Sunday, June 24, 2012

The great videogame crash of 2013

It pops up every so often. It seems the shadow of the great videogame crash of 1983 still looms over the whole industry, rearing its ugly head every time someone feels something's rotten in the hellish pit that is the very same industry.

Today's a bit different. Because, much as I'd like to echo that point of view, I won't.

The great videogame crash of 2013 (or whenever you want) won't happen.

It's not upon us. It's already behind us. And no one noticed.

First, for the yung'uns, a bit of history.

In 1983 happened what many people nowadays call the videogame crash of 1983 (wow. you'd think someone would have come up with something a bit more imaginative, like, "the great videogame crash of 1984 except it happened a year before" or something. But no one did).

What basically happened is that the market was flooded with shit. Like, almost LITERALLY shit. ET the videogame, shitty ports, abundance of platforms to the point you'd have to release your shit a thousand times just to sell well enough to cut up on losses and stuff. Designers weren't credited or paid. Games - or rather, shitty products the big players wanted people to still call games - were rushed.

Confidence in such bullshit was at an all-times low. Shit was bound to happen. Shit happened.

Fast forward to 2012 A.D. Shit was bound to happen. Shit happened. But this time was different.

I'm not the only guy out here who'll tell you he's lost all trust. As a matter of fact, I've become extremely wary and cynical.

I was barely there for the great crash of '83. I was 5. I lived through it more or less unaware. But I've lived my life among videogames. NES. C64. PC. Gameboy. SNES. PS1. PS2. PS3. XBox. Saturn. SMS. Genesis. SEGA-CD. You name it. Heck, my first console goes back to before the crash. It was an actual Odyssey ripoff or something. I could tell you what it was if I saw one again, but until then, just to set shit straight: it had two joysticks with one button, no colors, a cartridge with a dozen "games" - or, to be fair, pong derivatives.

I've seen platforms come and go, I've witnessed defining moments in videogaming history, I've seen the rise and fall of publishers, developers, companies, individuals, and I'm still standing and deeply in love with the medium - fuck. With the ART.

I've witnessed the fallout after the crash. I was in the line to try out the NES in the supermarket when it came out. Fuck it, I actually finished Super Mario Bros. in said goddamn supermarket.

Now people seem to go on and on about how it's coming again. I'll tell you. As far as I'm concerned, it's come and gone. And no one gave a fuck. No one should have, either.

The times of greatness, of experimentation, of daring are long gone in the mass market.

We're pretty much at the point where any AAA game is not worthy of trust anymore. It's been years since I've been confident in any. Oblivion was the last nail in the coffin of my trust. The last mainstream game I ever preordered. 90 hours of playing later, I gave it away. I would have paid so someone would have gotten me rid of it.

I never looked back.

And I'm not the only one.

You can't expect history to repeat in the exact same ways. Time is a slippery thing. So are cause and effect, action and reaction.

Reading Sosowski today made me realize that much. There will be no great crash, because this one was the silent type.

Fact is, we don't live in the eighties anymore. People have other priorities, videogames aren't the cool new kid on the block anymore, times have changed. Games have changed. People have changed.

The one thing that hasn't changed is fluctuation.

I wouldn't buy an AAA again if you put a pistol on my temple. This market is cold as your average zombie, the ones they so much like to use and abuse in their pitiful attempts to revive interest.

They raped the art the same way they'd like to use rape as a means to revive interest in their ungodly mess.

They rush games, because there's always time to patch later.

They milk licenses because people don't give a fuck, right?

Just as TV puts out shitty show after shitty show, uninteresting reality show after uninteresting reality show.

Just as in 1981. The context has changed. The causes and effects have changed. The facts remain.

More people dive into the indie world by the day. Sites are being built every minute. Most will die, some will stand long. But none of them talk about mainstream games.

Which big, great sites about mainstream bullshit have you seen rise recently? I, for one, have not seen one. But I've seen a handful of decent indie-oriented ones.

Y'know, what happened after the crash is, someone actually took the risk, said "fuck it", and brought the art in another direction entirely.

We don't need 100+ hour-long soulless shells. I'd take any Dys4ia over a Skyrim any day of the week. Any Kairosoft casual game over Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Any Sosowski wtfisthisshit over a Syndicate reboot. Any day, any hour, any minute, any second of my life. I'm NOT the only one. The public grows. You may not feel it, not see it, you may still be striving to make a living, but it's upon us. The problem is fragmentation. But not in the same way as it was back then.

The total videogame market revenue can't even be calculated these days. AAA are already dead. They just don't know it yet (kudos to hokuto no ken on that one).

What I feel, as an end-user, a layman, a plain customer, a part-time indie helper, a translator, is this: some people are working to turn this nutrient broth into a parallel industry.

I'm not saying it's not a good thing. I'm saying it's a trap that's best avoided, if not ignored.

It's good to have Humble Indie Bundles. It's BETTER to have Indie Underdog Packs. You indie devs have ONE chance to change the game. You're doing great so far. But if you let IGF's and HIB's get in the way, you're pretty much condemned to repeat the same mistake and lead what makes you different along the same path, leading again to another crash. Except this time, it won't be beneficial. Back then, the AAA lead the indie development to its demise. Today, indie development laughs in the face of the AAA demise.

Perhaps the fall of this model is unavoidable. Perhaps garage computing is destined to be an endless failure that gives great results.

But the fact is: it wasn't viable back then. No exposure. No internet. Minimal word of mouth. No distributors.

Today you DO have a chance. You probably WON'T get HUGE sales. But you'll get some. If Steam doesn't want you, chances are it's stuck in a dead model. Find other means. Find other ways.

You know what struck me most about Sosowski's interview? It's all about indie love. One big loving family. The word can be spread. If someone gets elitist and grows too swollen a head, rule him out. You CAN do so.

I may only be a watcher, but I'm still damn proud of it all. I'm still proud of giving the underdogs a chance. Proud to give the ART a chance. As opposed to the INDUSTRY. Industries are bound to fall. Art never dies.

Thanks to Sos Sosowski for this one - read about it over there:


  1. Why did you spend 90 hours playing Oblivion if you hated it so much? I mean, I agree, it was shit... but surely you'd realised that by about the 10th hour?

    1. Because I had preordered it, paid for it, and was to see it from beginning to end. Just like I usually finish the books I buy and hate. If only to use it as ammo.