We've talked a lot here at RCM about the current state of the gaming industry, especially concerning the balance between art and business and whether or not the console industry is on the verge of another 80s style crash. The PC indie market seems to be in the ascendant, while the AAA publishers and developers that depend on yearly console releases appear to be struggling in terms of their quality control and creativity. It seems that every other month we talk about a bungled launch, a buggy patch, or the latest outrage du jour amongst the gaming public. With few exceptions, major developers seem hesitant to take chances or try to build groundbreaking new IPs. Instead, the industry is afflicted by sequelitis, with a new Call of Duty almost every year, a new Battlefield, a new Assassin's Creed. The newest consoles are selling well, with the PS4 being one of the fastest selling launches of all time, but the launch titles, while also profitable, didn't take any chances. While the indie community takes risks and has become a hotbed of innovation, the mainstream studios continue to fall back on the tried and true formulas that have sold games in the past.
For a few years now, people have been comparing the current situation to the 80's, claiming that a new video game crash is imminent. Some writers and journalists even claim that a new crash would be good for the console industry, a necessary destruction of the current chaotic yet stagnant system that would make way for new ideas and new companies that would pay more attention to the needs and wants of the consumer. This speculation began heating up again in 2013, and those predicting a new crash aren't just whistling in the dark, they have some very compelling arguments. Game budgets are bloated, the industry itself has a reputation for horrible working conditions, and consumer confidence in major gaming companies is at an all-time low due to a perceived disconnect between publishers and consumers. The point has been repeatedly made that major publishers and developers are using a flawed business model, with Fortune 500 CEOs and marketing gurus telling developers how to make their games. Games, once made by teams with a dozen people, are now created using a cast of hundreds. In addition, these major publishers are competing in an industry more cutthroat than almost any other, where many developers are almost constantly just one flop away from bankruptcy. This trend is unsustainable and is driving the impetus that creates a new Call of Duty or other big name title every year. In an industry with all of that going for it, what could possibly go wrong, right? It's very easy to paint a picture of an industry teetering on the brink, reaching a point of market saturation with more and more companies fighting for their slice of a market that is more jaded and distrustful than ever before.
Yet, despite all of this doom and gloom, the industry is bigger than ever, with more titles being released and more money being made each year. Gaming has gone from being stigmatized (to an extent) to something so mainstream that in many ways, it has eclipsed Hollywood. In the 90s, gamers were young and the stereotype held that the gaming nerd was oppressed by the popular jock. Now, the average gamer is in their 30s and Pro Athletes are tweeting about being in betas. The media waves their hands hysterically about violence in video games, but the hype is falling mostly upon deaf ears despite a certain amount of Washington saber rattling. The market for games isn't going anywhere. So, if the market isn't going anywhere, where is the crash going to come from? I suppose it depends on how you define a crash. If by crash you are talking about an 80s style destruction of the entire console industry, which led to a sharp decline in all gaming, then I just don't see it. Teenage girls play games on their smartphones, captains of industry play games on their laptops, athletes play games on their xbox, and yes, teenage boys are still talking about each other's mothers in CoD. If consoles die, it will only happen because they've been replaced by something better. The industry will survive, and even prosper.