An Essay On The Oversaturation Of The Modern Video Game Market And The Race To The Bottom
‘There are too many games. Video game quality control is dead!’
These are statements that we hear thrown about often, but what do they actually mean? Surely gamers having a vast amount of choice of what to play is a good thing? Well in theory you are correct, but the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of games released on major digital storefronts are amateur level garbage that are simply not worth your time or money.
Indie games have been great for the market overall. Some of the best selling games from the last decade are indie games, including Minecraft and Rocket League. However, when the indie game boom happened, it brought with it a notion that anyone in their basement with a decent PC can crap out a game and become the next Notch.
The inevitable result of this is more games being put out on the market and more people of varying degrees of technical and design skill making games. This in turn means that indie games that actually have some value get buried under the ever growing pile of trash that occupies a huge amount of the space on digital stores. All of this led to a distinct lack of video game quality control across every digital storefront.
I should mention that I am an aspiring 3D animator, having finished my honours degree in 3D animation back in 2017. From my point of view professionally there are two sides to this coin; I could get on my high horse and start bashing those that don’t have any sort of formal qualification attempting to make games, but fortunately I’m not that kind of arrogant douchebag.
I know for a fact that there are folks out there that may have more experience with 3D than me and be more technically proficient without having studied at a level of higher education or gaining any sort of formal qualification. However, that doesn’t mean that I believe that anyone and their granny should make a game. There has to be some kind of video game quality control, otherwise we are letting a few amateurs drag down an entire market.
On the other hand, it has been four years since I graduated and other than a few freelance gigs and internships, securing a full time animation post is still something that alludes me and in a world still recovering from Covid-19, they are even more few and far between than ever. So making an indie game is a very appealing notion to someone like me, trying to make a name for themselves in the industry as a creator.
Although if I ever do get round to getting my own indie game off the ground, I know that I will have to break through this wall of waste to make my game relevant. Therefore, the problem of too many games being on the market affects me not only as a consumer, but also as a professional trying to start a career.
I live and breathe video games from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep at night. When I wake up I immediately put on a gaming podcast while I get ready, whether it be the latest episode of Gamescoop or the Kinda Funny Gamescast. I continue listening to it as I commute to work, where I sit and read videogame news articles all day, (don’t tell my boss!) When I get home I’ll watch gaming videos on Youtube or play a game for the rest of the night.
I truly love this medium and although I discussed how the oversaturation of the market affects me as a professional, it’s as a consumer that the lack of video game quality control affects me the most.
Before I start throwing blame at publishers and online stores, let me give you some statistics, so you have some context for why I feel the way I do. According to this article, posted by PCGamesN.com back in February 2021, there are currently more than 50,046 games on Steam. However, according to this article from GamesIndustry.biz, “the average game on Steam sells only 32,000 copies.”
32,000 is the average, meaning that there are in fact many, many games released that sell far less than 32,000 copies. After doing a bit of research from other various sources that will be linked at the bottom of this piece, I managed to gain an estimated total number of games for each of the major digital distributors:
PSN = 3,236
XBLA = 2,736
Steam = 50,046
Play Store = 477,877
Apple App Store = 957,390
I understand that Sony and Microsoft don’t have unlimited financial resources, but they have more than enough dough to justify having some sort of quality control team assigned to their respective E-stores. Steam did take a step in the right direction back in June 2017 when they axed the Steam Greenlight initiative. I do think that this has generally been a positive move from a consumer perspective, however with 50,046 games still available for purchase on the store, they clearly could still do more.
If Sony and Microsoft don’t employ some method of quality control and start policing the developers that are permitted to sell games on the platform, then it could result in those stores ending up with 50,000 games on them too. Introducing something like this is likely the only way to prevent tens of thousands of sub par low budget games being available for purchase alongside AAA titles like Uncharted and Horizon.
This does not mean that I am saying that every game has to be a multimillion dollar blockbuster to be able to get onto digital store shelves. However, at the very least I think that there should be a standard set that all developers should have to meet before they can sell their game, regardless of whether it is a massive company or a small indie development team behind said game.
A lot of people may think that this idea seems harsh, but to be frank we have to be harsher on these huge corporation marketplaces if we want better games. That is the reason that I may sound like I am being so critical, because I am passionate about the consumer getting the best gaming experience possible. I also realise that comparing mobile gaming to console and PC gaming isn’t really fair, but the idea of that kind of mobile ‘more is better,’ mentality is what worries me and I really don’t want it to affect my favourite pastime.
Here is my closing advice to you as a gamer; If you want to protect your games and maintain a decent level of quality across the medium, vote with your wallet and never settle for less. We should always be expecting more from our games and that is how we push the envelope in gaming, that is how we make progress happen.
If you enjoy Dan’s piece on the lack of video game quality control and are looking for something else controversial, you can check out why he thinks that Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the most overrated game of the last ten years here.
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