This all started with an article in the Guardian last December, in the air of ‘it was a day plus one before Santa‘, the title ‘Game shares fall 40% after profit warning‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/23/game-shares-fall-40-percent-after-profit-warning-xbox-one-ps4). You see, none of this should be a surprise to anyone. When we look today we see all these ‘what will come in 2016‘ articles (read: multiple) and that is JUST the Guardian, not even a serious gaming source. Another article kicks of one of its paragraphs with ‘E3 WILL BRING SURPRISES‘ and then it reverts to the mundane “This year, we can expect Nintendo’s new machine and plenty of VR games but, beyond that, little is known. And that’s just how we like it“, if that is so, then why waste space on it in January whilst that event is 22 weeks away. Ignoring the event for no less than 10 weeks would not have been out of place. That article ends with ‘A YEAR OF BIG GAMES‘, where we see the quote “but most exciting for gamers are the big sequels“, with several mentions of games that had been delayed from 2015. What they all forget is an element the mentioned article will give you.
So let us take a look!
The subtitle is as good a place as any to start. It states ‘Gamers failed to buy enough games for new consoles to make up for a steep fall in demand for older formats‘, so how about giving the reality of the games which means the subtitle should have been ‘Game developers fail to deliver quality, they failed in many cases on delivering on time, some delayed until 2017, creating a new level of gaming uncertainty‘ that subtitle would have been on point. Assassins Creed is one of those titles, Unity failed massively, the reason for mentioning it is because Syndicate did not become the success it could have been mainly because of Unity. A game that used to be sold out on special editions is now getting flogged for $50 including art book, statue, extra missions and soundtrack. A game sold at 33% of the initial value, new in box. Yes, I give you right now that Syndicate does not deserve to be regarded as a failure, but it remains a non-success. It still has an amount of glitches and issues that go back all the way to brotherhood, they have never been addressed. Mass NPC issues remain and the list goes on, yet again, the graphics department delivered, sound delivered too. There are in mission issues, yet for the most they did work OK, in a few cases they were actually decently brilliant. Yet in all this the NPC issues rose. For example, I can get attacked and the police does not act. I pull a knife and they all start shooting, even in my own (read: liberated) areas. The fact that they act on me is one thing, the fact that they do not act against my attackers is another thing. It becomes even more a joke when a fellow Rook NPC keeps on pulling his knife against my kidnap target alerting the police who now has a go at me too, all scripted screw ups that were not addressed. Yet overall the latest AC is not a failure, in the same light that I placed the Ubisoft business model in the past, planning for non-failure also means that you will never get an exceptional success. Perhaps Ubisoft will catch on at some point (one would hope, would one not?)
But this is not about Ubisoft, they are just one element in a group of many.
The quote: “However, independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said he was “staggered” by Game’s profit warning after John Lewis boasted of strong sales of computer games earlier this week. “We had just begun to wonder if Game Digital might be a good recovery stock,” he said. The department store said gaming and console sales were up 180% in the week to 19 December, picking them out as one of its Christmas bestsellers“, but based on what was this? Special in house deals with 2 games? Places like EB Games are offering new 1TB consoles with 4 or 5 games that is quite the Christmas pick. Oh and what are the numbers? When you normally sell 10 consoles 180% really does not amount to that much. I would think that Nick Bubb would have done his homework a little more meticulously, or perhaps staggering was a factor after he learned that £2290 is not something that gives price to 180% (I am not saying that I know their sales numbers, but I am asking why no one else is making a clear investigation there). And on what margins are those placed? A £299 console is one thing, one with 3 games at £279 is a good deal for the buyer, but it equally means it is a product without margin for the shops.
Yet the big UK player Game should have known that this issue is a lot more clear, so the statement “Game said a 20% rise in sales of games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had not offset a 57% slump in sales of older Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games” is a mere given, something they should have known going into the holiday season. You see, many big titles have been delayed, what was coming before Christmas is now coming in March and in a few cases in April. Big titles have not been the success they were supposed to be and in all this So when another article in the Guardian one day later reports “According to the industry body Ukie, sales of new boxed console games in the UK fell 6.3% in 2014 to £935m, and were overtaken by the 17.6% rise in sales of digital console and PC games to £1.05bn“, we should ask the question that Stuart Dredge might have been trying to hide within the text. The issue is “The Steam Winter Sale has gone live today, Dec. 22nd, and runs until January 4th“, yes ‘in sales of digital console and PC games‘ translates to Steam sales for PC games, a place where games were down by 50%, in several cases even down by 80%, so as many game shops have a non-return or exchange policy for PC games (which does make perfect sense), people are happy to download a few 4GB packages (in some cases not more than 2) and store that on their multi-Terabyte drives and the list included discounted games like Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Just Cause 3. So, when we know this, the ‘staggered’ response by Nick Bubb comes across as extremely insincere. Perhaps he did not do his homework? How can a person in that field not be up to date as to what Steam does and how that impact the shops, you see Steam has done this before, so it can’t have been that unexpected.
