State of the Industry: Four Frightening Facts
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
This is cross-posted from the Proletariat Blog.
In honor of Halloween, we bring you four frightening facts about our industry. Don’t get too scared though, not everyone dies in the end.
They’re coming! About 188 games fly, perch, and peck their way onto iOS every day.
“I think we're in real trouble. I don't know how this started or why, but I know it's here and we'd be crazy to ignore it...” – Mitch,The Birds
Just so we’re clear about that number, only 254 games were ever released for the Sega Saturn and that was over the course of 5 years. Making a game is hard. Releasing one is even harder. Standing out from the flock though? That seems almost impossible these days. Not only is your game competing with a massive catalog of other games, but also with streaming music and video, social networking, and the myriad of other distractions people have on their devices.
With both Sony and Microsoft courting indies and Steam making strides with Greenlight, getting your game to a marketplace isn’t the huge hurdle it once was. Discoverability will become the next monster hiding under the bed. Just remember to keep your wits about you and think not only about your game, but also how you’re going to get it noticed and get people playing! Also, don’t buy any lovebirds.
“My name is Ash and I am a slave. Close as I can figure, the year is thirteen hundred A.D and I'm being dragged to my death. It wasn't always like this, I had a real life, once. A job.”– Ash, Army of Darkness
A double-feature of fear! A lack of diversity AND work-life balance! Big companies are legitimately proud of the amount they crunch. Others embrace their sexism and exclusion, either quietly (and sometimes unknowingly) through subtle design and art choices or loudly with their words and actions. Thankfully, people are starting to take notice, and while there’s no solution in the short-term, it’s starting to get better. When comparing the 2011 Salary Survey and the 2012 Salary Survey it seems that women made up a higher percentage of respondents in every job discipline but Programmers and Audio. Games tackling these questions are receiving notice and praise. The industry as a whole is starting to take an active interest in their employees’ well being and trying to keep sane schedules.
So long as no one mumbles “Klaatu Barada…” we might all be ok in a few years.
Ah ah ah! The Top 20 Best Selling Video Games of 2012 were completely drained of new IP blood.
A complaint as old as Dracula himself, rooted in folklore, and whispered about by children around the campfire. Can a new IP be successful or is it doomed to walk the earth as a husk, cast off to bargain bins and never spoken of again? This trend is seen in most entertainment these days and building new IP is hard work and high risk. While 2012 had some strong new IP with the likes of Sleeping Dogs and Dishonored, they didn’t manage to break into the Top 20 with the yearly staples of Madden and Call of Duty.
"My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side." – Dracula, Dracula
But wait! What’s this? There’s hope with the new dawning day! The next generation of consoles brings with it a raft of fresh IP! And with that comes the attention and marketing to possible crack the Top 20. Some notable titles include Titanfall, Destiny, Ryse, The Order: 1886, Sunset Overdrive, and so many more. Let’s just hope the light breaks soon and clouds don’t sweep in to blot out the sun.
Ahh!! Over 3400 jobs were MURDERED this year.
“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths….” – Narrator, Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Ok, maybe “murder” is a strong word, but “layoffs” (does that make it less scary?) have become a common part of the industry. It seems like every other week there is another announcement of a studio shutting down, a project being canceled, or a “realignment of resources”. Between the cost of developing games for the new generation, the explosive growth of mobile, and the decline in Facebook gaming, the industry has been even more turbulent than normal. Staying ahead of the Reaper requires studios to adapt quickly, and for larger companies, that always seems to mean making personnel adjustments. According to the 2012 Game Developer Magazine Salary Survey, layoffs actually trended down in 2012! So maybe it’s not all bad. It sure doesn’t seem that way from the inside though...
As for us, our five heroes? We were lucky and got out alive last year when we were laid off and given the chance to start our own indie studio.
We (and not just us here, but ALL developers) have lots of work ahead of us. Speak up, stick together, call for help before you need it, and don’t venture down the dark hallways alone.
DEATH Sivak, Chief EXECUTION Officer and Jesse KurlanSHRIEK, Creative DISSECTOR at ProleSCAREriat Inc