Keep the Money, Give Us Back Our Video Game Industry

Reading the hundreds of blogs, news stories, and general comments by people it seems that despite what all the exhibitors thought, E3 was a dud this year.

Never mind Sony launching a new peripheral for the key younger market on their PlayStation 3 console. Forget the fact that Microsoft is launching a new way to unify all our devices on one home console, turning the Xbox 360 into a true, central hub for all members of the family. At this point, there’s no point mentioning Nintendo’s revolutionary new Wii U console and it’s staggering list of launch titles.

Wait. Those all sound like good things! So what the hell gives?

It seems, to me, that the video game industry has been marred not by crappy announcements or lacklustre showcases. The blame for the lack of excitement in the video game industry should be squarely placed with the mainstream media and their investor buddies.

Look; the thing is that people in suits simply do not ‘get’ the video game industry. Cast your minds, if you can, back to 2001. The PlayStation 2 was the best selling console, Microsoft just entered the market with Xbox and Nintendo launched their fourth home console; GameCube.

It was the age of revolution. Graphics were fantastic and allowed us to experience new worlds in vivid detail. Online services were in their infancy and were opening up new gameplay possibilites. Even the sound processors in these new consoles were an exciting glimpse at the fantastic future that awaited us.

Some of the very best games that have ever been made were launched in this generation. Metroid Prime, Okami and Halo stand out as a barely-scratched-the-surface list of examples. Bold, new games with unprecedented gameplay presented in gorgeous detail.

And for a time, it was good.

A generation later and it’s all gone to hell. The success of Nintendo’s Wii forced the owners of E3 to close it’s doors to the public, allowing only journalists to check out the latest games. Wii’s success propelled Nintendo’s share price from somewhere around $15 to over $400 – a move that made lots and lots of people very rich. This took a lot by surprise and suddenly the video game market looked not unlike the technology market – a market where companies like Apple or Facebook will make you very rich, very quickly.

Suddenly, the gamer was the least of anyone’s worries. “How do we get more money?” seems to be the question of the day. Enter micro transactions, ‘free-to-play’, DLC and persistant online. Ads have even started to infiltrate video game worlds!

Simultaneously, journalists are on a quest to find bad news. It must be a euphoric feeling knowing that a few words you bashed together has the ability to wipe millions of dollars off a company’s value. Sadly, the newspapers are still to this day the main place a lot of investors go to get information on their investments.

So what happens when you put a bunch of people hoping to get rich into the same room as a bunch of journalists looking for a bad news day? We see what we witnessed at E3 2012.

Investors do not like to have their own opinion – that’s what analysts are for. Analysts are looking for current and up-to-date information. That’s what journalists are for. Journalists are trying to sell newspapers, and nothing sells like a failure. A pattern emerges; journalist writes a negatively spun article, analysts use this to form an opinion on a company and investors react accordingly.

And after all – it’s hard to expect a journalist to get excited about anything in the video game universe. Like I mentioned before; they just don’t get it. These people don’t play games; and if they do, they do it for money. They don’t go home after a long day of work and fire up The Legend of Zelda to soak in the beautiful atmosphere and lose themselves in the fantastically developed software.

As a gamer, I was excited for E3. And I was excited during E3. Sony is trying to get some younger players on board; that’s great! At what age were you when you first started playing? I know I was probably around 5 years old. I grew up on video games. Young people who grow up with games, remain gamers. The more gamers there are, the more consoles and games we get.

Microsoft’s “SmartGlass” idea is a decent one. Sure, I find it hard to believe we’ll actually be using it for video games, but it has huge implications for other digital content, such as the ability to put “DVD-Style” extras on a digital downloaded movie. Imagine watching a movie while simultaneously engaging in a Google Plus Hangout-type conference with the director. Even something as simple as handling your music playlist on a smart phone while you play your games is a decent enough idea.

And Nintendo. Never before have we ever seen such a strong line up for a new home console. Did you see Ridge Racer on Wii U? Neither did I. That’s a good thing – it means Nintendo are serious about getting a good balance of games at launch. That’s not to say Ridge Racer is a horrible game, but practically every console in history has launched with a Ridge Racer title. Wii U is going to be different from the get-go.

And then there were the games! What we will be playing at the end of this year on all consoles are a distant dream for a 13 year old me. Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs, New Super Mario Bros. U, The Last of US, Halo 4, Zombi U, Assassin’s Creed 3 – the list goes on and on. As gamers, we’re being spoilt.

So was it really that hard to find something that gets us fired up? Of course it wasn’t – but we weren’t invited. We weren’t at the conference where Nintendo showed an exclusive, mature zombie game for their new handheld. We weren’t there when Sony thanked it’s fans for sticking by during hard times. We simply weren’t there.

And those who were walked out, smug, annoyed, uptight. They didn’t understand how cool playing a high definition home console game in the same room as a family who doesn’t want to kill you for missing some episode of Glee. They didn’t understand how Sony’s Wonderbook will help keep this industry alive for another 25 years. They took to their blogs and websites and announced to the world that E3 and all the exhibitors were crap.

I think people’s opinion is very easily swayed. I remember seeing a room of fully grown men break down in tears when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was announced. Would that have happened if the room was full of investors and journalists? Of course not. Sure, Twilight Princess didn’t go on to be the best selling game of all time – but that wasn’t really the point, was it? If you don’t know what the point was, you’re probably not a gamer.

