While summer is often said to be a persistent gaming drought, I think we saw some solid releases that could push gaming to a year round affair at some point. The characteristic drought after the holidays has already become a hotspot to release games that need increasingly more work to be ultra polished.
If you are old enough to recall the movie Jaws you should know that movie sparked the idea of the summer blockbuster. Previous to its release the summer was only time for kids movies. Could things ever go that route on the gaming front? I think it may have to as long as we are awash in new material.
It’s definitely a frontier to tackle and I think as this summer begins to wind down and we shake off the hangovers from being away from the gaming scene we will see a changed landscape. No blockbusters, but a steady stream of awesome smaller and indie games which don’t seem so small or so indie anymore. Don’t scoff if you only play the big ones, these digital games are getting better and better. Perhaps next summer we will see that smaller budget digital offers have aimed right for that summer release when people are dead tired of looking at their backlog and entranced by what looks great for short term fun on the storefronts of Steam, PSN, and Xbox Live.
The big games do like their big release dates, especially that one right smack dab in the middle of the fall. And as other projects finish, they release up to Christmas time creating the usual overload. When that happens this year there will be a subtle shift in gaming that could change almost everything. Why now? Well there’s a perfect storm of conditions coming a few months from now.
I know the PC world will chug along like it always has, there is a died in the wool aspect to those folks. The manic wildness of Garry’s Mod and having the best resolutions and such is just too much to give up ever. Back in console land, (where I spend most of my time) some tables have seriously turned. PS4 is outselling Xbox One at 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratios. I don’t think anyone saw this kind of change coming. Why it happened is a matter for chatters to discuss, more importantly we have to ask: what changes will this cause?
Luckily, we have a few clues. Very quickly after the world was excited by the reveal of a second entry in the wonderfully rebooted Tomb Raider series, we were told it would be a timed exclusive for Xbox One. Yes, the Xbox One that has fewer units out in the world, the one that not enough people are buying. In the real world with people who don’t dance across the interwebs for gaming news, they hear that the new Tomb Raider is an Xbox exclusive and nothing more. In the end that is a pretty nasty form and desperate move. It is the beginning, the test to see if consistently, literally, paying the game’s developers and/or publishers to keep their game off other platforms. A great way to do that is to make yourself the initial publisher.
That’s what they are up to. Sony is still playing with timed exclusive online content as they manage to steal the online DLC goods from Call of Duty, who used to sell them to Microsoft. More than that though, the newly announced Final Fantasy VII remake will be a timed exclusive for PS4 (if it ever comes). We all lost our minds when Microsoft bought multiplatform status for the Final Fantasy main franchise. Sony has to lock this one up because if they don’t, someone else will. Imagine the fan reaction of a timed exclusive for Xbox of the Final Fantasy VII remake. The internet would break and heads would explode like they do in 80’s movies.
In the new console wars there will of course be foot soldiers sending waves of digital diarrhea at one another but where it was once a matter of which console sold the most it will now be a matter of which games who gets to enjoy first and for how long?
“No Tomb Raider for you!”
“For how long?”
“A month, maybe even 6, but right now there are ‘no plans’ to release on your system.”
Well, that’s a hell of a club to hit someone with when it comes to huge franchises. We obviously know who in the console biz has the most money to throw around to make life difficult for fans. We also know which company has the most, best studios creating true first party console exclusives. It has always been Sony. From Sony’s standpoint they hope to sell their system this well on a long term basis by providing their vaunted exclusives. These are games that many who jumped ship from Xbox to PS4 haven’t played, heard of, or previously spent time bashing online. Hence the remasters.
What’s different about this year is that Nathan Drake will exit the scene, there are many questions surrounding the ability of God of War to continue in its current state, we have no update on Quantic Dream’s game, The Last Guardian isn’t coming any time soon and Sony just doesn’t have a flagship FPS with Killzone in tatters and Resistance on rest (perhaps permanently).
These are the parameters. What they lead to is quite different from the “Gears vs Uncharted” or “Halo vs Killzone” or “Hey, why do you get the online goodies early?” spats of the last generation. This war will be about deprivation. About corporations putting their arms around various third party franchises and giving them a big hug.
Of course, as an evolved gamer you can beat the lot of them by having both consoles, or all if Nintendo ever gets their act together, however one of the big reasons people moved to PS4 was months of news that made it clear games run better on that system. And then there are expenses.
Yes this is sure to be a rock ’em sock ’em console war fraught with copyrights, back room deals, gag orders, and more than a little bit of animosity. Is there any good news? Well sure! It’ll cost you, but I predict we will see more and more incredible special and limited editions of big games for the different systems. If you had to wait six months to get a game because a corporation didn’t want you to have it, chances are you’ll see the best version with plenty of extras when it does arrive. That will be the basic “sorry” package to whoever got punched in the gut. Basically we will be kindly catered to when it’s legal to do so.
These tactics were played with all through the last generation, but now that everyone knows their place in where this generation is headed I foresee those tests being cranked up to full scale. Even Sony who “doesn’t pay for exclusivity” will do so, just by such new means as handling publishing or development costs.
So why did I talk about the smaller games and summer? While the giants duke it out, destroying the metaphorical city around them, actual gaming trends will be set by the littler guys. With the big games costing even more to produce (the costs are just astronomical), they will keep merging into one another to gain the widest fan base possible. Evidence? Go find me a big game that isn’t expanding their worlds or going full open world. That’s the obsession now if you haven’t noticed. In those sleepy winter months while we wait to get the games we were denied by timed exclusivity, gamers will develop enough antipathy to explore the fertile world of digital and indie gaming that has now become a matrix into which games that are supported on Kickstarter are slotted. Those best reflect what kind of games people want to play because gamers put their money where their mouth is.
In short, the kind of gaming that people want will have its day as the broader newsworthy experiences are fought over. Linear experiences can live on, hand holding can die, classic JRPG battles can return, games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night can flourish once again. As these many Kickstarter projects and other car garage programmers make their way to the network there will be a viable option to fill a space in gaming to give us all some instant gratification during the ugliness to come.
If I’m right, room will be made for a growing populace of gamers that are used to waiting, starting to love different kinds of games in the interim, and ultimately caring less and less about when the big games come. That leads to fewer full price sales, and perhaps fewer sales for people put off by bad business practices (yes they exist). Apathy isn’t a good thing to instill in gamers.
Batten down the hatches because you’ll need a safe place while the giants play games with your hobby meant to damage each other and their fans in the harshest way possible: deprivation.
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