Not too long ago, a games ‘shelf life’ was measured in months, and once that window was closed, your game was forgotten and near-impossible to acquire. Ebay made finding older classics a little easier, but this was all done peer-to-peer and the results were iffy at times, plus unless you already knew you wanted something, it’s not like the masses went browsing around to find something new.
In many cases this short shelf life made sense, as technology was advancing rapidly, and what looked/sounded good originally was dated six months later, and something that was released a year ago or older was considered ancient. Remember when online games were optimized around a dial-up modem? (Google it kids) Even if the game was still worthwhile, odds were decent your current hardware or OS would have issues just running it.
Today things are very different all around. Hardware is no longer advancing every six months, monitors have ‘capped out’ at 30”, and while connection speeds are still increasing, the norm is at least something decent. And that shelf life? Its limitless now thanks to digital downloads. Plus older games consistently get the spotlight shown on them thanks to those addicting Steam/D2D/etc sales. All of a sudden patching a game released a year ago does far more than make your current player base happy (and it sure does that as well). High metacritic score + Steam sale = straight cash homie.
This impact goes beyond just the original release too. Under the old model, if you did not release a sequel quickly, your name was forgotten unless you were already famous. I can only imagine how many people today have played Titan Quest at one point or another since 2006. Back in the day talk of a sequel now would have been laughable. Today I can’t imagine why one is not in the works. And all those great SNES or Genesis games? Top iPhone sellers if done right.
A good game is now far more likely to see solid sales over the course of its lifetime, rather than potentially being buried in the Oct/Nov Christmas rush or ignored because of poor marketing on the part of the publisher. Power is transitioning to the developers rather than the publishers, because a quality game trumps flashy marketing. Or at the very least, this is now more the case than ever before, and ultimately gamers all around will see the biggest benefits.
You forgot to mention GOG.com!! I WISH I had the time to go back and replay some of the incredible gaming goodness offered there. If only WoW would go under…
Good post and something I agree with. The industry has been needing to slow down for a long time. When the focus isn’t, “ooo, shiny new graphics”, game-play starts to take center stage and we start to get even more high quality games.
Some excellent thoughts you have there.
“This impact goes beyond just the original release too. Under the old model, if you did not release a sequel quickly, your name was forgotten unless you were already famous.” Yup! Look at SC2. They released Wings of Liberty in July 2010, and at BlizzCon they pretty much said Heart of the Swarm will not be out before the beginning of 2012. That is absolutely crazy, especially considering that the story is continuous and while WoL’s end wasn’t a cliffhanger, it didn’t wrap up the story. What I am trying to say is that the next “expansion” isn’t really an “expansion” at all, it is a “continuation”.
SC is a bit different because it’s ‘core’ audience could care less for single player, and multiplayer stays interesting so long as balance patches are released.
For the casual fan though, yea, waiting 2 years for the story to continue would, for me, be a killer. Not to mention that after those two years, the story STILL won’t be concluded, as there will still be a part 3 to buy.
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That statement is just not true. If you own a computer that is more than six months old, it is outdated, as usual. The trouble is, the human mind can’t understand that concept. If you own a computer and it still works, everything is fine to you, even if the computer is five years old. Very few people take the time or spend the money to buy a new and updated computer every six months.
The news still goes on. New processors come out every six months. Intel has developed an 80-core processor that will come out in 2011.
There is no cap for monitors. Zenith and others make a 60-inch plasma TV that can be used as a computer monitor. It is great for LAN parties.
I agree with Dracon – Moore’s Law is still in effect.
The other point I’ll make is that somehow power is being transferred from publisher to developer – this only works at the very top (where the developer and publisher are one and the same) and very bottom (same, just with a lot less money!) of the development pyramid. Dev studios in the middle still rely heavily on initial sales to stay alive and if they aren’t there then the studio folds.
The publisher may still reap the benefits years after if a title picks up some of those digital dollars, but the original developers can easily not see any more revenue come in.
DD is great for gamers, no doubt, but publishers still hold the vast majority of market power.