Thursday, November 16, 2017
Wash Up and Eat Properly
Rumor has it that some of EA's past games were marked on budgets equal to the amount actually spent making the game. In other words, they could have reduced the development costs of certain games by nearly 50 percent simply by dumping all the thirty second advertisements in lieu of sending some free copies out to Youtubers and Twitch streamers. It seems silly to do otherwise considering word of mouth has, for a long time, carried more weight than simple product placement. Visceral Studio, the now defunct makers of the Dead Space series, was based out of San Francisco...one of the most expensive cities in the world. When you look at companies like IBM, they have all but deserted their corporate offices in large part because it's no longer necessary to have everyone under the same roof. A variety of video games, including Kerbal Space Program as well as Ori and the Blind Forest, were made by a team scattered across the globe that coordinated their development efforts via the internet. This sort of dispersed workforce brings up the question of executive supervision. Former EA employees have gone on record saying that the company has a nontrivial number of people who get paid a lot to do very little. Reducing wasteful administrative spending though is only one part of the problem when it comes to leadership.
This brings me to my final point which is trend chasing. As far as I know nobody has gotten rich making Minecraft clones or Clash of Clans copycats. Worse still are flash-in-the-pan hits like Angry Birds and Farmville. Real success comes from franchises like the Soulsborne series...which, I should stress, wasn't an instant hit; Before Demon's Souls there was King's Field and before Command and Conquer there was Dune II: Battle for Arrakis. It takes time, money, effort and a few iterations on an idea to cultivate something that is both innovative and entertaining. Hitting paydirt straight out of the gate is exceedingly rare and in most cases fleeting.
Of course most businesses only see the future in terms of next quarter profits, and as such often screw themselves when it comes to sustainable profits. They can scoop whales and dolphins out of the water for awhile, but how long until that well runs dry? More importantly, where's the respect for the craft? I'm not going to climb on my high horse and claim video games are art, but at the very least they are supposed to be for the express purposes of entertaining the people who buy them...not to abuse and exploit. This is rapidly degrading into a rant so I'll wrap it up by simply saying developer harassment and death threats are not acceptable, but publishers and shareholders that push this kind of garbage need to engage in some serious introspection rather than dumping their problems on enthusiasts of the hobby.