The Storm Before The Calm

Late last year, there was approximately fourteen billion really fucking good games released within a three month window (give or take a month). Usually, games companies wait until Xmas to sell their top properties as this is when Mums and Dads and other old people waddle into town to pick something up for Little Johnny or Jemima to stick under the tree. Last year’s Xmas period was unusual in that there were so many really, really good games being released at the same time.

For example, I bought Gears of War 2, Far Cry 2 and Fallout 3*. Of these, I’ve played one of them to death, played a good chunk of another (but I’m still not done with it), and barely scratched the surface of the last one. This is usually where the “not enough hours in the day” rant crops up, but not here! Not now! No siree bob!

Too many good games. Too many, and all at the same time.

Games take years to make. They take stupendously large amounts of man (or woman) hours. Well, I’m told all this from the media, but they can’t all be wrong. So these games have been in development for years, and then they all come out at the same time. And then (I’m guessing with all sorts of speculation here) the game makers have a month off, recharge their crunched up batteries, and go at it again.

Only now, there’s a credit crunch. Bankruptcies are happening all over the place. Although the games market has been very healthy up to now, it can’t last. The same games that usually get three years or so? Either they’ll get reduced turnover times to release, or other games will be scrapped so the workforce can concentrate on one sure-fire hit. Less games, less choice, and probably less quality too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that it’s not all bad news. Games have been shifting over to the internet purchase model for years now. Selling something via the internet direct to consumers means you cut out the cost of materials, and can drastically reduce the marketing costs too. Steam, Gametap, Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, the shop thing that the Wii has, they’re all going to look even more attractive to publishers and developers in the near future.

I don’t like being a pessimist, even though I’m good at it. All I can see for the future is that things are gonna get much worse for games before they get better. What I’m hoping for is that when they get better, they also change. Selling through the internet is awesome, so I hope ALL games in future come out through their platform’s preferred content provider.

* I also bought Rainbow Six 3 and Beyond Good and Evil at the same time, but they’re old so they don’t count. But I did buy them too.**

** Also, I bought them all through Steam. On the PC. Apart from Gears of War 2 for the 360, which I had to buy in a shop.

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