I guess it is time to actually start writing this morning, considering I have stared blankly at the screen for roughly fifteen minutes. A bunch of storms blew in over night, and I am guessing they woke me up because I feel like I just did not get a single bit of rest last night. I struggled quite a bit to actually go to sleep, and in the in-between time of laying down and conking out I spent some time browsing the 3DS Nintendo eShop looking for Pokemon Sun and Moon. I guess somewhere in the whole mix of discussion about the various starters… that I apparently missed that this game is not releasing until November. The amount of hype floating around twitter yesterday made me think that clearly I had apparently missed the launch date. However it was just apparently an announcement of the three starters which caused folks to go running and screaming in the aisles. The amount of pre-hype surrounding games has reached a critical point, and I am just as guilty as anyone. I pre-bought Warlords of Draenor, Legion, and Overwatch… because it gave me goodies in game immediately for doing so. That is ultimately the hook that gets me is when you offer something limited that I potentially won’t be able to get any other way than the pre-order something.
However I feel like today it reached a new level with Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, considering all that has been released is essentially a description of the game and a few screenshots… and it is now 3rd place in the current “top sellers” list on Steam right now. I mean Bethesda did something similar with Fallout 4, but the pre-orders didn’t start until after the e3 demonstration that gave us a few hours worth of video outlining all of the features going into the game. It feels like you could hold up a crudely drawn picture of a famous franchise, and money would literally start being thrown at the screen. Don’t get me wrong… I know that more than likely I too will order Civilization VI because its Civ… and that game makes me lose entire weekends. However the big takeaway for me is that I have is that I ultimately played way more Civilization IV than I ever did of V. There are just too many things competing for my attention, and I feel that this is happening to pretty much everyone.
Digging a Hole
I remember a time in PC gaming where you could go several months between the launch of big titles, but now companies seem to revel in stacking similar titles on top of each other at exactly the same time. I am certain that this information trickle about Civilization VI was to combat and somehow sour the milk of all of those folks thoroughly enjoying Stellaris right now. It gets frustrating to see this play out, when everyone is fighting for our very limited amount of attention. Battleborn is probably a good game, and the little bit of it I have played in the PVE campaign has been enjoyable, and has the same sort of Borderlands style humor liberally sprinkled in. However its launch has completely been gobbled up by the Overwatch hype machine. I’ve heard many folks utter the words “oh wait, Battleborn is out now?” or the equivalent because its launch week was completely consumed with the release of Open Beta for Overwatch and the floodgates opening allowing all of the folks who never managed to get an invite into the game. Now roughly a week after launch, this title that in any other Climate would have drawn huge attention due to it’s pedigree lists below Civilization V in the 16th spot on the current top sellers list on Steam.
It just feels like we are reaching a point where the games industry as a whole is going to eat itself. What I am seeing is the level of marketing bullshit associated with video games that I last saw prevalent during the big reality television boom of the 2000s. For all I know a ton of marketing flacks from that era took up roots in the gaming industry because it seemed to provide more stability… which in itself is a stretch given that very few of the folks I know in gaming have been in the same position for more than five years. What I find frustrating the most is that I say all this… and I still find myself wanting to pre-order this or that title so I can get the shiny bauble or widget that gets discarded about two hours into the game because it is now utterly meaningless and replaced by actual progression loot. I am very much part of the problem, and I have a disturbing back log of games sitting in various states of minimal play. Instead I keep logging into Destiny or Diablo or the MMO of choice this month… and spending hour after hour treading the same ground instead of truly giving the new games a chance. I’ve dug a hole that I will never be able to dig myself out of, because the amount of time needed to finish all of the games in my backlog is more time than I probably have years left to live… given that I have to you know work and stuff.
I don’t have a brilliant conclusion that I can tack onto this discussion like a pretty bow, it is just what happened to flow out of my fingers when I sat down at the keyboard this morning. The only way things will change is if we stop giving into the pre-sale cycle, but the problem is that the current financing model for games… depends heavily on that early trickle of money. So this is both “why we can’t have nice things” and “the only way we will have nice things”. Ultimately it feels like the Video Games industry is being propped up by the same sort of hedge fund shenanigans that lead to the great recession. There was a time where I thought it would be amazing to work in the Games Industry, but now… I am thankful I chose another path. I also need to credit Talarian who ultimately planted the seed of this mornings post in my head yesterday, which then I started going over in my head as the night went on.