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When I look at the state of the industry, I sometimes ask myself if it is worth it. This may sound a lot like the grumblings of someone who remembers the past more fondly than they really were. That is entirely possible; but soak in the list and just extrapolate where we will be in another 10 or 20 years of gaming history. Does it make you proud to be a part of that future, to be a contributing factor in it?
I've found myself picking up new hobbies in recent years, forgoing potential gaming time for something more... well... gratifying. I feel like the joy of games, at least what I enjoyed about games, is nearly gone. What was once a blinding experience is little more than a faint glow in the modern game experience. I'm not just talking about the game content itself, I'm talking about the experience of purchasing, playing, and beating a game; from beginning to end. I'm talking about the sensation of finishing a game without the sinking feeling that DLC is around to corner to tell you the true ending, for another $10.
If freemium or "free"-to-play (whatever you want to call it) becomes the dominant form of gaming, it will probably be the moment I stop gaming. I'll move on to photography or some other thing that doesn't ask for my credit card every time I press the button. Shareware worked for me because you knew exactly what you were paying for. With freemium models, I'd rather not download it because the point of friction can happen at any time. If I can't pay a flat amount for a complete experience I don't even click on the page.
I've never made an in-app purchase, or bought DLC, and likely never will. This has a lot to do with my previous statement about purchasing a complete experience. If the content was intended to be a part of the game, it should be a part of the game. If the experience is incomplete without the DLC, I'll kindly spend my money someplace else. Maybe it also has something to do with digital products. The fact is, I probably have like $20 in Microsoft Points that have accumulated over time from various reward programs. It's not even my money and I can't bring myself to spend it on something that I know I'll never actually own, I'm just leasing some bytes from them until the day I close my account.
Purchasing digital products from Steam, XBLA, PSN, and others implies that you're spending large quantities of cash to lease the rights to that game. With digital download services you don't own anything. That just sounds crazy to me, that someone could spend literally (ten's of) thousands of dollars in entertainment that could go away tomorrow. You can only hope that these distributors will make good to their customers, but the logistical reality of getting all of those publishers to allow someone like Steam/XBLA/PSN to unlock the DRM on those games is highly unlikely.
I miss the days when I went into a store, purchased a disk, put it into my CD/DVD drive and it just worked. I didn't have to spend my first 30 minutes creating an account with their DRM service, entering validation codes, personal information, DLC codes, and downloading updates, then sit through 3 more minutes of splash screens before I got to the main menu. The experience of playing games has declined for me, and it feels more like having to sit through the credits of a movie before you get to watch it.
I'm bored. For the younger generation, there is a definite sense of "If I haven't seen it, it's new to me." But for someone who's been playing games since Atari and even Colleco, gameplay hasn't changed since 1985. The graphics are crisper and the animations are smoother, the color depth has increased and the sound is 16 bit now. With the exception of Wolfenstein 3D and Dune II defining new genres, I just haven't been amazed by any gameplay. It all feels like shooters, platformers, and simulations games. It might not be Mario who is climbing that ladder or jumping on weird turtle ducks, but the concept is the same. And if I am only playing games for the story and exhibition of the environment, at some point the 20th century gameplay is just getting in the way.
Ever since video games have attracted non-gamers, the industry has ballooned into the same mess that every other industry has. When the people in control stop caring about the craft and more about increased revenues you end up in the same seedy pit as Hollywood and Music. Creative freedom was how genres were invented. Now, we rely on the free labor of enthusiastic young upstarts to show a faint glimmer of creativity that we can siphon into our AAA productions.
The value of your work as a game creator has forever been tarnished by the race to the bottom. "Free" and $0.99 games have conditioned an entire generation of people to think that a grande-latte is worth 5x more than 20+ man-years of you and your team's life. With rising expectations and plummeting prices, your endless sleepless nights are as valuable as dropping a bag of tea into some hot water.
Clone, clone, clone. It's too easy to make a game anymore. If your game has not shipped yet, and it has made a single headline in any of the major outlets, assume that it will be cloned and posted to the AppStore in under 6 months. Now that they've published first, who is the real clone? You!? That's how the uninformed world will see it.
Yarrr, pirates be smarter. DRM is almost pointless unless you are running the game logic on a validated secure server. If more than 1k copies was downloaded, you can almost guarantee that at least one of those copies was downloaded by someone who is working to crack it. Someone will always feel like they were entitled to play your game for free, and they'll find a way; then they'll complain about it on the forums.