Last year has probably been the most challenging ever for most people working and living in the game development world. I mean hell, it’s been awful and I’m trying to see what’s the deal. Let’s go back.
Games on computers have been a boy’s club for the first three decades of their existence (70s 80s and 90s). Boys, not adults.
Then 2000 happened. For the first time of the existence of games and consoles it was hype, cool to be in your mid twenties and play games like GTA after work.
Then things got faster. By 2004 games were really entering mainstream with Popcap killing it in the PC downloadable business with their puzzle games for moms. WoW reaching out like crazy. The Nintendo DS. The Wii at the corner of 06-07.
In 2004 ten years ago I felt that game culture was maturing and finally showing to the world its tremendous power. But a major crowd –commercially speaking- was still a boy’s club.
Boy’s club means sexism in some form. It’s not tied to games, it’s everywhere like that. White boy’s club adds racism.
And we in the industry we fed them with everything they wanted, guns titties no diversity you name it. Those guys have enormous pockets and buy tons of games game developers have been making billions thanks to that crowd.
I thought that game design would change, cater to more different people but production costs rising exponentially meant that we had to make money instead of making the medium progress, smarter.
Don’t get me wrong for the past ten years the medium progressed and tons of interesting and different games that I couldn’t have thought being possible have been made but game culture still relies on the Original Gangsta game culture: the boy’s club. The videogame boy’s club, hardcore games and questionable aesthetics.
Like a fan of a band always prefers their first album, a lot of people in games players or developers value that OG side, we grew up with this! But that’s where I didn’t stick with it. It’s the past to me. I want something else badly.
Nintendo tried to avoid that crowd after the Wii, thinking that the market was big enough. They at first presented the Wii U as just an evolution of the Wii but sales made them quickly go back to cater to the boy’s club: big guns, pads with 4562467 buttons etc. Those guys have money. However Nintendo knows they nail the kid department so the boy’s club is just additional revenue. The blue ocean is a mirage, it’s more like millions of swimming pools and the boy’s club one is still the biggest and most reliable revenue-wise. Publishers have issues though.
I look at Watch Dogs by Ubisoft, 28 weeks to pull 3.4M units sold. That is bad. In 2010 they would reach that amount in 7 weeks. And it’s their only game in the top 20. By comparison Pokemon for 3DS, 3 weeks in the charts 5M units sold. That’s what all AAA publishers want and basically outside two publishers and two games (GTA and CoD), no one is making that kind of money with the boy’s club anymore. There are too many games out there and gamedev costs are insane in the brain. 20 gigs first day patches are the result of extremely complex game development scenarios.
From the programmer to the player everybody is like “fuck this”. We truly reached a point.
I think it’s going to give tons of people some room to redefine game culture and game business for real this time. I hope.