Everybody who's been gaming or awhile is well aware of the Videogame Crash of 1983, a period that saw the collapse of the American console market and a strange period when many people thought the videogame was dead. The causes are numerous and hotly contested, but it's likely just an unexciting story of a bubble that popped. One strain of the story I've always found interesting as it is improbable, is that two games are primarily responsible for the crash: Howard Scott Warshaw's E.T. and Tod Frye's Pac-Man, both for the 2600. In both cases, we're talking about massively hyped games that sold tremendously well, but then got returned to stores in droves. My thought for today is whether something like this could happen again--could a rapid-fire succession of massively disappointing games topple the industry like it did in the 80s?
We've recently seen five games that by all rights "should" have been great--expectations were high, fanboys numerous, and, for the most part, very talented people were in control. However, in each case, the major critics either dismissed them as mediocre or blasted them as if they were almost personally offended by their perceived lack of quality:
Duke Nukem Forever. Metacritic score: 55.
Alpha Protocol Metacritic: 72 (Gamespot: 60, IGN: 63).
Hunted: The Demon's Forge. Metacritic score: 63.
Alice: Madness Returns. Metacritic score: 75 (IGN: 65).
Dungeon Siege 3. Metacritic: 73 (IGN: 65, Gamespot: 60).
Even Nintendo seems to be having problems. Despite the waves of hype the 3DS is currently receiving over the re-release (yawn) of Ocarina of Time, I still see the whole thing as another Virtual Boy with a much better marketing campaign. I see an upcoming backlash, though, as more purchasers find that they aren't getting full refunds when they try to return the devices that give them headaches. That's the kind of episode and bad publicity that can make anyone think twice about buying a game. As for Nintendo's new console, it sure looks like that "U" stands for "Useless." Sony, of course, is unlikely to ever recover from the PSN nightmare, and Microsoft doesn't seem far behind. Even if the new console is great, who can justify it in this economy?
Gamasutra has an article up concerning the top 5 major industry trends they see as we round out 2010. You could probably list most of them yourself: Facebook gaming, 3D, cloud gaming, digital distribution, and motion controls. I thought I would give my own thoughts on each below; feel free to add your own.
I saw in the headlines today that Sony is suspending its million+ unit floppy disk production (3 1/2", of course). I guess what surprised me most was that it hadn't stopped long ago. Outside of retro purposes, does anyone seriously use these disks anymore? I have few good memories of them--just all the read/write errors and the inevitable march to destruction. The disk drives themselves were also always unreliable. I know I've replaced more faulty disk drives than any other component. They were a significant step up from the 5 1/4" disks, of course. It's too bad that the industry couldn't settle on a standard for the bigger capacity disks (iomega, zip, etc.), but of course those were mere flashes in the pan compared to the 3 1/2". The article suggests that USB and other types of storage killed it off, but I'd say it was more the CD and later DVD burners. Once the price got cheap enough, it made more sense to burn everything to those and tuck them away.
What are your thoughts on the floppy disk? Will they be missed? (And, yes, I realize that other companies will keep making them into the foreseeable future.)
The BBC has a small report about how the modern game industry is burning out talent. Of course, this is something we've all heard before, particularly surrounding the EASPOUSE public relations nightmare EA suffered back in 04. They actually followed up on EASPOUSE, who has now changed her tune about EA.