Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, has grave doubts about the games industry as we know it--specifically, he's worried that the ubiquity and popularity of cheap iOS apps are making it impossible to sell big-budget games (like the next Unreal): "If there’s anything that’s killing us it’s dollar apps,” he said. “How do you sell someone a $60 game that’s really worth it? They’re used to 99¢. As I said, it's an uncertain time in the industry. But it's an exciting time for whoever picks the right path and wins." My take on it? Boo f**** hoo.
There's so much wrong with Capps' statements that I don't know where to begin. Perhaps I should start with the simple observation that a game's "value" has nothing to do with how much money it took to develop it. You can spend millions and end up with a crap-fest that isn't worth a damn dollar. These guys are spending tens of millions of dollars polishing their turds. Indies, on the other hand, can't fall back on pretty graphics and have to actually design a game worth playing.
It's like there's some kind of mental insanity going on at the top of the industry. The meetings must go something like this: "We gotta push more polygons. We gotta get that FPS up. We gotta have cut scenes that are like movie trailers." Then some dumbass in the back raises his hand: "What about the gameplay? Isn't this just the same game we've been shipping for ten years?" Who let that idiot out of his cubicle???
Now there's perhaps something to be said for budget games interfering with big budget titles. That's why we saw the great videogame crash in 83/84, as you'll recall. David Crane summed up nicely--Dad can buy the kids one Activision game for $60, or eight rip-offs and clones lying in bargain bins for $20. Dad's gonna be the hero!
If I'm going to pay $60 instead of $1 for a game, it needs to be $59 more valuable to me. Superior audiovisuals are worth, at best, $19. So that leaves me $40 in the hole. What would be worth that extra $40? Hmm...how about a fantastic (and big) single-player campaign? How about novel gameplay concepts and bigger skill trees? How about more terrain types and fun areas to explore? How about more characters who are fully developed and worth getting to know? How about more and better minigames? How about better dialog options, combat systems, customizable characters...
Oh, forget about that crap. We'll just make the explosions look 10% awesomer and the boobs 10% bouncier and everybody will be happy. What??? Sales our down??? Those damn pirates! I told you we needed tighter DRM. Oh, and those 99 cent apps are killing us...Boo hoo.