The Best Laid Plans Of The Gaming Industry

What magical scapegoat will game companies point to when no one buys their $70 games on owner-proof, piracy-free systems?

ThiefOfHearts has a point there – a lot of what we’re seeing in the console and game market points to more and more restrictions on games that keep costing a pretty penny.  We can expect no backwards compatibility on the PS4, I’m not particularly confident on the Xbox 720 (or whatever), prices seem to keep going up for AAA titles that are repetitious,  though there’s a few signs of hope game companies don’t want to piss people off.

But in general, in gaming, there’s the sense of wanting to make more limits and more restrictions, at least in the console market, and with some concern in the PC market.  Of course this exists to preserve and expand profits, unless someone in the security divisions of various companies has some weird bet going on how many people they can annoy.

At the same time, with game prices going up and budgets going up, there’s the need to make, well, a lot of money.  As the next generation of consoles at least looks like it’s going to fail to impress, I’m wondering just how much is going to get made. There’s a reason I’m moving to PC.

Are these security changes going to cure the larger market problems?  Well, no.

I see the following likely scenario:

  • Companies put a lot of restrictions on games that are getting pricier.
  • Restrictions have some chilling effect on games, game sales, and enthusiasm.  However . . .
  • The higher prices, more repetitive games, and multiple sides of competition have a serious effect on gaming.  Throw in “Pricing models that annoy people” here as well.
  • Game companies in many areas don’t make the money they’re expecting.
  • Game companies have to figure out what to do.

Or frankly, these restrictions suck, but they’re not going to solve any of the larger problems of the gaming industry, which at times seems to be anxious to make new ones.  Anyone thinking these limits will help overcome the other problems (or aren’t problems) is missing a few things.

So what happens if it doesn’t work, if games fail, if consoles take a bath, and people need to figure out what happens?  As you may guess, I’m leaning towards a scenario like this anyway, and for you future gaming professionals, it’s a possibility that concerns you.

I see the following major occurrences are likely to happen in some proportion:

DOUBLE DOWN: The most likely short-term scenario is for the console companies and game companies to double down on, well, everything.  More restrictions, more exclusives, more throw-stuff-at-the-wall – all done when profits take a hit.  For those working in the larger game industries it may not damage your career, but it might get jostled.

NOT MY FAULT: “Who could have known,” and so forth will fly from the lips of spokespeople as they try and explain why the inevitable happened anyway.  This is likely to happen after a Double-Down if not during it, and is a sign of butt-covering.  If this comes from anyone working for a company you work at, it’s probably a sign that blame is going to start coming down on someone, and it could be you/your/division/etc.

BLAME GAME: This is a short to mid-term occurrence, but might turn into a long-term strategy for some; blaming others for their problems.  It could be the game market, competitors, engineers, programmers, pirates, etc.  Of course this is an extension of Not My Fault, but is when it gets nastier.  If the Blame Game becomes a heavy part of market failure it probably means mid-term actions of taking things out on internal teams, firings and reorgs, lawsuits against assorted opponents and allies, and probably more draconian measures.  If this becomes part of the game-market-failure response, look out, it could get nasty.

LEARN AND CAPITALIZE: If the market fails savvy companies can also jump on it.  “We hear you,” or “we’ve listened,” and try and spin some actions to undo the damage.  Less restrictions, cultivate more indie games, better PR, etc.  Though this may sound naive, recall how fast game companies jumped on the idea of motion control – they are willing to try and turn on a dime, occasionally.  I see this as a possible mid-to-long range scenario after one or more of the top 3 play out, and might be a chance for you to do some leadership.

RADICALIZE AND INTEGRATE: This would be a case of taking Learn and Capitalize and shooting it full of strategy steroids; it would involve game companies and console companies deciding to go radical and change structures and plans and integrate previously avoided technologies.  This would be Xbox 1440 as basically a specialized PC, Sony adsorbing and extending Ouya, Apple making a deal with Steam, massive pricing and distro strategy changes for triple A titles, etc.  I see this as something a few big names will try mid-and-long term, but not everyone.  If you’re in gaming this could be good for you or bad depending on where you are and who you work with.

Of all the scenarios above, my general sense is that we’ll see:

  1. The Double Down will occur in almost all cases, as companies with failed or underperforming products won’t admit it.  Individuals will also be engaged in butt-covering.
  2. At that point Not My Fault and Blame Game come into the picture.  These could get pretty bad and if the industry takes a big hit, very ugly on a personal level.
  3. Some companies will go for Learn and Capitalize and maybe even Radicalize And Integrate.  Not all of them will.  Combined with Blame Game, this could get insane.
  4. Either way, I see some big failures and radical changes in the gaming market.

The companies involved in gaming aren’t doing what’s needed to deal with a lot of the market changes, and their DRM and other restrictions don’t address the problems.  There’s changes comping.

A $70 game you can’t resell isn’t going to solve the problems.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at