stand out, creating extraordinary and original projects!

As a conclusion, I would like to say that the industry does not stand still and is developing. In some aspects, there has been a revolutionary progress that developers and players of the past could not even dream of, but in some ways a huge step back has been taken, capable of bringing the industry to a dead end. Only time will tell what the result will be. Now, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on where we’re going and what’s next for the gaming industry from both a player and developer perspective. Share in the comments.

I’ve been playing games for over 25 years, and I remember them as just that: soulful and addictive, with engaging mechanics and interactivity, no in-game currency, and no attempt to be anything but a game. In my Telegram channels not only game reviews are waiting for you, but also current news and thoughts about gamedev. Subscribe, it will be interesting!

Related posts