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  #1  
Old 06-27-2008, 02:07 PM
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Default The power of the consumer

I've talked a little bit about this before, but I was thinking about it the other day so I thought I would write up some more of my thoughts.

Lots of people seem to complain that there are too many clones, there is too little innovation in the industry, the big publishers seem to just push out sequel after sequel, graphics keeps improving but gameplay seems to be stagnate, games used to be better, and they just wish things would change.

Well none of this is going to change until YOU do something about it. Stop buying games that have good graphics and advertising, but crappy gameplay. Buy more games that actually innovate even if they aren't as polished or have as good of graphics as the AAA games that you constantly hear about.

What gamers don't realize is that the games market is really controlled by the gamers. They have all of the real power. Not the developers. Not the publishers. Not the retailers. All of the real power resides within the gamers themselves, because they control the money. Developers, publishers, and retailers (which I will simplify to devs for the rest of this post) go wherever the money tells them to go. Gamers can direct the industry in whatever direction they want.

Just some quick examples. If gamers stop buying games from a particular developer or publisher, they will go out of business or if they decide to buy tons of copies of a game like Diablo, the industry will gladly make them a ton of games just like Diablo.

There are 3 main ways that gamers can use their power (ie money): they can buy a game, they can choose not to buy a game, or they can pirate a game.

Each time you buy a game you are supporting all of the devs involved, that specific game, the game's genre, the game's platform, and the game industry as a whole. It also supports anything that the game did that was different than other games.

So why do you want to support all of this? Well if there are enough sales the devs will create more cool games and very likely sequels or expansions to the game that you bought, other devs will notice and make other games in the same genre, and devs will continue to make games for that platform or even switch to it from another platform. Also, any innovations, anything unique, any twists on old ideas will be noticed, copied, and used in other games. If you like the game, this is exactly what you want.

Now what happens if not enough people actually buy the game? The devs will struggle and possibly go out of business. If they do manage to stay in business, they certainly aren't going to make any sequels or expansions. Other devs definitely won't copy anything from a game that failed. Other devs might even steer clear of the entire genre or platform if this seems to be part of a larger trend. Now if you don't like the company or genre, then I doubt you care about any of this part and that's fine.

Here's where piracy comes in. Some of the impact of piracy is the same as just not buying a game. The more this happens, the more likely the devs will go out of business, the less likely other devs will make similar games, the less likely other devs will copy cool aspects of a game, and the less likely your platform will be supported. The thing is if you go and pirate a game, you would think that means you actually enjoy that game, but you are not supporting anyone and you are loudly telling the industry that you will not buy these types of games. Beware what you tell people, because they will listen. Unlike the non-buyer, you are actively encouraging the industry to stop making games you actually like.

While I'm on the topic of piracy, let me tell you two things about piracy that aren't talked about very often.

You are just one person. One pirate can't hurt anything, can it? Well, pirating games encourages other people to pirate games. It's like an epidemic, the attitude is contagious. It only takes a few people to pirate something before a ton of other people think it's acceptable also.

The other thing is devs responses to piracy. Regardless of the full monetary impact of piracy (which is a lot), it scares devs. It scares some devs less and some more, but in general it scares devs. Pirates try to justify their actions by saying they wouldn't have bought the game anyways, but even if that is true you are still scaring the devs. What's the natural human reaction to fear? Fight or flight. In the case of games, fight means DRM and flight means leaving the genre, platform, and/or the industry.

People can try to justify piracy however they want, but it still damages the industry and what's worse is it specifically damages the games people pirate and thus like. I have said this before, but piracy kills the thing you love in the long run, which is pretty dumb.

So I'll leave you with this, use your power wisely. When you find things you really like and want more, support it and the industry will make more.
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Old 06-27-2008, 02:18 PM
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Now if only the conglomerate you refer to as 'the consumer' was the only power in the industry and wasn't overrun by glitz crazed, hype-addled pre-adolescents interested primarily in photorealistic bullets and body parts.

And if you call me a cynic I'll bite you.
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Old 06-27-2008, 03:23 PM
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Yes, consumers are not one big happy group. There are definitely lots of subgroups and some of them are diametrically opposed.

My question has always been, do they really value the glitz over the gameplay or do they follow the herd and buy the latest and greatest thing that looks cool? In other words, are they actually supporting what they want or foolishly pushing the industry away from what they really want?

I guess I should have mentioned in the blog entry, that most of the people that bought Depths of Peril probably already know most of this and are already exerting their power. I do very much appreciate the support.
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Old 06-27-2008, 04:28 PM
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I think a broad majority are in part following the lead cowbell. However I'm afraid the larger part of thier purchasing decision is, in fact, more interested in high def bullets and bodies. Witness the largest demographic in most AAA titles and think about what you and the people around you were interested in at that age.
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Old 06-27-2008, 06:59 PM
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I know what i'm interested in at that age. it should be noted that X-com 1 is a game i feel deserves the greatest game of all time title. (X-com 2 is a little too hard. and the fact that underwater 3-d movement is advanced alien tech is just stupid)
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Old 06-28-2008, 07:27 PM
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It's a chicken or the egg question. Did the desire get there first, or did we put it there? Corporate America spends vast amounts of resources studying us. The last credible figure I saw was, if I remember right, to the tune of about 50 billion dollars in 1996.

Though we don't know the order of things, and it's been argued for about the last 2500 years in Western society, the ultimate goal of the application of the research seems to be this: they want us absorbing the medium, seeing ourselves do what they want us to do. It's a fairly powerful tool. It's also an interesting topic with crossroads into my field.

The sense of belonging is the most powerful drug in the world. More than adrenaline or the mind-numbing sensation given off by too many hours in front of the flickering lights.

---

You've got the consumer archetypes pegged on the head, basically. Though we're your customers, so you better know us! The part about how we affect your business and your industry is your specialty not mine as well.

Though, I just want to bring up an observation that I've heard somewhere and have kicked along over the years. Gaming is based on innovation. When gaming stops being innovative, it dies. Atari found out the hard way when they released ET. The Japanese figured this out afterwards, have been making consoles every couple of years since. To this day, which of the next-gen consoles have sold more than the other two combined? But heck, the stupid little two-screen and a stylus thingy sold more than all three of the big console systems.

Point I'm trying to make is, if gaming stagnates, people will go someplace else. It's happened before, it'll happen again. When I flip over to the back of the box and it tells me that the game portrays water more realistically than ever before... I put the box back.
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Old 07-01-2008, 12:04 PM
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I decided to write another blog about where innovation and consumer power intersect - http://www.soldak.com/forums/showthread.php?t=790.
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