E3 shows us that the industry is changing but are consumers paying attention?

It seems that after the press conferences at E3, folks seemed to walk away a little miffed. There were indeed lots of games, but most of them are not coming out in the near future. I think the shift in many companies’ presentation style took consumers off guard. We typically hear “you can download it today” or “coming this fall”, but instead, most huge titles are slated for 2019. However, if we as consumers were paying attention to the gaming landscape, this would not be a surprise.

If you understand how your developers think, you can understand what you are going to get in your game Click To Tweet

E3 first and foremost is a marketing event. It is the job of the publisher or developer to sell the living daylights out of their game to retail and investors in hopes of drumming up more money to finish the incomplete software the public is raving about. The companies use our social media hype to drive their point home; “look at those tweets trend” or “our engagement for X game has gone up X% in the last day” are usually the run of the mill behind closed doors opening statements you hear from sales and marketing. The people in that room are in suits (or at least something semi-formal) and the conversation rarely sounds like games are being sold and more like medical software investment plans over time. It is a bit mundane in comparison to what is happening on the show floor. But why is this happening? What is with the shift from now to later with game release dates?

Once again the bar has gone up and now the industry, both developer and player, must rise to meet it. Click To Tweet

Companies are starting to see the shift in the game industry again; one where the long term health of their brand is becoming paramount. For example, Microsoft, SONY and EA, have made it very clear from their press conferences that their sustainability is more important than immediate satisfaction. It would explain why a majority of games we saw from first party are not scheduled for this year. Actually, three of the four pillar titles (Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima and Death Stranding) have no release date yet. The same goes for XBOX with Gears 5, Halo Infinite and Crackdown 3, all of which are slated after 2018.

So what does this mean? Does it mean that we could have just skipped E3 this year? Absolutely not. The bar for quality games has been raised to a new level. Horizon Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, DOOM, and God of War have proven that single player games are alive and well and here to stay. I would even go far as to say it’s going through a renaissance period. Bethesda has leaned heavily into single player content and continue to do so with games like Rage 2, Doom Eternal and Prey DLC (downloadable content). Even EA and Activision are embracing PVE (player vs. environment) over PVP (player vs. player) with Anthem and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, respectively

Horizon Zero Dawn, Breath of the Wild, DOOM, and God of War have proven that single player games are alive and well and here to stay. Click To Tweet

To hit that bar requires some serious effort. It takes time to build, fail, rebuild, fail, and rebuild again when forging new ground. It also takes resources; time, cost and talent. I mentioned this in one of my previous blogs on the Frost Front Podcast site. All of these things cannot happen overnight unless you strike gold like Minecraft of Fortnite. However, the times you hear about those successes, compared to times studios did a hail mary and failed, is miniscule. That’s because games at that level take huge amounts of these resources, especially time. You cannot have a game at the quality level of Last of Us 2 in a year. You cannot get it in two years. It takes several years for something of that caliber to come out. This may be where the fanbase is failing to understand and possibly be a little dissatisfied about not seeing these games come out this year.

As a fan and gamer myself, I want to play these titles as soon as possible as well. I want Cyberpunk 2077 in my hands right now. I don’t want to wait, I want to play it, and experience that world. However, as a developer listening to the team speak about the game, I am able to read between the lines given to them by PR and marketing. The game is not ready, actually it isn’t even ready now but they had to show something. They had to appease their fanbase and investors. Something had to be shown, so that is why we saw a trailer. CDPR (CD Projekt Red) also had a supposed 50 minute demo of Cyberpunk 2077 behind closed doors, probably unplayable to the public, to show off the game. In other words they needed the investment to buy more time. They need that time because that’s what it takes to build what they are aiming for. If you want Last of Us 2 to feel as awesome as the demo did for 8 to 10 hours then you need to wait. It is that simple.

You cannot have a game at the quality level of Last of Us 2 in a year. You cannot get it in two years. It takes several years for something of that caliber to come out. Click To Tweet

Of course as gamers we are passionate about what we play and we want things in our hands right now. We don’t want to wait. This is where other franchises come in. There are other generations of games that people enjoy and love to lean on whenever they want something to scratch that itch. Tomb Raider comes out this year. Assassin’s Creed, Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V are also right around the corner. They are what we always expected them to be. We know what we get when we buy an Assassin’s Creed game. We get stealth, we get awesome combat, incredible vistas to marvel at and explore and a decent story. However, we seldom get instances where our jaw hits the floor, where a moment or event changes the way we play games forever. We get what we pay for, we enjoy it and move on and for the most part that is enough.

Over 12 years ago, I wrote a bit of a rant article about the disconnect between the developer and player. With much more experience under my belt, I would speak about the same topic as less of a rant and more of an observation. The publisher needs to get more in touch with their fanbase. I don’t mean having community managers ask “what are you excited for this week?” but actually talk to them and find out about why they love what they do. By doing so you can help bridge that gap between what is expected and what can be delivered. But maybe some fans don’t want that. With great disappointment, I noticed that during  the Bethesda press conference, the Twitch chat wondered why they were showing a “work for us” video instead of the games. It was as if robots make their games, and the people that make them don’t have families and lives. If you understand how your developers think, you can understand what you are going to get in your game. That way you are better inclined to expect great things that you invest your time and money in when it comes to those games.

The publisher needs to get more in touch with their fanbase. I don’t mean having community managers ask “what are you excited for this week?” but actually talk to them and find out about why they love what they do. Click To Tweet

The bar in narrative storytelling and games in general will always be changing and going through iterations. Once again the bar has gone up and now the industry, both developer and player, must rise to meet it.

 

Twitter: @_shivadee

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