Abyssal Pixels: The Cost Of Gaming
Our world has evolved into this sort of capitalist cesspit where everything revolves around money and profit margins. An unfortunate victim of this is art. Art is a way of expressing ideas and concepts, but these days it’s only done with money in mind. Why paint a painting that would make you happy if you can’t receive any money from it? Why write a book about your personal ideas and dreams when you can easily write a soppy teenage romance with about as much depth as a puddle and earn a lot more money from it? It pains me to say that gaming has also gone this direction. It’s not about getting a game out there with original ideas and complex stories, but rather a vessel that can earn as much profit as possible.
We’ve read the stories of Square Enix calling Tomb Raider and Hitman Absolution failures because they couldn’t sell more than 5 million copies. 5 million copies? Do you even understand how high of a number that is? That’s just borderline insanity. I find it jarring that Square Enix even expected so much. What, did they expect the games would be the third coming of Gordon Freeman or something? This honestly perplexed me. The games were fantastic on their own merits, but how much did they cost to make if they expected 5 million sold copies of the games as “breaking even”?
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There has also been a growing concern that next-gen games will be too expensive to make. Games that would have budgets equal to some blockbuster movies that take years to create. But my question is, is it really necessary? Games don’t need 200 million dollar budgets to be considered successes. Granted, we have become spoiled in recent years where every game that is released pushes the boundaries of graphical fidelity and production value, but at what cost? If games are now considered failures because they couldn’t sell a number of copies equal to an entire country’s population then it will not get better.
I like to call this phenomenon Call of Duty syndrome. Developers and publishers love to think that their games will be instant hits and sell the same number of copies as Call of Duty does, but that’s just not a realistic expectation. Your game might be absolutely shit and be lambasted by critics ala Resident Evil 6 and will not sell the number of copies you expect. Or it might only appeal to certain audiences and once again not hit the mark with regards to sales expectations. I’m no accountant, but this seems like basic common sense to me.
Games that have massive success have it for a reason. Be it familiarity i.e. Call of Duty or the fact that the game is absolutely incredible i.e. The Last of Us. There’ s no use expecting a game to be an instant hit and get all that juicy profit just because it’s a game and gamers might buy it. That’s equal to a jeweler selling plastic rings and knock-off watches for the same price as the genuine article and then being surprised that the business failed. This is again an example of inexperienced businessmen that don’t understand the people in their industry and just consider us a bunch of open-mouth consumers. They pour an unnecessary amount of money into a game and then because of that expect that it will just sell like hotcakes. That’s not how it works you overweight, Mercedes driving twats.
A game doesn’t need a large budget to be successful. The indie gaming community has proven that. Games that required a minimal amount of money have earned millions just based on word-of-mouth and its entertainment value. We have gotten some utterly fantastic games that deserve rewards for their fidelity, but were made in a basement by a couple of people with a good idea. AAA publishers would tell a developer: “Hey, make a game. Here’s some money and we want it by next year.” Because of that, quality gets diminished and the game turns out to be another generic title to be added to the bargain bin.
The gaming industry needs to restructure itself when it comes to budgets. Limit the budget, give enough time and be sure that there’s a good idea before initiating the development. Don’t just be a printing press making the same exact thing over and over again and be surprised when it fails or does not live up to your ridiculous expectations. Make better games with less money and I guarantee you there will be success. Dark Souls proved that. The game had a small budget and appealed to a more niche audience, but it’s one of the most successful games out there just because it was high quality.
I’ll admit, I’m not an industry analyst and I haven’t even done any research for this column, but this is just my perspective. Games are too expensive to make. Solution? Make sure your game is worth investing in before bankrupting yourself because the game wasn’t as successful as you would have hoped. That’s just simple problem solving, really.