They Don't Work for Us
If you want a good quote to use as a starting point for a blog post then Bree Royce, the Editor-in-Chief and writer for the video game website Massively Overpowered, seems to have a good line in them. In the latest Massively OP Podcast, Bree and Justin Olivetti where discussing the recent round of layoffs that have seen over 800 Activision Blizzard staff lose their jobs. Like many others, Bree and Justin were far from impressed with these events, especially in light of the companies increased profits. When referencing the faux angst of CEO Bobby Kotick who claimed it was a “tough call”, Bree stated “they’ve definitely proven who they work for. It ain’t us”. A simple and inescapable conclusion about the triple A video game industry. Yet it is something that many gamers still struggle to come to terms with. Because so many do not see video games purely as a product, there seems to be an emotional blind spot associated with the game themselves, the developers who make them and the companies that publish them.
Perhaps this is why so many ill-conceived, crowd funded gaming projects get championed my enthused gamers, who choose to ignore the realities of modern business practises. The romantic notion that independent games development is some sort of artisan “cottage industry” still persists. That devs exist in anarco-sydicalist communes, producing quality games and thriving on the bountiful revenue supplied by the likes of Kickstarter, is still believed by some. But such success stories are few and far between. Crowd funded games have a high mortality rate, often due to poor management and unrealistic promises. Which leaves the mainstream industry which exists primarily to make money and to keep shareholders happy. That’s not to say that they don’t make good games, because they do. We’ve played them. But too often the artistic and creative vision of the developers is either sidelined or hobbled to accommodate multiple means of monetising the overall product.
The triple A video game industry seems to be pursuing unsustainable growth and if left unchecked, will eventually end in a crash. Gamers will eventually balk at their business practices, although they still seem to be enabling them at present, and the fall in revenue will lead to an exodus of investors as they seek a new market to exploit. Venture capital companies seldom have any deep and abiding commitment to that which they seek to monetise. Their loyalty is to profit and if it becomes financial expedient to play the opposite side of the fence to that which they’re playing today, then they’ll do so. It’s not personal, it’s just business. And that is why the likes of Activision Blizzard don’t work for you. Gamers are not strictly the customer. The gamer or should I say the gamer’s money is the crop to be harvested. The shareholders are the real customers and they bankroll the tools needed to harvest that “available cash”. Therefore gamers need to get over the way their passion for their hobby blinds them to the nature of business.