As we fast approach the mid-point of the year, we have already seen some pretty amazing game releases. Perhaps the biggest highlight of the gaming calendar so far has been the Resident Evil 2 remake which, I think it’s fair to say, met or exceeded everyone’s hopes and expectations.
We have, however, also seen a rather significant trend starting to emerge from consumers. Namely, that they might finally be starting to lose patience with developers who insist on releasing mediocrity in the hope that we’ll be dumb enough to keep buying it.
So, is 2019 marking a significant shift in consumers sensibilities? Well, let’s look into the evidence.
It is always subjective when you consider what games have ‘flopped’ so far this year. I mean, do you base it on critical reception? Sales? Or simply the fact that for such a huge name, it disappeared almost as quickly as it came.
Well, in this regard, there are at least 3 stand out releases so far in 2019 that seem to tick these boxes. Namely, Jumpforce, Crackdown 3 and (perhaps more controversially) Anthem.
All three of these games were subjected to pretty substantial levels of hype and today, all 3 of them are generally either being skimmed over or have been completely forgotten by gamers. Admittedly, while Anthem isn’t forgotten, it’s having a bit of a hard time to keep the early enthusiasm it saw on release. In fact, many believe that this was a surprise hit for EA and since then they’ve pretty much squandered or ruined the opportunity this presented.
While none of them was particularly bad, each has ended up representing the same thing. Namely, games with bag loads of potential or hype that the finished (or current) product hasn’t managed to live up to.
More recently, even World War Z kind of sums up this ethos. A decent, but entirely forgettable gaming experience. There has, however, already been a pretty significant casualty with the loss of Telltale Games. A studio that burst onto the scene and died because of mismanagement and mediocrity.
It’s a trend that arguably started last fall, but it seems that consumers may have finally learned to stop buying games based solely on the hype a developer or publisher might put behind it.
For example, EA told consumers not to buy Battlefield V if you didn’t ‘buy’ into the ethos of the game and (admittedly to my surprise) the community answered accordingly. While it hasn’t been an outright failure, sales figures were well below expectations. Hell, even Black Ops 4 didn’t sell as many copies as Activision hoped. In my own personal experience, however, this was the first Battlefield game I didn’t buy in nearly 10 years.
Similarly, games such as Fallout 76 and Overkill’s The Walking Dead, games you would’ve expected to sell quite well, have shaped up to be pretty colossal failures.
The trend is quite clear, gamers are not quite so gullible as they were 2 years ago. Is this a good thing though? Well, perhaps not in the short-term.
There’s no better way to get the market to answer your concerns and criticisms then by hitting them in their pockets. As such, if consumers are becoming a little more cynical in their purchases, then, on the whole, this must surely be a good thing. Well, for the long-term at least.
Some would argue that for too long the major game developers have been too often allowed to get away with murder. For example, it’s hardly a secret that Bethesda games are usually buggy on launch, yet we kept buying them. Additionally, we all know that EA places more priority on getting a game out the gate rather than making it a fresh and new experience.
A good question, however, is that is this the fault of developers or consumers? – Did we make them complacent and lazy simply because we kept buying everything they made?… I think that however you look at it, we were definitely a factor in the creation of this monster. We do, however, also have the power to change it.
Based on our decision to be a little more sceptical in our gaming purchases, this has already started to have a pretty significant effect on the industry. For example, Blizzard/Activision has already started a quite significant ‘belt-tightening’ initiative to try and balance the books. In addition, many other studios are having to strongly reconsider their financial position based on underperforming games.
It is, of course, never great when people lose their jobs and usually, it’s the ‘ground-level’ staff that suffer first. I didn’t, after all, recall hearing about many of Blizzards senior staff losing their job. Not even after the joke that was the Diablo Immortal announcement.
It should, incidentally, also be noted that this trend has seemingly even caught the indie-gaming scene somewhat off-guard with no particularly huge-profile releases popping up recently showing the big-boys how to get it done.
It is, however, perhaps a little depressing that in May 2019, the best gaming release we have seen so far this year is an (albeit amazing polished) remake of a 20-year-old classic.
Ultimately, by being more savvy and picky, consumers will eventually require the gaming industry to start taking some risks to break the mould from their habit of generic title releases.
In addition, it may also require some of them to have a good long hard look in the mirror and see what they have actually been attempting to peddle off to us as a so-called AAA release.
The best thing that consumers can do, however, is to keep it up! Continue being more scrutinising of upcoming games. Stop buying into the hype and if you don’t think a game is going to be good, then simply vote with your wallet and resist buying it.
I can honestly say that since the start of the year, I’ve only purchased around 2-3 games at full price and I don’t feel any the worse for it.
Sadly, I think it boils down to the fact if you choose to not buy a AAA game, you’re far more likely to have dodged a bullet rather than to have missed out on a great gaming experience.
What do you think? Have you become a more savvy gaming consumer? – Let us know in the comments!
Being a bank holiday, we’ve given Mike a weekend pass to go out and spread his literary vitriol. He will be back in his cage shortly, but rest assured that Mikes Rant is an opinion piece and should not be indicative of the sanity the rest of the eTeknix staff has.
Did you enjoy Mike’s Rant and want to check out more? – Well, for all of his rants you can check out the link here!
Which one is your favourite? – Let us know in the comments!
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