“We’re on a race to the bottom. Prices are going to crash. People buying bundles and waiting for sales are literally killing gaming. Entitled gamers want videogames for free. We are ALL going to die.”
It’s a familiar refrain, more so since The Great Indie Bubble Burst of 20XX.
There’s much beard stroking, thinking, thunking and clunking of what is killing gaming, how we can stop it and obviously everything is ruined because some people on the internet said it and I can see it with my eyes, damn you. MY EYES. Some days, people mention the great videogame crash that engulfed the universe during the eighties and warn us that it will happen again. Much like apocalypse cults, this is pretty much a yearly event. The videogame rapture is not upon us yet.
But I digress.
Let me introduce you to what I’m going to call “Bobbins’ Law” and it goes a bit like this:
Bobbins’ Law: The time from someone mentioning ‘race to the bottom’ on a forum to everyone blaming people who buy videogames is 3 posts max.
It’s a short law because everyone knows that all good laws have to fit in under 140 characters for maximum retweetability. Probably? Dunno. I’m never really sure how this marketing thing works really. BUT I’ll tell you what I do know if you come a little closer. Clossserrrr. Closssserrrs.
People who buy videogames aren’t to blame.
Because really, if you stop and think about it for a second, that’d be really daft. Yet any time this discussion rears its head, there’s a bunch of developers who’ll cry “entitled gamers” and there’s a bunch of people who buy videogames also talking about those other “entitled gamers” who aren’t them whilst trying to work out how they can save videogames and the answer is always the same:
“Buy games you value at a good price to support the developers”
That’s really, really great and I don’t think there’s a developer alive that won’t thank you for your custom. OK, there probably is but we all have our own personal shitlists for stuff like that, right?
Let me tell you another secret. Come closer. Closssssser. Closssssserrrrrrrrr.
That won’t save anything or fix videogames
It won’t! It really won’t.
It won’t because no-one really stopped doing that. Not for reals. Sure, there’s more people waiting for sales now because they know sales are going to happen because who doesn’t do sales in 2014 but there’s still plenty of people buying videogames full price.It kinda balances out because there’s more people actually really buying videogames for reals with real money and stuff. Sure, Activision report that preorders are down across the board but no-one’s really sitting there and saying “man, these day one sales are really terrible now because everyone is waiting for a sale” in big box and why is that? Because people are buying a metric shitload of videogames at full or as near as price still. We’re actually doing fairly OK there. Even in this time of everything allegedly being ruined for indie developers, some games are selling massive amounts and doing just fine.
Yet videogames are being killed. Like, you’ll hear people invoke stuff like “it’s how the market is”, “it’s entitled gamers” and all manner of things and yeah, yeah, yeah. Look. Let’s get this out the way now.
1) The market for videogames is not the same as it was last year. It’s kinda the same as it was last week but it’s still different and things have changed. In a short while when nuSteam arrives, it’ll be different again. We change. Things change. The reality of the market is, the market is forever in flux and in need of adapting to. Those of us who make and sell videogames have a say in how the market changes. We’re not powerless.
2) It’s not people who buy videogames who put their games on sale or in bundles so why are they being blamed and why are they expected to fix this?
As earlier, that idea is so ridiculous when you think about it but there it is, it’s gotten a firm hold into the lore of how videogames wot get sold and man, come on. There’s more people buying videogames. There’s more people making and selling videogames. There’s more people selling videogames reporting success in selling videogames than at any point I can remember since the eighties. There’s also more people making a nob of it because selling videogames is hard, getting noticed is hard and it’s all hard and sometimes maybe there’s just games people kinda don’t want or don’t want to buy many of and sometimes people either can’t or don’t know how to shout loud enough and we’ve passed pretending this is a meritocracy by now, right?
People carrying on doing what they’re doing when they buy videogames, it won’t save videogames because the problems inherent with selling videogames don’t lie with the people who buy videogames. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do and taking advantage of the offers that are put in front of them but mostly they’re just buying games they like with the money they have. Sure, there’s some noddy who’ll type onto the internet that a developer is a terrible human being for charging $x when they should be charging $y and they’re not going to buy it anyway and sure, pricing is a bit of a dark art and A/B testing prices to find the right one is smart thinking and a thing not enough people take time to do or can’t do because they’re going from zero to Steam where their customers are Valve’s customers really and and and *takes a breath*
Selling games is not easy and not without pitfalls.
Selling games is hard. The reality of selling videogames on the internet is that most games don’t make much, if any, money at all. The successes are the outliers. But shhh. Don’t tell anyone in case they stop making videogames. In the past if a game flopped, it’d disappear without a trace. Now, people maybe buy them for a quid with five others or something. It’s not a lot but that’s something, right? It helps someone there.
Or it’s killing gaming. I guess it depends on how you look at it.
BUT it’s the developers who put their games in bundles. It’s the developers who put their games out for cheap. It’s the developers who follow where they’re told the money is. It’s the developers who follow the success stories and try to repeat them and some do but some don’t. Pretty much the same as videogames has always been just that our problems now are our problems now and someone had a different set a year or so ago. If every single person bought a game at full price, developers would still find a way to run headlong into a wall because they’re human and humans do these things. Sometimes out of stupidity, sometimes out of greed but mainly because most of us don’t really know what we’re doing we just kinda pretend and a lot of us need a grown up, y’know? We’re all just winging it which is why this whole blame lark is so silly.
And it’s often developers who are the quickest to say “entitled gamers” before you can fart because maybe, maaaaaybe that’s easier than looking at who’s actually really responsible for where we get to in videogames. (We should probably just drop using the word “entitled” for a bit anyway until everyone’s had a nice sit down and a cup of tea and we all feel a bit better. Maybe then we’ll realise that no-one killed videogames anyway).
Yet it’s developers who have the power to change things. It’s developers that can, to a larger degree than they often credit, course correct any mistakes. It was, remember, developers who came up with the idea of indie bundles in the first place. If enough developers are unhappy with how bundles are going, they can stop putting their games in bundles. If there’s that many unhappy that games cost $1, well then. They can try and change that. There’s far from an even distribution of power here and that’s worth bearing in mind but everyone who makes games can change games in some way. Everyone who sells games can help change how games are sold, where games are sold and how much they cost. Every one of us who makes games has some sort of power over things, even if it is, for most, a little teensy bit in our own corners of the web.
Most won’t even know where to start though because, right, selling games is hard.
Let me tell you ANOTHER secret. Come closer. Closssseerrrrrr. Clooooossssssssssssssssserrrr.
Just because you read a few indie developers saying that we’re all fucked doesn’t mean we actually are
OK, so the reverse is also true. Just because I’m telling you now things aren’t all fucked doesn’t mean that they actually aren’t. The truth, as ever, is way more complicated.
Things ARE a bit of a mess right now. Bundles, Steam, other stores and all the things around selling videogames are a bit of a mess and we’re all trying to find our way through this maze and get to the other side, videogames and livelihood intact. It’s complicated. It’s always complicated. No sooner do you get a handle on one thing then ooh, we’re doing this thing now and oh man, how is ANYONE supposed to keep up with this?
But the last people to blame for this mess are the people who buy videogames. They’re the ones who stop it all from sinking. Always. Except the ones who aren’t very nice but they’re not very nice so fuck those guys. PS: It’s always guys.
The reason I bring up Bobbins’ Law is, well, it’s a sign that there’s enough people who buy videogames who want to stop it all from sinking. It’d be a shame to let them down, yeah?