in Gaming: “Halo Reach is what’s wrong with the gaming industry today”
Over at SlashGear Don Reisinger thinks that Halo Reach epitomizes the shortcomings of the contemporary gaming industry. It’s an interesting thought and Reisinger is perfectly entitled to his opinion. I take issue to several things, however. Let’s take a step back and see if we can see a bigger picture.
The very first claim Reisinger has is that the ‘90s was the golden era of gaming. What is the measure of that? By all tangible measures the general trend of the gaming industry is upward. Just the fact that the industry itself is not a niche market means that gaming has been successful. Frankly speaking Reisinger is calling back to a time that’s not correctly remembered. Take an example from politics.
Basically, Reisinger was much younger when the gaming industry was young and remembers it fondly whereas the novelty of video games has worn off and now he is noticing its flaws. Even back in the day the video gaming industry had its flaws. After all, there were the ups and downs (such as how Nintendo arguably saved the video gaming industry when it was crashing). [I just checked the Wikipedia entry and turns out there are more crashes than I knew about. Take a look.]
That aside the next point made is that the gaming industry is “dominated by a handful of companies that want to quickly turn a profit.” I’d argue that Steam is a great counterexample to this. The availability and popularity of “indie” games on Steam weakens what Reisinger says. There is truth to his claim but it’s changing for the better so rather than reminiscing he could look to the future.
The last big point that Reisinger makes is that… well it’s a bit tough to say for sure but it seems like he’s saying there are too many games that are from established franchises and not enough diversity. Let’s take the eponymous Halo franchise. In the Halo lineup of games, Halo Wars broke the mold of Halo games and provided a RTS game for consoles. This is an example of a well-established franchise taking a risk. Again perhaps it’s not something that happens enough but as franchises take hold and become a popular name, that’s when taking risks becomes profitable. While a developer could risk it all, remember that these developers are not faceless corporations but companies with people working for it trying to feed their families (or just themselves). It’s entirely unfair to say they should take more risks when their livelihood is at stake. Once the established franchises are making money then other paths can be explored.
Which brings me to this: if people don’t buy the games, they’re not going to make them. Games have bigger budgets now and it takes more copies sold to get a return because most people still follow the traditional model of selling games. (Steam offers an interesting path that might avoid some of those shortcomings.) If the game developers can’t recoup costs on a game they have no reason to make that game. Let me reiterate: if people don’t buy the games.
That’s probably the most crucial part of it. The games Reisinger claims the industry needs aren’t being bought. Why are the masses purchasing filth like Halo: Reach, though? Oh:
Halo Reach gets all the accolades that most gamers say it deserves… The game might be fun to play. It might be a great step up over predecessors.
This is conflicting. Earlier he says “there are still unique and fun titles in the wild.” Perhaps he means it differently, but I take it to mean that the other games that are easier to find (a la Halo: Reach) are not fun. Yet he calls it fun to play! And for all he harps on about innovation, he says Halo reach is a great step up over predecessors! Isn’t that innovation?
There are definitely great points that are floating around in this column. But Reisinger misses it all (at least in this article; I cannot say that he is not aware of them) and instead focuses on something intangible and often skewed by a youthful, immature perception versus a more matured perception closer to current time.
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