I’m glad people enjoyed the article I linked to yesterday, and I wish I had seen it earlier as I really believe it does an excellent job breaking down how certain companies approach creating ‘games’ and also who is actually buying. Because as bad as Zynga and others like them are, they only exist because there are a lot of people buying the trash they are selling, and buying it in amounts large enough to draw companies like EA into that market.
I had a draft half-done talking about how current-day MMO players have finally evolved from the ‘accessible’ garbage phase that permeated the genre from 2007 until SW:TOR or so. The quick exodus from SW:TOR, and the initial scorn for what TESO is aiming to be, seems to show that even in the casual MMO gamer space, people are done with cookie-cutter crap games, and want something a little more… MMO. The cheering for GW2, if somewhat over-the-top at times, is also a solid sign.
So how can we both be moving forward, yet at the same time taking such giant steps back? Market split. Or rather, just different games aiming at completely different targets, and both (so far) hitting more often than not. The only ones who are truly missing today are those stuck in the middle. Those who aim to be ‘accessible’ but still a game, be it an MMO from EA or a more game-like game from Zynga.
The prime Zynga target, that 30 something mother that (somehow…) gets sucked into dropping 10k a year to build a farm, won’t spend 15k if her farm had better gameplay. In fact, she is likely to only get confused and run away, because if you have the mental capacity to drop 10k on a virtual farm, I’m pretty sure you lack the mental capacity to actually play Pong, let alone anything more complex.
The reverse appears to now be true in the core gamer space. The average MMO gamer has (finally) realized that while welfare epics are neat RIGHT NOW, they destroy your fun long-term. That while rainbows shitting out cookies might seem ‘epic’ the first time around, it’s not something you are going to enjoy month after month, and reskinning the rainbow seems to have stopped fooling most as well.
I’d like to believe that the cheap cash-in that is Zynga won’t be sustainable. That once that mother realizes her pimped out farm is just glitzy garbage, she won’t be tricked again and build a 10k city or spacestation. Sadly history suggests that the depths of human stupidity are truly remarkable, and despite being slapped in the face, that mother WILL drop another 10k, or maybe 15k after Zynga refines their ‘secret sauce’ and makes it an even better idiot trap. Just like the slot machine zombies you see at every casino, there is no cure or hope for these people.
Luckily for the rest of us, while catering to the zombie crowd is one way to make a (cheap and sleazy) buck, it’s not the only one. You can bet that DayZ is making suits in every major game studio perk up, just like Minecraft did before it. A title like Skyrim performing amazingly well is news to cheer.
Not only is there good money to be made in creating solid games with good design (LoL), that good money is very sustainable long-term (EVE) under a model that respects the customer. And as gamers (hopefully) continue to get smarter, we should not only see quality rewarded, but more examples of creativity as well. DayZ is successful not because its gameplay is perfected, but because its general concept and execution are so fresh.
(It’s important to note that in the early years of gaming, quality was indeed rewarded. But as the market expanded and gaming become mainstream, the average gamers IQ dropped. I believe what we are (slowly) seeing now is that IQ going back up, overall, while there is still that Zynga sub-set as well.)