I’d like to pose a question.
If Battlefield 4 were announced today, would you pre-order it?
Now let me ask another question:
If Battlefield 4 were announced today And You Knew It Was Not Great would you still pre-order it? I suspect the answer is yes. Here’s why…
There’s a dark cloud hanging over gaming of late. That cloud takes two forms: one is hype, the other peer pressure. Let’s address the hype first. Gamers believe all the hype they hear, and they believe it to a degree that they will not even question whether a game is actually worthy of a purchase. And the reason why is that games have become more than simple entertainment.
The state of the gaming industry is best thought of as a monarchy. It can be imagined something like this (for the sake of simplicity I shall make this exclusively about FPS games).
There are a few kings in the business. Battlefield 4 is one, Modern Warfare another.
The kings reside over a piece of gaming territory, which is populated by fanboys.
The fanboys wish to be at the top of gaming (socially speaking). They wish to be a top gamer (whether that be competitively, as a journalist, as a leader of their social sect or whatever). They achieve this by having the most knowledge of the biggest games (the kings).
Beneath the hardcore fanboys are regular gamers. This is the biggest chunk of the gaming world. It is these gamers that everyone seeks to please because, ultimately, this is where the money lies (more people = more money). This group relies on the hardcore fanboys to keep them up to date about the gaming world.
So, we have top games, followed by hardcore gamers who inform the rest of the gaming world who then choose whether to make a purchase or not. However, there is an integral problem with this set-up. That problem is that the hardcore gamers need the top games to remain the top games. If Modern Warfare or Battlefield lose their place in the gaming market, then the social position of the hardcore fans who have played those games for years will be in question. A new king = a new following of which the former top fanboy may no longer be number one (they might remain at the top, but they also might not). Obviously, fanboys do not want this. They are happy as things are. And they will (as is well known) defend their top games in order to protect the establishment. They’ll go to such a degree as to turn against any website that speak out against the game they follow. They will not listen to an honest opinion because an honest gaming opinion can threaten the establishment and hence threaten their social standing.
It is dangerous for a journalist to give a negative opinion of a top game because doing so would offend fanboys who will, in response, give a negative opinion of the journalist, hence harming the journalists reputation and potentially costing them a portion of their market.
So, very few people are going to speak out against a top game even if it really isn’t that good. And this means that the developer of a top game need not threat too much over the quality of their end product, because everyone will simply nod their head approvingly regardless.
So, to return to our original question. If BF4 were announced right now, would we pre-order it? Yes, the vast majority of people would.
Now, the purpose here is not to say that BF3 is a bad game (I shant offer an opinion either way). The purpose is to show that evern if it were a bad game, most gamers would still go ahead and pre-order the next one if it were announced.
Even if BF4 were a bad game, most hardcore fanboys would still act as though it were a great game in order to keep their position in the gaming world in tact. They would tell those gamers who listen to them that BF4 was a great game, and no leading website would argue because doing so would cost them a slice of their market when the fanboys turn against them. And since everyone has said that the game is good, the gaming market will buy it because a) they’ve no reason to believe it isn’t good and b) they want to be involved socially (everyone wants to own the game everyone else is playing).
So; why would a business (which only cares about sales) bother to spend a great amount of money making a truly amazing game when they know that an average quality game will sell just as well?
They wont. And until the social structure of the gaming world changes, the godly and unquestionable games that fanboys worship (like MW and BF) will not bother to take any risks and develop something truly new. They’re just going to keep things exactly as they are and watch as the cash flows in.
As a case in point, I’ll briefly mention that as a journalist in print I must have interviewed over twenty developers in the last couple of years (and I shall not name names) who stated “We don’t want to take a risk.” Used to be developers had to take risks in order to sell games. Sadly, most fanboys wont remember those days. They were years ago, when the gaming industry was still finding its feet. A game had to be damn inventive in order to entertain. In those days, the challenge of profiting from a game demanded genuine creativity and quality. Perhaps it’s a shame gaming has become the financial powerhouse it has. Perhaps creativity is no longer important in gaming. Perhaps if Battlefield 4 were announced today, you would pre-order it even if you suspected that actually, it might suck.
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