It doesn’t seem too long ago that the industry was climbing out of certain doom. A byproduct of poor games that flooded the market, the gaming industry witnessed it’s first crash. Atari released multiple competing consoles in succession while competitors continued to create and promote their own. The devaluing of games continued with the uncontrollable influx of poor quality games. Without any control over the rate of titles published for these consoles, many stores were left with mountains of nameless/faceless games that consumed shelf space.
Buying into the craze of video games, retailers were burned and left with overstock that failed to sell. The massive failure of some higher profile titles (like ET) were the nail in the coffin for the gaming industry as a whole. Consumers had lost trust in games, retailers had lost trust in games; there was no one left. It was only by dumb luck (or sheer genius) that Nintendo found success, and revitalized the industry. Still, it took decades to shake the stigma of video games being an overpriced toy for children.
Now, less than 30 years later, it feels too similar to those days. We have the “little brother” consoles that are still in circulation (PS2, NGC, Xbox) while the latest generation of home consoles overtakes the main TV. This is in addition to PSP, DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSXL, 3DS, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, Zune, and various other mobile gaming platforms. Did I miss any? In addition to a console market that is reaching dangerous levels of saturation, we have an even less controllable situation on the PC front.
PC games are more famously being sold online, these days, in the form of casual games. With web portals appearing everywhere, each trying to take a piece of the core and casual market, it’s becoming harder to dig through the collection of clones to find a unique experience. By no surprise, many casual web portals have reduced their price points from $20 to just $7. This has it’s own share of issues, but more importantly, the flood of free Flash games and the rise of game maker tools sets the expectations pretty low for the PC experience. The bar is continually lowered as games become easier to create. Now, with high school kids pushing out free web games and college students making games in their free time, it is a wonder that anyone would pay for games anymore.
I fear that the quality, and the trust, in games is falling out again. Let’s face it; how many times have you been burned by a bad purchase from the App Store?