A Word to the Wise

posted by on 23rd April 2013, at 12:07am | Discuss Article

As I mentioned in my February article, the gaming industry is progressing rapidly toward the future with many ideas on the table. From “what games will be popular in the next few years” to “what features do we want to add or take away,” there are many questions that will need to be answered. Given this, I think it’s critical that developers consider keeping players in the loop and even elicit their ideas about what they want to see in the future of gaming. One such player is me and I have a few pieces of advice for developers to keep in mind before tinkering around with my main source of entertainment.

First, do not make games only playable while online. Of course gaming is already headed in this direction to some degree, but it’s not too late to turn back the clock. Why is this a big deal? Simply put, once a gamer purchases a game, they should always have access to it, internet connection or not. Granted, most gamers do have an internet connection at any given time of the day, but some people do not or have limited internet access. Making games only playable with an internet connection is an unnecessary restriction and blocks a player from enjoying the content he purchased. Granted, many games require a connection to play multiplayer, but that is a built-in and understandable restriction. But for games with singleplayer capabilities, requiring an internet connection is only frustrating and annoying.

Second, if downloadable content will never be free again, at least make it cheaper than it currently is. There’s no reason a season pass should cost $25 when it probably costs less than $10 to make. Not only should it be cheaper because it didn’t cost that much to make, but the cost should match the value of the content. A map pack is really not that valuable. Nor is little ticky tack stuff like music, wallpapers, or developer commentary valuable either. They might be worth a little bit, but not a lot. It’s already bad enough that future content isn’t free when you purchase a game that costs upwards of $60. To me, it seems like a greedy move. Gamers will only get grumpier as time goes on with this type of price gouging continuing.

Third, stay on top of server maintenance aka reducing lag. With all the improvements we’ve had to games, it surprises me that lag issues still persists. Maybe it’s a player side thing more often than not, but developers should do the best on their end to minimize connection issues. Rather than focus on content updates or the next game, make sure to take care of the games you already have out there and the servers you provide for them.

Fourth, don’t resort to single publisher distribution platforms *cough cough* like EA *cough cough*. There are already plenty of distribution platforms out there that do a good job such as Steam. There is no reason you have to “cut out the middle man” and make people only come to you to play your game. Sure, you may make a little more money, but unless you come out with a good platform for distribution, you will more likely than not drive gamers away rather than increase your profits and player base. Stick to game developing and avoid distribution development.

Lastly, come up with original games rather than sticking to the same franchises. Sometimes, a franchise will continue to be good and even get better with each new installment. However, franchises get worn out after it’s been used too much. Series like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto are released often and without much new original content. Come up with new ideas. Rather than put all your eggs in one basket with one game, branch out and develop a couple good games that are different genres with original stories. Then, once you’ve gotten a few different games out there, throw in the occasional franchise game.

Of course, these are all specific wishes. There are two overarching things developers should keep in mind moving forward as general rules. First, stop thinking about the money and how much you can make. I know it’s a business and all, but you can always make a profit if you keep the gamers happy. If you make it about the money, you will lose the respect of gamers and likely just draw their hatred. Second, be original and break out of the mold. The next big thing isn’t what all the other developers are doing now. It’s going to be something that no one else takes a chance on. Yes, it’s risky to go into uncharted waters with a new genre or idea, but the payoffs for being the first and best at something new are priceless.

But coming back to the start of the article, it’s not just what I think. Some gamers may agree with me and some may not. The point is that all gamers have an opinion on what they would like the future of gaming to look like. Developers will likely just move forward and disregard my opinions and the opinions of others. However, it would be prudent to listen to the players. They may not be the smartest bunch or the most business minded, but they are the customers. And as the only saying goes, “The customer is always right.”