The Video Game industry is about to crash. 20XX is going to mark the beginning of the end of the Video Game industry. Hey, since gamers love reboots and remasters so much, how about we just “reboot” the great 1983 Video Game crash?
…No? Anyone? Oh come on, that’s gold. Reboot? Video game crash? 1983…Nothing?
But yes, we’ve all heard it. Heck we still keep hearing it. The Video Game industry is going to have a second crash. We’re going to repeat history and 20XX will be a repeat of 1983. But why do we keep hearing it? Yes, there are definite similarities between current industry trends to what happened in 1983. And there are even some other additions in current trends that didn’t exist back in the day that can also be a cause for concern. Yet there are big differences with what’s happening now, and what happened then. And these differences are why we are not going to have a second industry crash, but rather, is why our industry is going to continue to thrive.
A Quick Recap
Between 1978 and 1983 the video game industry saw a massive increase in sales and popularity. Though, when you compare the numbers to today, it wasn’t nearly anything to gawk at. At its peak right before the crash, the industry was worth a little over $3Billion ($11Billion when taking in the arcade games market), which is still measly when compared to today’s astounding $20+Billion industry. But back then video games were still a very niche market, and these numbers were staggering.
And the primary cause for this surge was the Atari 2600, which released in 1977. This was the console that brought the arcade to a home console. With it’s fantastic library of games, both original and faithful ports like Space Invaders, it was the console that started the craze all around the world. Now of course, when a company does so well with a product, you will inevitably see others try to copy and follow the trend, simply to capitalize and get in on that sweet, sweet, profit. And this is the start of why the industry crashed in 1983.
Quick, name the current generation of consoles.
Okay? So all of you probably said Xbox One, PS4, and the Nintendo Switch. Now sure, we have a couple different variants of these console like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S, and to be Scorpio. But these are simply VARIANTS of the same console. They still function the same, play the same games, and are made by their same respective company. Now, if I were to ask you how many consoles you think existed between 1977 and 1982, the same 5 year generation gap we’ve seen for a while now, while having the same 3 different consoles during that cycle, how many would you guess? 3 like today? 4? maybe 5? Couldn’t be more, right? Cause that would be stupid. Well here are all the consoles that existed back then.
Fairchild Channel F
Fairchild Channel F II
RCA Studio II
Magnavox Odyssey 2
Epoch Cassette Vision
E.T is not the reason the crash happened. Yes it was possibly the rock that broke the camels back…or wait, is it a rock or a straw? Well how the fuck does a straw break a camels back? That’s one weak ass camel. But anyway. There was an assortment of concerns leading up to E.T that caused the crash, and a ridiculously over-saturated console market was one of the biggest reasons.
Now talking about E.T brings up the second point; an over-saturated software market. Obviously when you have close to 15 consoles, you’re going to have a bunch of games that get released for these consoles. Bad games. A lot of bad games. And a lot of bad copies of bad games. There was no quality assurance. No focus-testing. Simply developers just working to get out as many games as they could to make a quick buck. And when Atari lost a lawsuit in the beginning of the 80s that regulated 3rd party development for their system, all hell basically broke loose. This loss allowed any company to develop any game they wanted, for any device. You can only imagine what that led to. No blocks in the way of development. This led to many blockbuster titles to fail miserably. And the two most infamous culprits are E.T and Pacman. Though Pacman wasn’t nearly the financial back-breaker as E.T was, it still remains a prime example of a company simply rushing a product under the name of a massive IP, and deceiving people into buying it. As for E.T, it is famously known that the entire team had an asinine 6 weeks to complete the game. That means programming, testing, packaging, marketing…in 6 weeks. All to simply get it out by the holiday season.
Gamers were getting burnt, over and over again. And with the rise of the personal computer, and computer companies competing for the lowest market price, leading to PC’s eventually costing as much as a gaming console; many chose to jump ship and abandon their consoles.
Now we all know what happened after the crash. Nintendo, our lord and savour came to the rescue with the Nintendo Entertainment System. And with a couple of Heart Containers and Elixirs, the video game industry was back on its feet.
What’s Different Today?
