Monday, December 10, 2012

X Factor Final and Games?

Making what passes for 'news' today is the story that the X-Factor final last week had the lowest viewer figures since 2006. Why might this be? Well we can speculate. People may be tired of the format, people may have better things to do on a Saturday night. TV may need to reexamine the way it judges the success of failure of shows because with so many ways to catch up online, on mobiles or through set top boxes that allow pre-recording. The notion of having to be sat at home to watch something at a fixed time (complete with annoying ads) is probably alien to people of the generations after mine. They may have just found the contestants boring or figured that it wasn't really a contest anymore given that the finalists comprise an uncharismatic Liverpudlian, an uncharismatic shy guy (not that kind) who insists on having a haircut that makes him instantly unlikeable and the one who can actually sing and seems a bit interesting.

These all sound like possible causes for the viewing slump. But it would be odd indeed if Syco execs blamed the drop in viewing figures on the fact that people are bored of HD TV and are waiting for the next best thing in television (suffice to say it wasn't and isn't 3D). That would be weird right?

Yet when it comes to games that seems to be a plausible excuse that developers, publishers and so called journalists are given soap box time to whinge about. Here's Ubisoft bitching about it, here's some 1UP (urgh) idiot going on about it. There are others and weirder still those morons at GAME are blaming the fall of their empire on the fact that a new generation is needed. And because there is a section of the gaming community that struggles to think for themselves there's no shortage of forumite shit eaters parsing what they read from the blogs and websites. It's brilliant. They prefer to unnecessarily shell out, no they beg for console makers to give them the chance to shell out, for what promises to be the next best thing rather than be a bit discerning. Or stop lying. "I'm bored of this generation" makes as much sense as "I'm bored of paperback books". You can't possibly have tried everything there's too many games of at least half decent quality out there. Plus there's a gazillion older games. And get a fucking PC already.

Now, there needs to be some clarification here. Individual games aren't comparable to television shows or for that matter films, works of art and other media that people consume. What's better, Fade to Black or Tremors is a stupid question. However, the accessibility and way that media is consumed and delivered is important.

Marketing. Boring. I've written enough here about marketing and games. All I'm going to say is that there's a reason why 6 year old Mario Kart Wii still pops up on the retail charts. It was supported (and still is?) by a huge marketing campaign, the boxart is clear what the game involves, it is from a trusted company and every game store stocks it still. An interesting aside, it also still retails for near full price even where I've seen it pre-owned. Could this result in more sales? Ask the makers of Deus-Ex Human Revolution how a 75% price cut in HMV six weeks after release helped their sales.

What I'm saying here is that people turn away from shitty boring television shows and they get cancelled. But when shitty and boring games don't fly off the shelves game execs can't seem to find fault with themselves. Even considering that games are nowhere near as accessible as other forms of media. To watch film and TV you need a TV, eyes and an arse. To read a book you need eyes and light. To play games you need a machine that's compatible with the game you want to play, a television/monitor that's compatible with the machine you want to play (have fun trying to play light gun games on HD TVs), probably some patches (PCification of consoles was a good thing right), updates, a mix of controllers (£40 each for more than one), an internet connection, a knowledge of conventions in game controls (why is R1 fire? why is start pause/menu screen? this stuff is apparent to you and I, to most it is alien) and a dozen different kinds of cables for the best experience. This doesn't preclude the game you bought being utter shite though so you have to wade through the faeces that is the ludosphere on the internet to find a site that might actually help you decide which game is the best for your machine of choice (oh look at that, something 90% of gaming sites are ill equipped to do, Co-Optimus is one exception and possibly metacritic but I don't think it is that well known outside of the hardcore gamers).

But yeah, we need a new generation before developers will start making some good games. In the meantime they are committed to churning out the same old guff and not marketing it it seems.

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