“A man chooses! A slave obeys!” – Andrew Ryan
Since I was old enough to pick up a controller, I have been playing video games. I can distinctly remember the joys of playing Super Mario 3 on the NES, the fury and shame of being destroyed by my cousins in Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis, and the sheer emotions that I didn’t know I’d feel in the sweeping narrative of Final Fantasy X on the PlayStation 2.
In the times of my depression, and my crippling anxiety, video games were one of the most important things in my life. Games like Mafia III, Just Cause 3, and TitanFall 2, were a saving grace and allowed me to vent my frustrations, escape, and fight against other people, that eventually helped me get out of my pit of despair.
So it brings me great pain to see the potential of this current generation seemingly go to waste due to shady business practices, lack of vision, and not listening to your consumer base. Today I will talk about some of my thoughts on where AAA gaming, and the industry itself, is going.
Let Us Start With Corporate greed.
Dr. Wallace Breen (Half-Life 2) “Be wise. Be safe. Be aware.”
As a kid, if there was a dream job it would have been video game developer. As an adult, it would be one of the jobs I would be the most afraid of obtaining. Everyone who has played video games for any discernible period of time has thought of developing their own games and many have sought to work in the offices and behind the desks of some of the best studios in the world developing the next Witcher or Red Dead Redemption.
While this is a noble pursuit, many would-be developers forget to account for the burnout that can happen very quickly via the video game crunch (as talked about in this Kotaku article). While the struggles in meeting deadlines and the sheer scope of some of the biggest games in the industry require massive amounts of man power, it can all come tumbling down regardless of the sweat and tears, if the company goes belly up due to foolish business practices.
“Because that’s how games work. Winners get prizes and losers bleed a lot and then get eaten by worms.” Chesty (Fable 2)
In one of the most visible cases of corporate greed and lack of vision, Telltale closed it doors after creating one of the most talked about story driven franchises of the last 10 years. As asked about in the article, Telltale upper management was overly confident: Why Telltale’s management was so blindly confident — or even deceptive, as some sources surmise — is a mystery to the people who worked there. Some pointed to the company’s habit of not sharing information with employees unless it was positive. “There was a huge lack of foresight — anyone could have told you Walking Dead 4 was not going to be a hit — and they failed to keep employees in the loop because top talent was already jumping ship left and right.”
That confidence lead to foolishly hedging all their bets into, essentially, making the same game 10 times over. The formula of “The Walking Dead” style of gameplay, and it’s surprising success/cult following, led the company down a dark road of cutting corners and ultimately, the stagnation of gameplay, and lack of creativity put the company on the chopping blocks. The lack of communication with their staff and the further lack of clear vision led to Telltale closing its doors for good.
This leads me to a company that, I am sure you as the reader are familiar with:
“Honesty is the key to any relationship. If you can fake that, you’re set.” Foo Priest (Dragon Warrior VII)
Electronic Arts was created and founded by Trip Hawkins in May 27, 1982 in San Mateo, California. In that 36 year span EA has grown to become one of the most commercially successful video game publishers of all time, and one of the most reviled. If you want the history of the company you can see the video linked here to watch a good breakdown.
The current state of EA Has been covered by many, many people, from their corporate greed to the sitting down of multiple studios. This is concerning because of the way EA has run its studios into the ground, BioWare as a whole, may be next.
Suffice it to say with the current onslaught of negative news when it comes to Anthem, BioWare may be going the way of Telltale, and for many that would be one of the most heart-wrenching pieces of news from this industry.
With the news that EA has let go over 350 of its employees it is a uncertain for the industry in some ways.
Stay tune as I will continue with my thoughts on AAA gaming soon.
Thanks for reading.