So, let’s compare the lead up to that crash to the issues of the industry today. Now I was mentioning the over-saturated games market, and this is clearly still a huge problem for today; especially in the PC games market with Steam. It is true that we constantly see dozens of new games every week whether it be on the PSN, Xbox, or Steam, that are clear asset flips, copies, and developers simply wanting to make a quick buck. But there exist things that didn’t back in the day. Reviews, ratings, pictures, gameplay videos, and YouTube. When a new game is listed online, you almost always know what type of game it is. You have user reviews, you have pictures; you can go to YouTube and watch a person like Jim Sterling either love a new indie game, or tear it to shreds. You can go on Twitter and put in a hashtag and see what others have said about it. You can find pictures, videos, go on Twitch, and everything else to give you all the information needed to see whether or not you should take out that credit card. Now sure, there are many misleading things you can find about the game you’re looking at. Trailers, videos, and descriptions, may be done by the developer in a means to mislead you and make you think the game is something it’s not. But even still, if you’re that interested, you can find things about the game that tells you more information. Gamers didn’t have all these resources back then. They had to go to a store, look at a colourful box, buy it, and pray that it was good. Gamers today are also more wary and sharper in seeing the bullshit marketing and PR being thrown at them by companies. I feel we have a better understanding of when a game is genuine and original, to when a developer is simply making an ugly asset flip.
We Need to Continue to Speak With Our Wallets
Now that’s not to say that the market isn’t over-saturated. No, no, it most definitely is. But I’m not sure if that’s something that can be stopped. Yes, Steam is making strides recently in attempting to vet the influx of games and change their approach in which games to greenlight. But games, much like film, are easier than ever to make today. The resources and assets are easier to access, and people with a bit of knowledge, patience, and passion, can make a game. And that’s great, some of the best games in the past 5 years have been indies made by a small team. Hell Stardew Valley was made by one guy, and that game is fantastic. So we can’t stop games from being made, but we can control our wallets. You’ve heard it over and over again, speak with your wallets. And that can’t be said enough. There are way too many bad games out there, but guess what? If you don’t buy it, the developer doesn’t make money, which will tell them to work harder and differently to create a product that you want to buy. Let’s use a bigger example. We all got sick of Assassins Creed, but Ubisoft kept making them because people kept buying it. Then when they saw a dip in sales after Syndicate, and finally understood that their games were becoming stagnant; they took a year off. Even if only for a year, they still took that time to rethink their approach and see what they need to do differently. And it was because we stopped buying the games.
And this term of speaking with your wallet needs to apply in all fronts. Is there an Indie Game you think is really good? Buy it. Tell your friends to Buy it. Show that support. I understand that for many of us money doesn’t come easy and so we can only buy so many games a year. But this is where it’s so important to understand what to support. Maybe instead of buying Call of Duty every year because that’s just something you do, you buy a couple indie games instead. Or you instead buy something different from a smaller triple A developer. Something like Nier: Automata, or Horizon: Zero Dawn. Now I know that Horizon isn’t made by a small company, but it’s a game that’s trying something different. The biggest being its main character. Aloy is an incredible leading female character. The likes of which we haven’t really seen in a big triple A game like this. A female character that isn’t sexualized in any way, and is fierce, flawed, and a total badass. And Horizon has sold over 3 million copies in under 2 months of release. That says something. That tells other developers that, yes, we can do different things. We can have different characters as leads. We don’t only need generic dude bro shooters to turn a profit. When the single developer of Stardew Valley makes close to 30 million, it tells others to try and do something different with the game their making. Same goes for Playdead’s Inside and Limbo.
Speaking of Limbo, that was the game that started this Indie Revolution. Indie games always had a stigma to them only a mere decade ago. But now, many of them are some of the best games on the market and can compete with triple A games both in quality, and sales, and that’s amazing.
Now, there is another issue that many people feel is plaguing the industry. And that of course, is this trend of pre-order bonuses and DLC. We can all agree that both these things suck. However, games are vastly more expensive to make and market than ever, while being cheaper than ever to purchase when you consider inflation.
I’m in the tiny camp where I feel that games should cost more. And believe me, I’m no Bill Gates. But I feel that this incessant culture of DLC and Pre Order bullshit is because companies need other ways to make money. And I’d rather pay more upfront, once, then wait to have DLC trickle down the line and keep paying for added content that I should have gotten to begin with. But if DLC is something that’s here to stay, then let’s do the same thing and speak with our wallets. The Last of Us’ DLC Left Behind, is absolutely fantastic and is an example of how DLC should be. I can’t imagine not having that experience and was happy to pay for it. But that’s what DLC should be. Not map packs, not skins, but actual meaty content that means something.
The video game industry is not going to crash. It will continue to grow and thrive. But thriving doesn’t only mean dollar signs that amount to generic content. We as gamers have a responsibility and need to be smart with our wallets and tell developers and companies, with our wallets, what we want in our industry. We need to continue to support the little guy. Continue to support the growing Indie scene. Support big developers that do something different and stop supporting them when they do something stupid. Stop supporting empty DLC’s, and generic games. Let’s be smart and continue to do these things to make the industry as great as it can be.