Rant on Pokémon Go and the Gaming Industry

Posted August 1, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pop-Culture / 6 Comments

pokemon goThere is no doubt that Pokémon Go is the latest craze, with nostalgia being the driving force behind its popularity. I remember my first Pokémon game; it was Pokémon Blue, which was released in 1998 for Gameboy. While it was a fun game, and I enjoyed playing it, it never was a game that stuck with me. I know there are many people that brought and played most of the games as they were released every few years but I don’t know there was a lasting effect. I know a new version of the game would mean people would stop playing one for the newer version but how much game play can you really get out of these games?

With Pokémon Go the popularity is unquestionable, with more downloads and active users than Twitter. When it debuted in the US, it was able to capture 10.81% Android users, while according to BGR, the two most popular games Clash Royale and Slitherio only managed to 1.67% and 0.84% users. Taking $2 million a day in revenue, from the US market alone. Casual gaming and micro-transactions are dominating the gaming industry and I am not pleased.

Don’t get me wrong, I am playing Pokémon Go but I think Ingress is a better game. Both Pokémon Go and Ingress were developed by Niantic, Inc and are essentially the same game with a different skin and less functionality. I am impressed with the stories I have heard about people coming together, there are even stories where people out in the parks late at night are also feeding the homeless. It is a beautiful phenomenon that sadly will not last.

Games like Candy Crush and Game of War that are making a billion dollars a year in revenue, are struggling to hold on to their users. While I am sure they are not complaining about the money they have made, as someone that played a lot of games in the past, I am concerned with the state of the gaming industry. The industry is out to make money and they are doing just that but at the cost of the gaming industry. I believe if this trend continues innovation will suffer. The industry will be trying for quick money grabs and the big Triple A titles that demonstrate innovation and artistic capabilities will no longer exist. There type of games that drive the computer industry as it pushes the limits of technology and have them looking at ways to make computers better, faster and more capable.

Think of it this way, if the games industry stops making Triple A titles, and rather focus on casual gaming or micro transactions, there will be less monetary value in making better computers. The computer industry is driven by the need for faster, more capable computers; you take away the gaming, that need is reduced exponentially. Things are moving in this direction, the 2016 game Hitman was released in episodes; meaning you were paying for a level. There were claims that this was due to delays in the game production but this is just the first step. I would imagine that if it happens with one, with no real outcry it could happen to others.

I know I am just ranting about the state of the gaming industry but you have to be aware, I am not their target audience anymore. I use to play a lot of games but now I do not have time. I am addicted to Civilization V (a game released in 2010) because I enjoy the complexity and I want a game that will challenge me. For those not familiar, Civilization is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) turn based strategy game. You start a game by picking a leader of a civilization, which have different traits and then you play against a number of AI players to win either by domination, diplomacy, research or tourism. The game involves around diplomacy, economics, government, and military. I love these games because of the replayability (I think I have about 300 hours of gameplay in this game) and as it is turn based, I can play with while watching TV instead of playing a casual game on my phone.

I think there is a use for casual games, and sometimes you want to play something quickly while you wait. My problem is that everything seems to be a carbon copy of something else that is successful and there is no real complexity to these games. I am not saying all causal games are bad and I do enjoy Pokémon Go. My concern is the direction that the gaming industry is going, I want to be entertained but I also want to work for it as well, I feel more fulfilled if I am challenged. What is your opinion of the current gaming trends?

6 responses to “Rant on Pokémon Go and the Gaming Industry

  1. Karl

    I fully agree that the gaming industry is in a sorry state. As can be said about so many industries, short-sighted profit-hunting has taken providence over long-term strategic development. However, to my mind this is the usual consequence of a high competition in a deregulated market.

    In many ways, the gaming industry has matured. The garage enthusiasts (I’m thinking on the likes of Will Wright of my own home genre, city simulation games) have moved on, and big companies taken over. Naturally, for the enthusiasts the quality of the product was the most important, while the companies care more about sales. Unlike the enthusiasts, big corporate managers care not about the art of gaming, they care about the money in gaming and so vision has been replaced by market analysis. Probably this transition is most striking in the perspective of EA.

    The second factor in this, I believe, is that gaming has lost its directions. Adding better graphics, more technical details and so on no longer produces higher quality games. Computer force and no longer the main limitation for game developers. Again, EA and The Sims series is probably the best example: The third Sims game managed to outperform its predecessor by simply by adding more content and better simulation, yet the fourth, with more graphics and less content failed to do so. This, I presume, is intimately connected to the industry’s maturation: The industrial attitude lends itself well for improving graphics, but not so much so for stimulating creative work. For me, the similarities to the film industry are significant: Disney no longer produces its best successes itself, but buys them from smaller enthusiasts like Hayao Miyazaki.

    This is in line with what I see as a general trend in personal computers and IT development: capacity is no longer increasing like it once did. Instead, new OS’s are lighter and the software slimmer. The future will tell, but I am not sure that Moore’s law will stay true for computer capacity.

    Anyway, the gaming world, for me, is not without its hopes, either. Cities Skylines, for instance, created by a smaller game developer, seems promising. The concept is not new, but it’s done in a smart way, combining true 3D graphics with good simulation. The possibility of adding custom content to a game is, to my mind, one of the best ways of keeping it alive. Jeez, just look at SimCity 4. 😀

    Thanks for an interesting post!

    • I really enjoyed reading your rant, I don’t know where to respond. As for the gaming industry, I think there is some hope for it, there are company’s like Firaxis and Paradox that are producing good games. Also the indie gaming industry is going strong. I know graphics aren’t everything but game play has really suffered recently.

      The one thing I think the gaming industry is getting right at the moment is the introduction to modding. The community has really made some great improvements to games and some companies really use that well.

  2. Mary MK

    I think this is a similar thing in a lot of industries but i don’t think its really the end.
    I remember about 15 years ago reality tv got popular and because networks can save money on scriptwriters and such, a lot of them invested in them. There were similar articles about how it was the death of television. and maybe for a while, things weren’t great. But new things happen, new models emerge. A lot of great shows have been created since then along with the terrible reality shows. And netflix and other similar models have helped kick things up a bit.
    I think something similar will happen with gaming. There will be cheap but easily accessible games. but there will still be some masterpieces created. Maybe look at indie designers and support them in this new age of gaming.

    • That is a good point, there could be a surge in the gaming industry similar to what happened with television with cable tv and then netflix. We might just have to wait to see what change will bring from the indie developers.

  3. Rob

    I think it’s easy to look at money-grabbing micro-transaction games and feel like the gaming industry is spiraling, but I can’t keep up with the amount of great games that are being released right now.

    Amazing AAA titles are still being made, and there has never been a better time for innovative indie game developers. Also with crowd-funding, which has admittedly been hit or miss and mainly caters to nostalgia, nearly forgotten genres like the point-and-click adventure have been making a come-back as well.

    Since shelf space is no longer a worry, there’s room for all sorts of games out there. Trends come and go, and there may be more pay-to-win games being made than ever before, but there are a lot of options out there.

    • I’m sure there are many great games being released, but for the most part it seems like money grabbing mirco-transactions. I know that is mainly mobile games but when Hit Man has a similar release style, I got worried. I think I prefer to look towards smaller developers and indie developers. Paradox seem to do the more interesting games for me.

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