Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let's Talk - "Pre-Orders, Niche Games & the CoD Phenomenon"

Last night while shopping at Gamestop I had an interesting conversation with an employee about pre-orders, and their importance to game sales. We talked about the pro's mostly, and never really discussed the negative effects that it could have on sales, or the gaming industry. When it comes to pre-orders I'm personally not entirely against them, and I'm not entirely for them. I think in some instances they can really hurt the industry, and in others they offer the customer some additional physical merchandise worth having, and collecting. On the negative side of the debate you'll find that developers, and publishers are now basing their retail copy production, and distribution on pre-order sales alone. The problem with this practice is that not all games are going to be blockbuster hits like 'Destiny', or 'Call of Duty'. Not every genre of video games, or video games in general are going to bring in that sort of income, especially when said game is categorized amongst the gaming community as a "niche" title. With that being said though there is still a thriving market for good, and I stress "GOOD" niche games.

What a developer, and publisher needs to understand is that sales are sales no matter if they are in the short, or long term. You will still be raking in the money (if your game isn't absolute rubbish) from sales long after the game has been stocked on store shelves, assuming you chose to send out more than one retail copy to each store. I remember a time when pre-orders were non-existent, and the gaming industry was still thriving. Of course this was back in the NES era when releases were final, and there were no half-assed games as well as no need for patches, or updates. I think developers have become too greedy, and too comfortable with releasing a partially completed game. All they care about is sales, sales, SALES!!! They could care less about delivering a quality finished product that needs no further attention. They are fully aware of the fact that certain subject matter, and certain attention grabbing details can fool unsuspecting gamers into forking over their hard earned money for such a game regardless of the game's state.

By now most of you have heard my rants on Twitter about Koei Tecmo's decision to only release a very limited stock of "Warriors Orochi 3" to stores. It's something that wounded me deeply as a gamer. I actually had the money in hand, and was more than willing to buy a retail copy of the game. Like so many other developers who are following the 'CoD' trend though the studio based their potential sales on pre-orders. I knew the game was going to be great regardless of the lack of hype as did many others out there. I was ready to play it, and review it at my own expense. Unfortunately that will never happen now, because the only copy of the game I can get is a full priced digital release which I will absolutely not pay for. Full priced digital games, and even digital games that are slightly under retail pricing are a sure fire way to cripple any sales that you could have had.

Believe it, or not, but we gamers actually want a physical copy of a game. We don't want a digital copy that can be corrupted, or lost entirely should a studio/console maker stop supporting it. This sh*t has happened before, and you'd be a fool to buy into the reasoning that it's not going to happen again. The fact of the matter is studios aren't going to be around forever. Online console services aren't going to be around forever. Physical discs however will last a hell of a lot longer when taken care of though, and will offer the gamer reassurance that they will have the game even after the digital copies are pulled from the online stores. I know some developers, and publishers are thinking about the convenience, and easy money to be made with digital releases, but I'm here to tell you that more often than not going all digital will cripple your sales even further unless the game in question gets a 75% discount like Capcom applied to some of their digital games recently.

If you are truly confident in your game you would be brave enough to put a decent amount of retail copies out there for the public. It's as simple as that. Like I said before though the gaming industry has become a greed ridden business that puts the customer last, and the developers/publishers first. It's a business about shortcuts, and half-assery. Of course it goes without saying that this growing trend of bad practices amongst developers, and publishers will eventually spell doom for the gaming industry as a whole. I'm talking about for the gamers, the developers, the publishers, and everyone else who has got their hands in on the action. I think the Youtuber @Boogie2988 said it best when he said that the consumer/gamer is mostly to blame. As long as we keep forking over the money for these half-ass products the developers, and publishers are going to keep selling us the same old BS. By not speaking with your wallet/purse, and not shopping wisely you are literally telling the developer that you want more of the same. The change has got to start with us gamers. Sure it might cause some of our all-time favorite gaming studios to go under, but with our choices the new developers that arise from the aftermath could learn from past mistakes, and could start producing the games/content that we long for. It is up to you, mostly.

I'm going to close in saying that pre-orders, as bad as they can be are not always bad. Basing your retail copy distribution on such sales however is definitely bad. Going all digital is also very bad. It's the worst thing that could happen to console gaming. Trust me. Despite the road gaming is currently traveling down there is still hope, and time to turn things around. It will take an army of gamers willing to speak with their wallets/purses, and game developers who will actually listen to them. We also need developers who aren't in it solely for the money, and who are confident in the games that they make. At the end of the day game development is a form of artistic entertainment. Developers I'm talking to you. Why not strive to impress your target audience like a true artist would. Be proud of your accomplishments if you are able to "WOW" the gamer, and get them to talk passionately about the great things you've accomplished. Big sales, while good are not going to get you by in the long run if your game is a prehistoric pile of sh*t. Speaking of CoD, that game is, and always has been about the hype. It's not about a quality experience at all. It's truly the SSDD. Don't base your game's design on such a horrible business model as CoD. Greed mongers produce CoD games. Real game developers produce memorable experiences that will last through generations, and games that will be talked about globally. You'd do good to remember that.

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