What a crazy year! For the world, for the game industry, for games culture, in my own personal life and for RetroNeo Games.
I really can’t pick a topic for this month so I’m free-styling a bit.
There’s no shortage of topics to choose from.
It’s been the year of the Loot Crate, but that’s been done to death. Even my blog of lost month dealt with it indirectly.
Relatedly, EA has been seeing nothing but negative headlines all year even apart from the Loot Crate issues, due to Mass Effect Andromeda, closing Visceral Games (and shutting down the single-player Star Wars project), and more, but I don’t really see the fun in rehashing that out.
Reportedly, the new Assassin’s Creed was great and sold twice what its predecessor did (proving the benefit in breaking the yearly release cycle), but I haven’t played it so I can’t really talk about it.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the top games of the year, but I haven’t a PS4 so I can’t speak about that either (borrowing one is top of my to-do list though).
The Nintendo Switch is doing far better than anyone expected, and Zelda and Mario are another two game of the year contenders, but I’ve no Switch so I haven’t played them either.
One thing I can say is that I was wrong in my predictions of this time last year that the big shooters would be 50% off again this Christmas. The sale prices this season on Battlefront “2” (it’s 4, really) and Call of Duty are decidedly more conservative, with only Wolfenstein 2 being discounted all the way down to 50%.
Today’s news that a man was killed in Kansas during a swatting “prank” is very newsworthy but I don’t exactly want to end the year on that note. Though I will link to the PC Gamer article. An arrest was made, at least. Conventional wisdom is to keep your business channel quiet on anything political or controversial, but I don’t fully subscribe to that idea. If something is plainly wrong and needs opposing, then staying silent helps the offenders, not the victims. I hope the perpetrator goes to prison for a very long time. I personally can’t believe that the ‘set an example’ harsh sentencing of another swatting case last year didn’t stop swatting in its tracks. In that case, police non-fatally shot the swatting victim. The perpetrator, a teenager, was charged with domestic terrorism and given a heavy sentence (if I recall correctly. I can’t find the older articles today as the current tragedy is dominating the search results). He cried for his mother as he left the court room. Anyway, now a man is dead, and we have toxic gaming culture and manchild streamers to thank.
That segues into a personal note. I like coding, and I like creating, so making games is a great fit for me, but looking at the problems of the world this year, and then looking at the types of people I’m creating disposable content for (whiney sexists & racists and swatting scumbags) really turned my stomach all of a sudden. I’ve struggled with feelings of anger, frustration, and depression on and off for years. While I’m coming through it, I used to use playing games as escapism, and making games as my way of fitting into the world productively. Lately, though, I’ve felt an urge to help the world more directly. To stop contributing to distractions and start taking positive action – whether that be for charity, fighting toxic gamer culture, or something else. I’ve wrestled with the idea of leaving this industry (that I’ve fought very hard to become a part of – more on this next month) and beginning a coaching practice to get unhappy young men out of their gaming escapism and give them meaning and purpose. Then, as fate would have it, a couple of amazing opportunities came my way from the games industry and so I’ve stayed – though I still feel the call to do more. As I said, more on this next month.
I want to update the world on what all of that previous bullet point has meant for Sons of Sol, but, next month.
I’ve also barely played any games in the last 5 months (reasons next month, again) and when I do I’ve only managed to enjoy the ones that I know I can beat in an evening, like What Remains of Edith Finch or Tacoma. Just why this is, I’ve a few ideas on, but that’s a blog I’ll write another time. I was seriously looking forward to Wolfenstein 2 as I loved the original remake, but after a few hours playing it over Christmas, I was just stressed by playing it, which defeats the purpose. Great game though, and I’m all for its themes and marketing. Would like to hear if other non-parent gamers (because the reasons for parents not having time are obvious) experience the same thing.
My main goal for Christmas (and my reward for the year) was to play through XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, along with several other games, but with it more than half over I feel I’ve barely started.
I asked a friend who’s staying over what I should blog about, and she said to write about “how to find more time to play games”. Together we joked that the first thing in the article would be “stop writing blogs”!
So, I’m actually just going to go with that and stop this one here!
Happy New Year to all of you fine readers, especially the regulars. Thank you. Your support is greatly appreciated, especially the notes or the comments when we meet in person. They keep me going.
I’ve a lot more life changes coming up shortly and some Sons of Sol questions to be resolved in the next month, so I’ll fill in all the blanks next time. It’ll be a sort of a follow-up to the quite-popular first blog I wrote after starting full-time development on Sons of Sol.