In that same issue we have places like Game and EB Games. In some cases they rely on fans who want their new upcoming Dark Souls 3 (the apocalypse edition) and that game will likely sell out in mere minutes, yet the dangers when a shop is losing space to a stack of Charing Cross editions, because the previous version was so bad is in equal measure not that weird a surprise.
There is still one other part that links to this. You see, we all play the way we can, some only play the way that they can afford and Microsoft has been dubious in several actions, the issues now arising from the Windows 10 update give more towards the fear that at the earliest moment Microsoft will close the valve on ‘pre-owned’ games, a side people rely upon because the average working family no longer has a spare £50 for a new game. Hell, most people in London are hard pressed to have £50 for simple things like food, so how is the drop in revenue such a big mystery?
The UK (as well as many other places on this world) have been dealing with a sliding cost of living crises. It has been around for 2 years and too many people are ignoring this fact, in any normal household games will be the first one to vanish from any budget consideration, which gives rise to the growing need of places like Steam, because between no gaming and playing a game 2 years old at £5, people usually tend to know what to do. The interesting side is that many of those games do not need the latest hardware, actually, those steam consoles will support the bulk of those games on high quality settings, so the Nextgen consoles are losing their footing, a fact that someone like Nick Bubb should have been aware of straight of the bat.
Are you still confused?
Open your wallet, consider your bank account (your present balance) and now go to any gaming store and get a new game. How many of you will actually do that? As I see it, 40% cannot afford it, 60% does not want to do this because they either do not care for games (which is fair enough), they have other bills to pay (which is fair enough too), or they are waiting for one of those delayed games, because they can only afford a game 3-4 times a year. These are given situations for well over 80% of the people in the UK, in addition it is a similar size in most of the EEC nations, so why exactly are we surprised on these sliding scales? I cannot answer why many readers are surprised (many might be genuinely surprised), but we should ask a few serious questions when retail gurus like Nick Bubb are absent in comprehension. In that case we should be asking a few other questions.
And games are not out of the woods yet, not for the near immediate future. Yes, most of us will run towards No Man’s Sky the day it is released (in around 22 weeks), but consider how we as gamers (millions of us) find fun and joy in a $20 game named Minecraft, or on the Tablets on a $5 game named Blockheads, how long until the analysts are catching on the hyped inflated games galore for PC and next gen is a massive marketing mesh that is short term, based upon a turnover need from the initial 21 days of release? We will always want games like Skyrim, Fallout 4, GTA, Diablo 3 and a few others, but that list is a lot shorter than those marketeers will admit to and the large players remain in denial. Hoping on a new shooter online where people do nothing more that run and ‘super jump’ on all levels like it was the first version of Unreal Tournament. How long until that gets boring and old? The remake Doom might be the first one that infuses life into that group, a mere original gems in a mountain of too many fake crystals.
Yes, we will see a few games we all want, we will see games that we thought we wanted because as games developers rely on hype, they are equally extremely unwilling to give out review copies until AFTER the game is released, because it would hurt numbers and the press at large (the real one and the gaming press) tends to be too often in need of advertisers to actually do something about it.
Finally we get back to Ubisoft, but now for very different reasons. You see, they are offering something called a ‘humble bundle’, which one place stated costed $1. I cannot verify this, but the offer (regardless of price) includes:
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist ($10 or more)
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier ($10 or more)
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction
- Beta access to The Division
One source implies that the price is open, but if you paid a few bucks more (like $11) you got a few additional beauties. I was never a Rainbow Six fan, but a huge Splinter cell fan and even only those games at $11 is an impressive deal, so when you consider this, when you see that PC gamers are offered a steamy steam life with excellent not so new games, in a price range that most people could afford, how is the 40% drop in shares of Game still a mystery?
The gaming world is in an uproar, because they did not tap the vein of quality when they should, they did not press forward for true non-annual innovation when they could, leaving marketing to make the call on hype, instead of truly addressing their fan base needs. An expensive mistake that has led to the downfall of the biggest players (EA and Ubisoft), gamers are realising more and more that indie developers will bring what they desire, a great gaming experience; and only now is the press at large considering that the need of advertisement revenue and the need of their readers base is not aligned, the question becomes how will this be addressed?
I do know that when the press is relying on a ‘staggered’ Nick Bubb for gaming, too many people might be looking in the wrong direction.