Are Gamers Hurting The Gaming Industry?

A couple weeks ago, when Cypress_Z, MagicWhiteLady and I were doing the sound test for the first episode of the Indecent Gaming Podcast, we received a question from a fan:

What do you think about Game Theory’s “Are Gamers Killing Video Games?” episode?

But, because we actually have pretty strict itineraries for the Indecent Gaming Podcast and are trying to focus on a particular topic per week, addressing the state of the “game industry” isn’t on the agenda. At least not soon enough to be topical with Game Theory’s episode on the subject. So here I am, making my viewpoint known from the safety of muh interblags, because I do have thoughts to share on the subject.

In case you haven’t watched it, MatPat’s view is that gamers who say they want innovation are lying. Citing the high sales of games like Call of Duty and Madden, he points out that there is a clear divide between popular internet opinion and what actually sells.

But I don’t think that’s entirely the case… or, at least, the people who are asking for innovation aren’t the people who are buying 10 million copies of Blops 2 in one month.

MatPat (the guy who makes Game Theory) clearly uses “gamer” as an umbrella term in his video- if you’re a person who plays video games, you’re a “gamer”. However, the customer base for the gaming industry is made up of many smaller groups with different needs and motivations, known as “market segments”. Fratboy Fred (who wants to spend time after classes rocking Blops with his buddies) has different needs and habits than Mommy Marge (who has 2.5 children begging for the new Mario game), Retiree Rita (who wants to relax after a hard day of gardening with some hidden-object games or maybe a little Peggle), and Gamer Nerd Greg (who is on top of all the latest releases, reads game reviews online, and watches shows like Game Theory).

Basically, I think who “gamers” are in terms of culture is very different from who “gamers” are in terms of raw sales data- and the people who desire innovation and change in the gaming industry are a smaller market segment within the group of people who buy games as a whole. This is why a plurality of indy games devs can do well while AAA studio releases that target “gamers” as defined by gamer culture constantly under-perform. I think we’re looking at a community of perhaps 15 million “culture gamers” as opposed to a community of ~200 million “people who buy games” worldwide. Thus, Call of Duty Black Ops 2, reviled by gaming culture, sells 7.5 million units on launch day while critically acclaimed, meme-spawning Bioshock Infinite sells less than one million copies in its first month of sales.

Obviously, the situation is more complicated than I make it out here, and I’m far from being an expert. But from where I stand, taking “popular opinion on the internet” and conflating it to “the opinion of everyone who buys games everywhere” was a mistake on MatPat’s part. It’s not that “gamers want innovation” is a lie, it’s just that the definition of “gamer” is a lot more complex than it initially appears.

Anyway, Nekochan is still editing the next Indecent Gaming Podcast- sorry it’s not out yet, but until we get a rhythm going on how the release schedule is going to work, things are going to be shaky like this. Until then check out this Offbeatr for a monster girl breeding game I thought was cool. I don’t know much about the guys running it, but they asked me to take a look at their page and plug their stuff and, well, I wouldn’t be doing that if their game didn’t catch my interest.

7 Replies to “Are Gamers Hurting The Gaming Industry?”

  1. Great article, and I think you’re bang on…. hopefully the ranks of the more mature/creativity-focused gamers will increase with time as the proportion of adults who’ve been gaming since childhood increases.

    Also, thanks for the shoutout for that offbeatr project! They were asking for venues to get the word out so I suggested your blog!

    Just noticed someone else commenting on the project suggesting they contact you re your podcast….. you seem to have quite the reach in this community!

        1. Yeah, I saw that one. I didn’t mention it because he takes a very different approach to the discussion that doesn’t really touch on mine, and we’re sort of looking at different axes of the issue.

  2. LOL I lost it with that kind of gamer’s division (M FUND FTW!). It does make sense, but I think gamers nowadays or rather new generation gamers(?) adore the graphics and doesnt care about the gameplay or story. And that’s why I love RPG maker’s games. Games made by people who knows what story and gameplay are and IT’S FREE!!(except the commercials ones)

    1. Wow, really? I kind of think that games these days are experiencing a kind of storytelling renaissance. It’s true that the JRPG star has fallen, but technology has advanced so that less wordy games are capable of having excellent storytelling. Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, The Walking Dead, Mass Effect Series, Silent Hill: Downpour, Spec Ops: The Line, Thomas Was Alone… there are dozens and dozens of games with excellent stories and people interested in that actually get to pick and choose based on your tastes.
      Compared to the 16-bit era, if you are the kind of person who just doesn’t have a taste for fantasy you were straight-up fucked with no options. Pretty much the only games that had stories that were really great (not just “okay” or “decent”) were, what? Phantasy Star IV, Final Fantasy III, and Chrono Trigger? On the PC, you also had I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, probably a handful of other PC games (that I was too young for at the time), but not the multitude and (more importantly) the variety of titles available today.

      1. Haha, yeah. I guess I’m just an old school guy. Maybe I’m just reminiscing of those good old days when I’m happy with pixelated pictures lol. But, then again, a combination of good graphics, good story and good gameplay is always welcomed.

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