How can one blogger adequately sum up 2016, and what even to write about?..
A ‘memorable’ year
While 2016 has been a harrowing year for most (who survived), it’s actually been probably the best in recent years for gamers. We saw the long-awaited releases of Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian. Hideo Kojima’s new studio teased something in Death Stranding that looks as inaccessibly nonsensical and impossibly crazy as anyone could have hoped for. Overwatch has delighted millions. Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 were great offerings, and even the less popular COD: Infinite Warfare was, I found, trying new things in the single player. Doom blew everyone away with a spectacular 20 hour single player campaign of the kind that shooter fans had been starved for. My new favourite game, XCOM 2 (sequel to my old favourite game) was released early in the year. I lost several weeks of productive work to it, but it steeled me for the year ahead, teaching me how to deal with loss and what to do when everything turns to shit (hint: keep fighting!).
On the indie games front we’ve seen incredible successes and a more mainstream acceptance of these games as a result. Games of note include That Dragon, Cancer, SuperHot, Stardew Valley, Owlboy, Firewatch, Inside, Abzu, and dozens upon dozens of others.
I’d planned to do a game of the year article this month, but the sheer volume of quality games made this impossible. One problem was that I couldn’t play them all. Another was that, after increasing my efforts during the Holiday break and playing all the main shooters, there were then just too many to talk about! (In short, Doom is the best single player shooter, I largely liked Battlefield 1’s single player and multiplayer, Titanfall 2 does have a great campaign, and Overwatch is probably where to go if multiplayer is your only interest, though it isn’t for me). In my book it’s a good gaming year when there’s too many titles for one writer to approach even a best shooter or best indie game list.
So, what to write about then?
Well, I recall that as we entered 2016, there was still talk of the Indiepocalypse – 2015’s hot topic. It was still on everyone’s lips (either seriously or derisively) for the first half of the year. Talk of it then petered out as people accepted that game dev would always be hard, and you just have to commit, build a game worth building, plan wisely, reach your audience as best you can, and see what happens. I’m paraphrasing, of course.
In the closing weeks of 2016, Steam Spy released a statistic that approximately 40% of all games on Steam were released in 2016. This news hasn’t exactly run its course yet, but it’s clear from most reactions that this number is considered ‘high’. Many consider it to be a bad thing; for AAA, but for indies particularly. Consumers have said that the Steam marketplace is just flooded with crappy games and asset flips (partially true), that Steam needs better curation (ideally, yes), and many businesses have been somewhat alarmed, realising that this high an increase in competition can’t be spun positively. Optimists (it appears some have survived 2016) say ‘the more games the better’.
The interesting thing is that I, for one, haven’t really heard more about the Indiepocalypse since that statistic was released. What I have heard about in the last few weeks is talk of disasters coming to the AAA world!
The final quarter release schedule was jam-packed with huge titles, and the news from most of them was that they were under-performing. Battlefield 1 was first, and did pretty well, actually, but Titanfall 2 came out straight afterwards and has performed extremely poorly despite great reviews. This is most likely because people were already playing EA’s Battlefield 1 still and/or waiting for this year’s Call of Duty (Infinite Warfare) to release just a few days later, or Dishonored 2 a few days after that. Infinite Warfare’s reveal trailer was the 2nd most disliked YouTube video ever, signalling either (or both) a dislike of the move to space, or complete apathy towards the 12th annual COD in a row.
Apparently Infinite Warfare has sold only half as well as last year’s Black Ops III and a leading reason why is that many COD players are still playing BLOPS3. Activision are competing with themselves! The multiplayer in each game is extremely similar, after all, so there’s really very little reason to move on.
Should Activision give COD a break for a few years? The problem is that they have 3 studios creating a different COD game all at once, so we’ll probably see one next year and maybe one the year after even if they decided today to apply the brakes.
Ubisoft did wisely decide to give Assassin’s Creed a break this year, but in its place we had The Division and Far Cry: Primal early in the year, and then Watchdogs 2 releasing in that same crowded end of year schedule (not to mention the Assassin’s Creed movie). Watchdogs also performed way below expectations. This could be because people are tired of Ubisoft open world formulaic games, or because there were too many games to choose from at the end of the year (Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian also released in this same period for PS4 owners). However, it’s also quite likely that people’s disappointment over Watchdogs 1 caused them to adopt a wait-and-see approach with the sequel.
Back to back releases!
