very interesting trends occurring. Namely, the social gaming scene is seeing a shift away from casual titles to gateway core games. When I first heard this news I rejected it out of hand. However it appears to be true to some degree. FarmVille and it's spawn are down and titles such as Trials Evolution, Minecraft (Xbox version) and The Walking Dead are all selling like crazy. Normally I would be ecstatic about this demographic shift except I think there's something else going on here too. Triple AAA publishers such as the makers of Kingdoms of Amalur are struggling to keep afloat. I think that some of the hardcore crowd are migrating to more mid-core titles. The real question to ask though is why?
As you might guess by looking at the title and attached image for this post, it has a lot to do with recent game industry business practices. Big developers are still turning out fun to play games, but such games more often than not have a lot of determents and barriers to entry. Looking to recent releases we have the highly anticipated Diablo 3, a game that is a blast to play provided you have a constant internet connection and the Blizzard run servers are working properly. Couple that with the planed in-game real money for virtual gear store and you have a micro-transaction cash cow for the IP holder, but a kick in the nuts to people who plunked down $60 on a game that is also capitalizing on the free-to-play model.
I'll skip the whole "DRM that punishes paying customers is unacceptable" line that I've been preaching since this blog's inception and move onto an upcoming title, Dragon's Dogma. Capcom has an extremely expensive to develop open world fantasy RPG on their hands here which they seem to be determined to hamstring before it even gets out the gate. Disk Locked Content (the other DLC) again? Do they not realize hackers will crack that stuff in a week or two tops? Not to mention the one character per account limitation is antithetical to the entire game concept. Employee abuse accusations aside stuff like this only accomplishes one thing - a reduction in sales and a damaging of the corporate brand. More importantly it undermines the hard work that writers, coders, artists, and animators put into each and every single one of these franchises.
So why is this happening? It doesn't benefit gamers. It doesn't benefit the developers. It doesn't even benefit the major publishers in the long run since statistics are showing that they're discouraging more and more customers. It's a toxic industry wide situation created because inept, Mammon worshiping executives decide to screw with those vital details and it needs to be stopped.