The video game industry, believe it or not, is one that was created by and still thrives on innovation. Every new console became a standard because of innovation. Every new genre became a genre because of innovation. It is widely believed development mantra that people don’t know what they want until they have it, and that is why innovation is needed.
Unfortunately, the known is safe and time-tested, and that is how gaming trends start and the money they produce is why they remain. Some gaming trends are harmless, like that time in the not-so-distant past where every shooter was set in World War II, but others gaming trends are a little more infuriating as they insidiously poison the industry.
It is one thing to have pre-orders, something that many consider an infuriating trend in and of itself, but it is quite another to have people pay for an unfinished product. Even open and closed alpha and beta sessions for pre-purchasers are fine. The development studios get free testing and free hype for their games, but early access gives neither good testing nor good hype.
While buying an early access game and having the developer flake off and bail with the cash can be an issue, it is not the real problem with early access. The real problem is that gamers are saying that it is perfectly okay to release an unfinished product, get it tested for free, and slowly release updates to make the half-broken game they already paid for playable.
Some early access games stay in development for years, and while it is nice that developers add in the features that their fan base wants, that isn’t a recipe for a good game. If anything, it is insulting all the other indie game developers who wait to release their final finished product, especially when that finished product gets lost in a sea of endless Steam early access blather.
“Buzz acronyms” is kind of a vague term, but it is used to describe the ARPGs, FPSs, and RTSs of it all. While those acronyms are used to describe genres or even subsets of genres, it is the popular acronyms that are the problem. A decade ago, it was MMO. Every game with a lobby that could support over 50 players suddenly started labeling their games an MMO with a subscription fee after World of Warcraft took off in popularity, but now it is the MOBAs.
With MMOs now needing to turn free-to-play in order to attract a player base and a profit, MOBA is the new perceived cash cow. These Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas caught the eye of developers after the rising success of League of Legends and DOTA 2. However, it was really the potential of garnering attention through eSports for these games that sent developers, even big development studios like Blizzard, scrambling to release one of their own.
While there is really nothing wrong with a MOBA game, like the MMO genre, it is a genre that offers developers an excuse not to be different. Very little story is involved, characters can be designed with creative liberties, but there are only so many play styles that can be utilized to keep competition even. MMOs and MOBAs are both genres where the opportunities for innovation are small, and that is often why buzz acronyms take off, because if the formula works, it makes money.
Microtransactions / DLC
Microtransactions and DLC are two separate beasts in the same pen. Microtransactions are an older problem that grew at the same time that mobile gaming did. They are the reason that so many MMOs can go free-to-play and still make any money at all or mobile games can be without ads.
Gamers, especially mobile gamers, have all played at least one game with half of everything locked behind a pay wall. You can do five raids/games/matches/ect a day for free, but you can do 200 of them for just $.99. It seems harmless and a cheap deal, but when you have millions of players, it adds up. That money you are giving is just gamers giving developers permission to lock their content away and hold it hostage for money. It is why “free-to-play” is the biggest lie the gaming industry tells…sort of like Hearthstone.
DLC is the same way, but it is a more recent problem. Take, for one recent example, Final Fantasy XV. Without DLC, it is a fine game, but there are some wildly noticeable gaps where they could have explained what happened, even in a vague way, but provide quick write-offs. It is only later that you realize that those particular chunks of the story will be covered in the character episode DLC packs.
All of these trends are infuriating, but the day when you need to start paying for full chunks of story that you would expect to be included in the full release as DLC paints for a downright terrifying future for the gaming industry.
His 2 favorite fictional characters of all time are Ned and Tony.
Ken lives a life of anguish as his love for video games and all things geek is only surpassed by how horrible he is at playing them.
He has the hand/eye coordination of a 41 y/o man matched with a mind of an 18 y/o.
His cat's name is John Constantine.