The problem is that most gamers don’t wait and see, even if they mean to. They wait and move on to the next giant title in a few weeks, maybe picking up the forsaken game at an 80% discount 12 months later and playing a few disinterested hours.
Ubisoft alone are continuing to push Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division content, while their next big launch, For Honor, is due in just over 6 weeks, with Ghost Recon: Wildlands due later next year, and let’s not forget that Assassin’s Creed will likely make a return. They’ve also numerous smaller titles like South Park, and multiple sports/racing games like Steep or The Crew.
Most of these games, and many similar ones from other publishers, are multiplayer focused, hoping to keep players engaged long term and buying DLC and other microtransations until that company’s next big game comes out.
These current AAA strategies ignore the fact that there are a half dozen other massive publishers doing the same thing, and the market is getting carved up into smaller and smaller pieces while game budgets grow and grow.
It’s unsustainable! The games market in 2016 was most definitely over-saturated, and that’s even if you count only AAA releases and ignore the indies. Gamers didn’t have enough time or money to play everything that they wanted to. You could argue that Final Fantasy, Overwatch, The Last Guardian, Battleborn, Doom, XCOM 2, and others weren’t annualised releases and so next year won’t be as busy, but you’d only be half right. Those same publishers will have new games next year even if they’re in different IPs. And people may still be playing Black Ops III, or finally have moved onto Battlefield or Infinite Warfare. You also have to consider that many who drank the Overwatch cool aid in May haven’t played a single other game since!
So, AAA-pocalypse? Can the indies take some guilty pleasure in seeing the big guys fail for once? Well, no, not exactly. But something has got to give. CryTek, admittedly less of a content creator and more known for their CryEngine engine, just announced that they’re closing 5 studios. One of these, in Sofia, Bulgaria, then announced that they’re becoming an indie studio. So for every major studio that does suffer poor sales and has to close down, we should remember that many of the talented and experienced developers in that studio will decide “now’s the perfect time to try to make my dream game”, and suddenly where you had one big competitor, you now have a dozen smaller ones, all of whom are likely to be more talented than the vast majority of Steam’s overpopulated developer base.
What might we see?
That’s all assuming that we will have companies failing left and right. Despite disappointing performances, Infinite Warfare and many of the other games mentioned still grossed millions upon millions of dollars. After breaking even, profit is profit. Profitable studios don’t usually close. But companies who see declining profits do usually try new things.
I would think that we’ll see some shift away from the constant focus on multiplayer games and user retention. As a gamer, this year I more and more appreciated short games because they let me experience something in its entirety, and move on to the next thing. Most people who played Doom loved it and would recommend it to anybody, but nobody is talking about its multiplayer mode. It has its players, sure, but it’s not the main draw. Gamers acknowledge that there’s loads of games that they want to play, but AAA developers are still trying to keep them locked into just one or two titles for as long as possible. There’s an opportunity to listen and adapt here.
While single player content is expensive to produce, it can be a safer sale, with gamers knowing that this one game won’t demand all their time or hook them for the next 6 months. Single player games also don’t need to reach a critical mass of players to populate their servers, and can have a much longer sales tail because the experience will be the same whether the game is bought at release or in ten years. iD’s Wolfenstein and Doom reboots are my two favourite shooters of recent years because they gave me a high quality experience with a fun, passable story, and then let me move on. They’re worth the money and I’d buy more of the same. I can’t play 6 different (‘different’ being a generous word) multiplayer games simultaneously. I also sadly can’t afford to pay €60 a pop for multiple games with only 5 hour campaigns. It’s just not worth it. Black Ops III did start selling their multiplayer component cheaper if you didn’t want the single player stuff. I’d love to see that in reverse!
Sales sales sales!!
One sign that the big publishers are sweating is the size of discounts on even their newest releases. I picked up Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 just a little over a month after their initial releases at 40% and 50% discounts respectively! Infinite Warfare was also heavily discounted and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was a whopping 67% off on Steam!
That’s unprecedented! It’s also self-destructive as now next year there’s likely to be even less pre-orders and early adopters for the new games, as they know they can probably get huge savings if they wait until the Holiday sales. So the early COD adopters may have nobody to play with and abandon the game by the time the Holiday sales purchasers arrive, who in turn will themselves have nobody to play with. That’s short-term thinking on the publishers’ parts, and they’ll definitely have to think smarter to compete in an oversaturated (as proven by their discounts – increased competition decreases prices, after all) marketplace.
