Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oi Vey

Seems like a tough time to be a game's publisher. Make good games and you lose money. Make shit games and you'll probably lose money. Make Wii games and you might make money, but you could still lose money.

EA and THQ have recently posted significant losses of late, and last year they put out some very compelling software for gamers, that did fairly well critically and in units pushed. So the question that arises to me is what is wrong with their business models? Lets be clear though, large publishers like EA, Ubisoft, and THQ have incredibly huge "money banks" if you will, and a bad year is not the end for them. However what it does mean is certain developers will get the axe, often times despite quality. 

Do they simply have too many games that are costing too much, are not compelling titles and do not sell? Or is it that a AAA title takes too much money to develop and as such the profits cannot possibly add up to match it. Are they blowing money producing far too many copies far outstripping any possible demand? Is piracy bleeding these companies dry as they often claim? 

Is there any possible solutions? I've got a few but most are not exactly sunny and great.
They could charge more for games. Increase the cost and you get more money. But then push it too high and people begin to feel like they are being ripped off.
They could charge less. Decrease your profit margins with the hope that a cheaper game will sell more. Valve has posted some very interesting findings of sales on Steam resulting in huge increases in units sold. However much of the Steam community strikes me as being fairly affluent and content with most games. Further the Steam purchase system seems to be built for impulse purchasing.
They could get advertising involved even more so in games. I mean television works because of advertising. In television I have read that it takes roughly 20 failed shows to get one hit. That is horrid and seems fairly in line with what goes on with game development. We get a lot of shite games, plenty of decent enough games, and a coupla games that are worth our time. The problem with the comparison to TV is that you do not have to pay money for each show you watch, you pay a flat rate and get them all regardless, the whole thing you invest is your time. This appears to make advertising in games rather difficult to work. Because if you buy a DVD boxset, you do not want commercials to play. And further you expect to be able to skip them.

Overall the whole game's industry is a strange beast. Rest assured, though the industry is not going to up and disappear, as long as there are profitable giants like Valve and Blizzard there will be enough incentive for those Venture Capitals to try to duplicate them and reap the benefits. Tragically it seems like alot of interesting IPs/game ideas might die for it to happen.

In other news Plants vs Zombies is pretty compelling for a Popcap casual game. Full of plenty of strategy and zombie killing goodness. I heartily recommend it to all, especially given it $9.99 price point. Maybe there is something to be learned from a publisher like Popcap. Good simple games, that many people can enjoy and bring in the profits. Sure they are not producing Half-Life or Fallout or Company of Heroes, but they are not in danger of anything.

Also, your Demigod update, game is slowly growing on me. Getting into game's is better but still not as robust as it should be. I'm winning games, but I feel it is more because of opponents lack of skill rather than my superiority. There is some definite problems between Assassin heroes and Generals, that the generals by and large are superior as long as they dont die. Seriously the game has big issues with addressing the reward for pushing. Towers give no experience or gold. Killing grunts gives no gold, only experience. Summons give no gold or Experience. Heroes give moderate experience and shitloads of gold. Control of the map is important, but if you die trying to gain control of the map you're hooped.
But it is fun, and the heroes have good diversity, although standard builds are emerging as people figure out what skills are worth getting/maxing and which get left behind. Updates continue to be fairly regular so there is no reason to be negative though. I'm not giving up on it. 
LotR:Online is still a fun game. But i think I've talked about it enough.

Cya round.

No comments: