Game industry “starting” to feel the effects of the recession

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Monday, January 19th, 2009 in Gaming Life /News

I…am honestly not sure where to start this article. It simply amazes me that anyone could be shocked by this news. I mean, I could have never imagined feeling the effects of a world-wide recession in a bullet proof game industry!!!

Come on, seriously? OK everyone, let’s travel back in time a little bit to the good ol’ 80s. You guys ready?! HERE WE GO!!!

In 1982 the video game industry in the United States took a wrong turn at The Worse. A crash so hard that it crumbled the then-successful big name companies like Atari and Activision. The crash came as a consequence of over-saturation of poorly made, poorly executed, and poorly marketed games and consoles. Atari would purposely rush developers to release games way ahead of schedule in hopes of making bank during the ’82 Christmas season. Two games specifically are Pac-Man and the infamous E.T. the Extra Terrestrial; both for the Atari 2600. The release of the underdeveloped games helped obliterate Atari’s reputation for anything quality. Piece of advice for game publishers out there: Just because a game somewhat-to-not-really resembles a counterpart of some sort doesn’t give you the right to call it by that name.

Atari 2600's Pac-Man, E.T., and Kool Aid Man. Totally awesome.
OMG! OMG! I loved E.T. SO much! And this looks so much like Pac-Man and Kool Aid Man I want to sh*t!!!

So companies like Kool Aid, Quaker Oats, and even dog food manufacturers like Chuck Wagon are flooding the newly popular market with garbage games that stank more than the fecal matter from the programmers that developed them. We’re not just talking about Atari here either…just because Atari was more of a household name at the time doesn’t mean other console manufacturers weren’t feeling the pain. Reverse engineering / hacking of rival game cartridges to make their own versions — and desperately trying to move their poorly designed game consoles to play them on — over saturated the industry with crap NO one wanted. We’ve got it pretty easy today; what, with only three consoles to decide from. The 80s saw a plethora of nearly fifteen unique video game systems hit the market in a matter of two to three years! This would be quite a feat if it hadn’t been for each one sucking 263% more than the one previously released.

In 1983 department stores began chucking their video game collections to make room for merchandise that would actually sell. They were convinced that video games were only a phase and that the small population that might still be interested in them would eventually stop playing. All hope seemed lost for the empire we know and love today. Atari released it’s flopping 5200 unit at the end of ’82 in hopes to bring their fans to a newer system. But since everyone had spent all their money and time in the 2600, no one bothered picking up it’s successor, especially without backward compatibility. Atari was later sold off from more than $500M in losses that year. The ColecoVision hit the market months before hand to gain an advantageous head start, but not much kept people gaming after the slew of horrendous software that no one could miss.

Sounding familiar yet…?

Nintendo's R.O.B. Look at him. He's so totally stoked about helping you play that game no one's heard of.

In late 1985, then-newcomer Nintendo took a brave, deep step into a still-steaming pile that was the video game industry in the United States. They released 100,000 units to various test markets throughout the U.S. and moved in excess of 90,000 of them. The following spring, Nintendo made a formal release in the States and other countries. The catch was that they had to market it as a toy instead of a game console since retailers were convinced that gaming tanked in the previous years. They included R.O.B., a play-along robot, to make the console seem more toy-like and interactive. Their success with the release led other companies like SEGA into the mix and gave the big N some competition.

So what does all of this have to do with today’s economic climate and its effect on the video game industry we all seem to cherish? Well, I’ll throw a few names out there. How about… Toyota, or… Burger King, or (OMG!!) DORITOS!! My god, DORITOS?!?! WTF?!?! Why?! Why do you need to make a video game about POTATO CHIPS?! I would be EMBARRASSED to have worked on any game based strictly on the concept of product placement. I mean, come on! Did you know there is even an official term for this genre? Yep! “Advergaming“!!!!

Now, here we have “Advergaming” in one hand, and a slew of less-than-mediocre games pouring out of every orifice of a number of publishers in the other. The Wii is literally riddled with games that are barely worthy of shelf space. Small-time developers are using what little resources they have to make big games in hopes that no one will use them for toilet paper. The market is being flooded, once again, with steamy, smelly, hot-garbage-pizza. I mean, for crying out loud, I’ve played X number of games in the last twelve months that I’ve not even WANTED to finish! Where is the quality here people?! You dare sit aside and complain that Nintendo continues to rape the industry with first party titles while you simultaneously release software that rarely creates a desire to play longer than it takes GTAIV to load?? GTFO.