Pre-orders of most of the later games of 2016 were down too and I’d suspect that the massive disappointment that many felt over No Man’s Sky and Mafia 3 earlier in the year has a lot to do with it. Square Enix’s ridiculous pre-order campaign surrounding Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (adjusted after considerable backlash) wouldn’t have helped things either, and I’ve already talked about why Watchdogs 2 had low pre-orders.
It can only be a good thing if consumers are finally doing as the watchdogs (and other consumers) have been urging them to do for the longest time and not pre-order, as it perpetuates a cycle of releasing less and less finished games at release time and only maybe fixing things later.
In a crowded marketplace, this sort of thing won’t fly for much longer. So that’s one positive. Pre-orders also just don’t make sense for digital goods. The store can’t run out!
Much as I couldn’t resist ending the year with a twist on how we started it (AAA vs Indie -pocalypse(s)) I don’t think we’ll see either, really. Studios large and small will continue to make games, grow and shrink, hire and fire, and just do as businesses do. Talk of a repeat of the game industry crash surrounding Atari in the 1980s is just alarmist and ignores the fact that digital distribution removes the need to shift physical cartridges from actual shelves. It also ignores that, unlike the 80s, when a games company goes out of business there are literally thousands of developers ready to take their place. Almost anyone can make and publish a game nowadays without the same skill or distribution barriers to entry. While consumer confidence is being eroded and genre fatigue is setting in, reviews, Let’s Plays, and refunds do a lot to combat that problem.
No, I think the industry will be fine, though it will see some uncomfortable shifting, for sure. Companies who listen to their fans and innovate are likely to do well, while most suit-driven ventures to make the next big MMO or eSport are likely to fall by the wayside. We may also see a lot of lower-cost, smaller AAA launches that focus solely on single or multiplayer as publishers try to protect themselves while figuring out just which way the winds are blowing. It’s an interesting time to be a gamer.
Unrelated, but I just want to add this. 2016 has been a harrowing year for most people in the world, for all sorts of reasons – certainly for anyone with an ounce of empathy. Games are a great way to escape to another world, to switch off, and to protect your mental energies from the whirlwind of negativity that plagues our media (social, real, and especially fake media).
Use that to protect yourself if you have to, but don’t use games to hide indefinitely. We have to be able to still cope with the real world (because that’s where the eyes, ears, and hands that we use for gaming live). Don’t neglect your health, and don’t neglect the world around you. It needs good people to stand up for what’s right. We’re more educated and have access to more information than any generation before us. We have to be able to find the right ways forward for all, and it will take your (yes, your) involvement in the real world.
If we could all act from a place of equality, reason, and conscience, the world would be a much better place to live in, and playing games might feel like a reward instead of an escape.
Now get pumped for 2017 with my favourite trailer from 2016. Fight Like Hell!
It’s that time of year again. Assuming you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Summer! Meaning the Sun is out, and you’re likely incarcerating yourself inside buying dozens of ludicrously cheap games and racing to put enough hours into them to feel like you’ve gotten your 99c of value before the next flash sale pops up 6 hours later.
That’s right! It’s the Summer Sales. I’d have said Steam Summer Sale but GOG are currently doing one too and Humble just finished up with one also – not that you’d know as, without scrolling, I can see the word ‘sale’ three times on the Humble home page right now.
For laughs, and I haven’t planned this in advance (having written the blog title after the article), I’m going to give you, dear reader, 100 HP (hit points / health – but if you don’t know that you’re probably not reading this blog), and each time we discover damage, I’ll subtract HP and see if you make it through this blog-dungeon intact.
I’m going to subtract -7HP now for the aforementioned time of year and the fact that Summer sales are making you miss good weather. If you live in Australia I’m still subtracting those points because it’s probably sunny and warm there too right now, chances are.
To set the scene, there are two major sales periods on Steam annually; Summer and Winter. These sales are huge, nearly everything gets a discount, and they last about 10 days. The rest of the year there is something on sale every day, and the weekends are always worth looking at too for free-weekends where you can install the game and play it normally for free all weekend, then buy it at a hefty discount if you want. Humble Bundles are always selling games, though the selection is far more limited, and GOG are a quickly-growing competitor to Steam who are following suit with very regular sales as well as larger seasonal ones. In short, if you don’t have to play a game on day-one, and you keep an eye on these sites or just drop in for the big sales, you need never pay full price for a game. Ever!
Great for us, sure, in the short term, but let’s look at the problems this might cause.
