Burnt Ships
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 February 2013, 12:01 pm

The one thing I can say with some confidence about the videogame industry as a whole is that it rarely, if ever, runs in reverse. While trends and fads may resurface from time to time, usually in the context of nostalgia, the industry at large never says things like, “You know what? 3.5-inch floppy discs really were the best medium. We should go back to using them.” Retailers never say, “Blech, consumers really hate us asking for pre-orders. Let’s go back to just stocking a bunch of extra copies of every game.” Publishers never say, “Let’s refocus our marketing strategies back to big, single-player PC games as our flagship titles.”

It’s a burn-the-ships kind of industry, which I think is both one of its great strengths and one of the reasons I find it so often frustrating. The big names in the business strike off for new lands, and when they go crashing haplessly into some pristine beach frontier, first thing they do is break out the torches and sink the boats so they can never go back.

It makes sense in some ways, because technology by its nature is as inexorable as water flowing downhill in its own forward progress. There’s a pretty good and obvious reason no one is ever going back to floppies. Constant movement and change, regardless of who the actual change benefits or hurts, is a cornerstone of the 'gamez biz'. For gamers, that change can be the hardest part of the whole thing to deal with.

There is a part of most gamers, I think, that probably remembers some moment in time, some year or console generation that was formative in the ideas we hold as iconic to games and the gaming business. And, the further away that moment in time is, the more likely that most of what defined that era is long gone, and never to come again.

This is why when gamers talk about companies rolling back initiatives like always-on DRM, microtransactions, DLC and many of the other modern nuisances in gaming, I have polite but firm doubts. I understand and support the decision to vote with your dollar, but realistically, the end result of that is not pressure on the industry to change, but a personal decision to limit your current-generational exposure.

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