Thursday, May 31, 2012

E3 Is Here, But The Future Isn't Exactly So Bright...

OK, I'm kind of annoyed.  Don't get me wrong, folks - I'm THRILLED about the Wii U, new Vita and 3DS games, all the new console games coming, fun stuff like Torchlight II, Dishonored, Sleeping Dogs and even the new Steel Battalion stealing my free time even more than Dragon's Dogma, The Witcher II and a few other games I've been buried in this past month. But something shifty is going on under all the flashy lights at this year's show that's a tad unsettling. Despite the huge amount of new games coming, a number of key publishers are skipping the event this year and there has even been criticism coming from a few well-known names about the show not being relevant any longer. In addition, there's still a worldwide recession going on (worse in some spots than others) and layoffs happening all over the industry, yet it forges on ahead with the plan to make us all lazier than we need to be, which is a really bad thing if you think about it...

Sure, the days of strolling down to the game store to pick up a new or used game are slowly but surely winding down, but for a large enough chunk of people, it's still their only means of getting what they want to play, period. That and hell, sometimes it's just a cool way to kill an hour or so. Not everyone is busy walking and texting at the same time, camped out in a Starbucks checking their status or becoming the fake Mayor of the Men's room or whatever. Sometimes, it's just fun to get of your ass and get down to a store just to see what you're missing in real life, not just some tiny HD image you can ogle on a phone or other device screen. That and if you ask around, you'll find that not everyone wants to go all-digital for a whole lot of reasons not too many in the industry (save for those who know what the real deal is) really seems to care about.

I'm one of a bunch of people I know that actually doesn't give a rat's ass about anything but GAMES on a console. I've never used any movie download service, music, photo or other optional app that drops in as a mandatory update I'll never get the chance to use because I actually love some privacy in my gaming life.  Sure, it's not as cool as they want me to be, but that's they way I like to play and I don't think any company should have the right to dictate anything otherwise. OK, I'm not that much of an antisocial jerk, mind you - I just feel that ANY service in a console not focused on what that console is primarily created for, should be optional. And paid for by users who want to use these services. Hell, I can use the memory space on my hard drive taken up by some of this junk I have no need for to store more game data. If I want to watch a movie, that's what I have cable for. If I want to listen to music or look at photos, I'll turn off my console and go do that in another room or at a friend's house if they're showing me picture for some reason.

I say it's only common sense that game companies need to think about asking those people what they want first and foremost before coming up with new planes for any future services. The reason is dirt simple: those who can afford to are ALREADY buying into your next all-in-one wonder system. That money is already claimed, as it is whenever early adopters latch onto a new product. It's time for these publishers to think very hard about how to let a few more people start spending money on their product, even if these companies have to take a slight step backward so they can serve those who don't yet use their online services. Yes, Steam is brilliant and it has been for a while, but it's not perfect. No online service is mind you, and until the kinks are all worked out (where other than routine maintenance stopping users from getting content), the fact remains that at some point when something goes wrong, every user of an online service will suffer through the inability to access what they paid for when they want to play.

Yeah, yeah, streaming games is great, as is the potential of a disc-free home game platform, but not now, not next year and frankly, not for a few years until EVERYONE can get the same content at the same time at the same speed. Oh yeah, at a fair price, at that (as in NOT shafted with usage fees and insane contracts) This currently isn't a reality and it seems that the industry's "it sucks to be you" approach to consumers on low speed connections or without the means to afford access to one on a regular basis  is taking root without facing a particularly pesky issue. Not finding a way to get these gamers into any sort of all-digital solution that doesn't end up pricing them out of the hobby is only going to cause more financial trouble for those companies who have no clue how real people live outside of the tech-savvy crowd who think we all have an iDevice handy or are all up to speed with the latest 4G data plans. Add to this security and server issues that always plague these services plus the fact that at some point, people will start wanting their privacy back and I predict a crash coming that will surprise the overly be called.

If you want to see the bottom fall out of the games industry hard, ladies and gentlemen, well - just keep an eyeball peeled on where things are going as it runs headfirst off the cliff and tries to land on the Cloud, only to realize that that it's not as sturdy as it seems to be. All those eggs in one flimsy basket with a forest of wolves waiting for their meal hovering about is more like it. Retail isn't dead yet, so stop trying so damn hard to make sure it goes away and all we're stuck with is yet another service that's packed and useless during peak hours, making some of us wish we actually had a physical disc to pop in and play or a way to enjoy that game without being forced to play online. Diablo III is the new poster child for busted launches, but it wasn't the first and certainly won't be the last. I'm gathering those smartypants types out there who think up these bright ideas are assuming we'll all just "accept" this as the norm and "get over it"... but you know what they say about those who assume, right?


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