I’m trying to say here that the video game industry is not a get rich quick avenue. Video games are pieces of art. They need to be appreciated by people who understand what they’re about. Journalists have had their chance – it’s clear that they will never understand what gaming is about. Why any self respecting journalist will inject their opinion into news articles is beyond my comprehension, but that is just the way the world is at the moment I suppose. Investors who abandon ship the day a major video game publisher announces a new generation of video game console are really in the same boat – you lost your money because you don’t get it.

So let’s give back the video game industry to the people who created it – the gamers. When there’s a major announcement, let’s have the gamers front-row-centre. Let’s put investors to the side and journalists at a distant back. I think the roars of the gaming public at a video game announcement would give investors a better insight than some pretentious journalist who is quietly seething at the thought of being stuck at work in LA for a week.

There’s hope for this industry yet – but it’s up to the gamers, not the journalists, to decide it’s fate.

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  • Rippenharra

    Well said! We are the ones that play the darn things.

    • AussieGamer

      Exactly – sure, we shouldn’t have a say in how the companies operate financially, but Nintendo was doing just fine when it was being funded by a bunch of banks as opposed to Apple hopefuls looking for the next quick buck. The same could be said for all the other companies too,including THQ, etc

  • honkey4

    Dude… You are saying what I have been feeling since probably two days before E3 (when the crap splatter of ignorant journalists and get rich investor scum started firing blindly at the industry).

    I don’t live anywhere near Australia, but if I did, I would invite you for a beer. I am just glad SOMEONE gets it.

    • AussieGamer

      Thanks for reading!

      I’ve been wanting to put all this in words for a while – E3 was the straw that broke the camels back, I suppose. I’m sick of being a walking wallet for these people who just don’t get it. And like I said, the industry gave journalists a chance and they blew it.

      I’m also glad I’m not the only one who sees it. Mate, if I’m in your part of the world, I just might take you up on that offer!

      -Ty

  • Gregory Weagle

    I have to agree here. E3 has never been the same since they got serious about enforcing their rules on press creditials after the Wii sweep in 2006. I think this also explains why Nintendo is having their own events afterwards (Their fall summit media briefing, their “I cannot believe it’s not Spaceworld” events in Japan for instance.)

    I also think that a lot of people thought Sony’s presser sucked because they did so little to help the Playstation Vita (who needed the help the most) that it felt that it was abandoned. Microsoft’s presser was fine and Nintendo’s was great, although the peak was the Pikmin opening.

  • Irvyne

    I have to disagree. E3 was a disappointment this year (and the last few years, if I’m honest) because it was almost completely devoid of that magic E3 ingredient: surprise.

    I can remember years ago, sitting up at 2 in the morning and watching Miyamoto unveil the GameCube’s lineup in realtime. It was in a tiny window that had unbelievably bad resolution and it kept freezing, but by golly, that was exciting! The first look at Pikmin. Seeing Luigi’s Mansion revealed as an actual game. Those were the days, when watching the E3 conferences live meant seeing handfuls of games for the very first time. I used to make lists of E3 games that interested me and it used to be in the dozens! Dozens of games that, a week before, I knew nothing of. That’s what E3 used to be.

    The only surprise in Nintendo’s whole press conference this year was Nintendoland, and after their brief showing I’ve already decided I won’t be getting it unless it’s a pack-in. I’m sure Pikmin and Mario U will be fantastic, but we already knew they existed and they looked exactly as we expected them to.

    Microsoft and Sony’s were just as bad, if not worse. A God of War game that looks exactly like all the other God of War games. A new Call of Duty that looks the same as all the others. A new Halo that looks the same as all the others. At least The Last of Us looks original, but I have to agree with Warren Specter here when he suggests that the overly gory violence that has just become the norm in todays gaming has got beyond novelty and it’s starting to get disturbing.

    I just felt it was a completely “meh” year. Didn’t really care about anything much at the show.

    • AussieGamer

      I guess this was another “side point” to this article… Since gamers aren’t at E3 anymore, publishers are trying to appeal to the people who are actually sitting there; the journalists and the investors.

      Journalists need to be babied “oh, look at this – it’s as simple as humanly possible so you report the facts and don’t make up crap” whereas investors need to see things that will sell en masse. Sure, well all love Zelda, but if you compare the sales of Zelda to the sales of Wii Fit, Zelda looks like a failure.

      This also applies to the reason why we’re seeing so many sequels. Or, I should say sequels that are exactly the same as their predecessors; publishers are making them because they’re a safe bet.

      In the movie industry, a film that grosses $1 Billion is considered a huge success. In the video game industry, a game that sells more than 1 Million copies is considered a success. So, if they just bash together something they KNOW has already sold 1 Million (or more) units, they can then turn to the investors and say “We know this will sell millions, because it did last year.”

      After all, investors simply don’t care about what gamers care about. This is why analysts predicted the failure of the Wii – they didn’t care about the revolutionary controls and what they could mean for gameplay. They just saw “oh, it’s weaker. It must suck.” How wrong they were.

      And so this loops back to my original article – E3 needs to be opened to gamers. This way, publishers will only present games that will excite gamers. To hell with the journos and the analysts.