Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"CONFLICT OF INTEREST" - Blessed are the Publishing Giants

at 7:30 PM
Conflict of Interest takes a look at theory, ethics, and practice in video game journalism and the gaming industry as a whole. Because.

IGN took a look at the woes and hardships of major developers and the ridiculously expensive games they create this week. It would appear that the arms race toward higher and higher costs to produce major titles has led to some concerns in the industry: There are risks in spending millions to make millions, surprisingly. But is that really what's going on here?

Those poor souls...
Major publishers have put themselves in the exact situation they wanted: Making games so expensive that only a handful of developers could put out highly polished games on a regular basis. This position is now being reconsidered for two reasons: 1) In this economy, publishers are lucky that instead of buying a $60 rehash of Call of Duty every two years, consumers don't just put shotguns in their mouths and 2) it turns out that lots of smaller developers are putting out games that don't cost millions of dollars and are still making a profit. If major publishers were able to squeeze out this competition and ignore the shitty economy, they would certainly do so.

The article makes companies like EA come across as heroes for valiantly taking multi-million dollar "risks" by pumping out sequel after sequel every year. These issues are not unique to the gaming industry, but they are related to the console life cycle. The extended length of the most recent console cycle has led to a dearth of new ideas, allegedly, because consumers are less willing to spend money on an aging console. What this actually means, operationally, is that major publishers are sitting on their best ideas until the next line of consoles are released. This has historically been true, and has led the industry to introduce new consoles every few years as a way of reinvigorating the market.
Will extended console lifespans lead to an ever-increasing dearth of innovation and ideas? Of course not. It only will in the case of major publishers. The article itself admits as much, describing the rich independent games market. The subtext here is that the gaming market, ultimately, is synonymous with the big publishers, and that's to be expected from IGN. Yet the "plight" of these industry giants is anything but. Economic conditions and the market are not strangling creativity; they are taking care of that themselves.

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