I do have to start this piece with a small disclaimer. I used to be a game developer and I was disillusioned by my experience in the field, so I moved on to a more traditional job.
That aside, I want to ask a simple question: Can you have too much of a good thing?
Traditional wisdom would indicate that yes, too much of a good thing is a horrible thing. Food is good, but eating too much good food is bad for your health. Having a life partner is great, 27 might be a challenge.
The point I am trying to make is that I recently went through Steam’s New Releases and saw a huge variety of high quality games which in the past would have each thrilled me. However, none of them interested me that much since I realized that there was so much variety that I didn’t want to spend too much time on a single game when there were so many other great games out there for me to experience. So, I bought none of them, realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to get my money’s worth from any of them. On Steam that is OK, since I know that there is a holiday sale coming and I might be able to snag a $50 game for $12 if I check the sales the week of the sale.
Now, let’s of the same issue from a developer’s standpoint. They spend tens if not hundreds of thousands of man hours to produce a product. They work long hours, weekends, holidays, nights, more nights and then this great product comes out and it looks mediocre since there’s so much good stuff out there. Is there any question as to why casual games are taking over? No offense to the folks at Rovio, but Angry Birds didn’t cost as much to produce as Kingdoms of Amalur and yet Angry Birds has probably generated more profit than Amalur ever will.
So, I ask: Why are we continuing to try and produce too much of a good thing? Do we really need yearly releases of Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Battlefield?
Some of you might be saying: I happen to like one of those games, a LOT, and I’ll buy next year’s game, and the one after that.
That is not my point; simply put, there is only enough room in a calendar year for a certain number of AAA titles to be successful. In the last 3 or 4 years, I have simply seen the number of titles released far outstrip the demand for AAA titles. I will be very clear on this; a AAA title should sell 5+ million copies or it is a commercial failure which will lead to people losing their jobs.
The analogy that I like to think of when considering the right approach for a publisher is that of a good restaurant. A good restaurant can generally print its entire menu on a single side of paper. I should be able to look at the AAA titles for the year and have them printed on a single sheet of paper, size 12 font. Right now, I cannot do that and so as a percentage I buy less AAA titles than I would if there were less made every year. In that way, more money would be made and the intrinsic value of a AAA title would be increased.
Developers, publishers, pace yourselves you’re making too much of a good thing and it will come back to bite you.