As consumers, and I’m as guilty as anyone here, we don’t often pay full price for games any more. This means that retailers and developers can expect to never really get full price. Considering that games make us gamers happy, and developers and retailers make and sell the games while they’re happy (financially speaking) to do so, we can agree that it’s best that everyone is as happy as possible. Lower selling prices make consumers happier (supposedly, we’ll look at that) but can thin out developers’ profits, making them less happy, when we want to be aiming for win-win. In the past year, there’s only one game that I’ve bought at full price, and that’s GTA V for the PC. It wasn’t offered on sale, wasn’t likely to be soon, and I’d been wanting to play it for years while it was out on consoles, but waited for the PC version. Furthermore it’s actually worth the money by any measure. Amazing game! Apart from that, though, I couldn’t tell you the last game I paid full price for, and I’ve bought new AAA games like Far Cry 4, Alien Isolation, Watchdogs and Wolfenstein. I suppose I paid “full price” for Sid Meier’s Starships, but that was only €15 (actually, my 1-sentence review: Just about worth €15 but there’s not a full game there).
The reason for this is not that I wouldn’t pay full price for some of the games I have bought, but because I don’t need to. I’m still busy playing the last lot of games I got on sale by the time the next one comes around, and I’m mostly pretty good at limiting what I buy to what I’m actually going to play. Many people buy games on sale and never play them at all. This is bad for the games as innocuous art pieces, as nobody is enjoying them. Poor games. -6HP there. It’s bad for the consumer too as they will regret their purchase. €1 wasted is still money wasted, after all. Even if they do get around to playing them, until they do they’ve added a task to their mental To-Do list and this adds to our stress levels. Whichever of the two is your problem, that’s -11HP.
You’d think that for consumers, particularly cash-strapped ones, that it’s great there are so many sales, and in a way it is. For the same money we get to play more games. We like games and we like saving money. But the amount of games most of us want to play is far longer than the amount of games that we can play, especially if we want to both do the game justice and get maximum value for ourselves by completing it! I could easily argue here that the benefit to consumers is illusory. The cake is a lie! For me, who likes to beat games I feel it is, though I acknowledge that people might buy games cheaply in a shotgun approach, try them all for a little bit, and play the one they found themselves to like. I just find it hard not to fuss over the games left underplayed. Whichever your problem there I think you’ll find games are taking up more of your time than they perhaps ought to. The lowered price point makes them “too cheap not to buy” and you’re going waste hours playing games that you know aren’t really for you (everyone has their own taste) just because people recommend it, though they’re maybe an RPG player and you’re an action guy. -9HP for leisure hours spent doing something you knew you didn’t really want to do. (edit: I’m all for trying new games, but sometimes you just already know, you know?)
Moving on, are the sales good for the vendors? Sales obviously have their origins in the physical goods industries, where vendors need to clear stock either before it perishes, or just to clear room for newer seasonal stock. Sales make sense there. They make zero sense for digital distribution, looking at it that way. Bricks and mortar game shops had discount bins because they needed to clear the shelves of ageing stock, not to give gamers better value or to boost sales particularly. It’s likely that the marketers, in their divine, short-sighted wisdom, decided to apply sales to the online stores purely because of the psychological effect it has on consumers. People are more likely to buy something if it’s discounted, and to feel good about it. This would have started as 10% off, say, but if you look on Steam today, you can find multiple titles, some of them really good games, with 90% off! It’s a race to the bottom! Once your competitor is doing sales, you have to do them too, and do them better, if you can! So Steam and GOG, for example, now have to out-do each other in discounts every day of the year, and especially at the arbitrarily-set bi-annual mega sales times. So while they may have increased volumes of sales, the cash-value of each sale is lowered, and so even for them, they’re potentially doing themselves more harm than good in the long run. -11HP for opening that Pandora’s Box, because that monkey won’t go back in his cage too easily.. not to mix metaphors or anything.
