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Gaming. An ever-changing form of entertainment media. Even looking back just five years, it’s possible to see just how far the industry has advanced. Gone are the days of Lara Croft’s pointed breasts and not having to install hundreds of gigabytes worth of data (looking at you, Call of Duty). But, these advancements have brought a lot of amazing changes to games. Just look at The Last of Us: Part 2 (TLOU2).
Graphical enhancements are one of the most notable changes. We’ve gone from characters flaunting all of their rigid polygons, to being able to make out the nose hairs of our beloved protagonists. We have advanced gameplay mechanics that require a lot of work to be done by our modern consoles and computers. You wouldn’t have seen horse balls shrinking in the cold on the Nintendo 64. It’s safe to say that gaming has become rather impressive, with masterpieces being released and keeping people hooked for hours.
But everything has a cost. Games have grown in size and cost. Players will find themselves out of pocket and developers will work extended hours in intense environments, slaving to get the game out in time for the publisher deadlines that hang over them. It goes without saying that things have changed. Once-beloved publishers like Ubisoft, EA and Activision have become modern-day villains; displaying many of the traits that are wrong with modern industries. Greed is the leading factor in this, with publishers not only wanting money to make up for the costs of production, but seemingly asking for money just to see how much they can squeeze out of their customers.
Former PlayStation executive Shawn Layden has expressed his views on the direction the gaming industry has gone, explaining that games have become unsustainable to make due to their growing lengths. Using TLOU2 as an example, with the newly released sequel being substantially longer than its predecessor. He spoke (via. Gamesindustry.biz) about how longer games means longer development times and harder labour, also meaning growing costs of production.
“I think the industry as a whole needs to sit back and go, ‘Alright, what are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our story across, and say what we need to say?’
It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for the 50 to 60 hour gameplay milestone, because that’s gonna be so much more expensive to achieve. And in the end you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market if that’s the kind of threshold they have to meet… We have to reevaluate that.”
It is true that some games are longer than necessary, with feedback on TLOU2 being that the final chapter, without giving spoilers, was unnecessary and shoddily tacked on to the end of what was an otherwise exceptional game. This isn’t an isolated incident, and can significantly knock the pacing of games that it happens within.
However, there is a problem with the sentiment that many games publishers don’t get a return on their products due to the sheer costs of production. This is just outright untrue in so many cases. With modern AAA gaming, the price of games has rather sharply increased; and it’s not about just buying a game and having it all anymore. Now the players have to battle with pre-orders, multiple editions, DLCs, microtransactions…it’s all feels rather excessive to the player. Yet it’s with all these editions that companies are earning the millions/billions per year. Take-Two and their $595 million earned from Grand Theft Auto V‘s microtransactions in 2019. This is one year of earnings from in-game purchases alone, not including copies sold and previous years’ revenues. If this alone doesn’t show just how untrue it is that games are too expensive to make, I don’t know what will.
Although TLOU2 didn’t feature all these things, the hype for the game was significant. At the time of writing, it has sold over 4 million copies; meaning that with the $60 price tag it has raked in at least $240 million. That’s not a number to shake a stick at. This isn’t taking into consideration the collector editions sold, either.
The point I’m making is not to buy into CEOs of companies claiming that games are getting too expensive to produce, due to their length, graphics or whatever. Just look at Bobby Kotick and the $30 million he personally claimed last year. He is a multi-billionaire and leaves the people below him with poor working conditions for mediocre pay. The cost of game production isn’t the issue, the greed of the higher-ups is.
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A few boring details for your reading pleasure.
I’m someone who plays games as a hobby. The media has carried me through many difficult times; serving as a distraction from real-world problems. Chances are that if you’re here, you can relate to that at least.
Now, the boring stuff. I live in the north of England, studied maths and further maths in college, to then go on and study psychology in university.