Following on from that is the stupidest example of all of this. The meta-sales games. I don’t want to get too into it because I’ve never wasted my time with the nonsense, but during Steam’s big sales, you can get reward cards for voting on what sales are next, or buying games on sale, or other random stuff. The rules change each time as they try newer and stupider ways of making a game out of the very selling of games. Essentially you turn the cards into badges, or gems, when you collect enough, and you use those to.. craft more badges? Or something? Oh and you’re on a team now.. and can trade the cards with other people so you can… what?! Look, I feel I did it all the justice it deserved with that explanation and I’m not looking further into it. All I know is that somebody actually buys these stupid cards so I can actually sell the ones I get (for doing nothing) for about 10c a go to some joker, and thus I get maybe €1 store credit when all’s said and done that I can put towards my next purchase. That’s after Steam’s commission, of course, clever bastards. Make something out of nothing, give it to somebody for doing nothing, then get someone else to pay you and the the first somebody just so they can be the one to have that nothing. Genius! That’s the easiest to understand version anyway. But the existence of such a system is ludicrous! Constantly selling the product (which is games, Steam! remember?) so low has made even the sales unexciting and Steam feel they have to jazz them up with this marketing tripe. GOG’s current equivalent makes more sense, at least. If you spend a certain amount during the sale period, you’ll get a free game. A higher amount means another, better free game. This, at least, I can understand, but it’s symptomatic of the race to the bottom and it really hits me hard in the sense part of my brain. Let’s say -15HP. (edit: have you figured out that my numbers are arbitrary yet? I’m not even rolling a dice here!)
Having established that serious gamers like myself would actually pay full price for many games but never really have to, it’s clear that games are becoming less and less valuable. I actually now always check how long a game will take to beat before I consider buying it on sale. I’d like the experience, but not if it takes more than 8 hours. Kid-me would hate me for that. -5HP for making your kid-self cry with your first-world “problems”.
Finally, I want to look at it from the developers’ viewpoint. Games are very expensive to make, and individual games being less valuable means you can’t count on getting your RRP (recommended retail price) for each unit. Or even close to it! So AAA publishers releasing the big games, in the knowledge that many people must have them on day one, are pushing that RRP higher and higher, and adding on day-one DLC and season passes. A standard game is pushing past €60 now, while with DLC and a Season Pass for more of it, games like Evolve can break the €100 mark. Arkham City is €80 if I want to play the ‘whole game’. Which I do. But I’m not going to pay that much. -18HP for either taking more from our wallets, pushing games out of our price range, or withholding content behind a pay wall.
It also tends to normalise the games that are being made, with big studios less and less likely to take risks because they need to know what their sales are likely to be for a given game-formula. This results in less interesting games coming out from the AAA side. Ever wonder why Assassin’s Creed is (debatably) the same game every year? -5HP.
Wait a second; rising prices, less and less value per unit currency, product not worth what you’re paying for it? Sounds familiar, particularly if you bought a house between 1990 and 2007. It’s not unrealistic to suppose that the AAA bubble might be going to burst in the next few years. It’s worth noting that EA actually shy away from doing too many of these major sales on Origin. They know the harm that the perpetual sale is doing to their sector and they’re not contributing, or trying not to. They do seem extremely unwilling to takes risks with their games franchises though (unless you count risking shipping them as unfinished buggy messes).
On the indie side, where a full price game is rarely more than €20 and DLC is rare, they don’t have far to go to the bottom. Before long they might not be able to count on selling at more than €5 per unit average (and that’s before vendor commission – often 30% – and before all other costs) on their €20 RRP game. (As a disclaimer, the numbers are my own fabrication as I’m hypothesising on the future.) -9HP for making it harder on the little guy. It’s notoriously hard to make a living as an indie game developer unless you have that big success. Indies need to stand out to have that success though, so on the positive side, this does at least result in more interesting games being made, rather than a normalisation (if you exclude the myriad zombie survival games out there). This would be true with or without sales though so I can’t really add back any HP, sorry. Healing spell failed!
In all areas of life, it’s very hard to be a responsible consumer. We know we should recycle, we don’t want to support slave labour or animal cruelty, or the killing of the bees, or the harming of our beloved industries, but it’s not always easy to see how we’re doing these things as the end consumer. I do think we should stop and think once in a while instead of always jumping for the carrot. Do I have a useful suggestion though? No. Am I going to stop buying games on sale? No, probably not, although I’ll buy them full price if I’m ready for a new game and it’s not on sale.
Short of all parties agreeing to stop sales and get back to selling games at reasonable recommended retail prices (and there are laws against collusion like that, see ‘cartels’) I think we’ll just have to ride this wave until it crashes into the shore and see what the industry looks like after that. Change is not always a bad thing, after all, even if it can be painful. Just make no mistake, these perpetual sales are definitely driving a change in how we perceive, play, purchase, and create games, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. We behave like the consumer is king, but even the all-consuming bushfire can run out of fuel and burn itself out.