« | Home | »

E3 to the Grave: Forgetting Good Old Games

posted on June 1st, 2009 by cunzy1 1

E3 has started. Some gamers are excited. Some gamers are jaded with it all. Either way, the lifecycle of many games will start this week. Almost. Well most of them were revealed, hinted at or leaked already. So this is games at their birth. First comes hype, then months of reveals, then reviews then bam! Japan gets the game. Then America. Then Australia. Then most of Europe. Then the UK. This is the beginning of a lifecycle for a game. But what happens at the end? When the game has been played by millions? Bizarrely it appears they dissapear from sight, only resurfacing on the second hand market. Don’t believe me? Check the official sites for Nintendo, Capcom, Microsoft games, Sony, Ubisoft. Mostly filler sites at best with the rare piece of news before Kotaku gets it. On most of them you can’t even buy the games from the site. Want to pick up Super Mario Sunshine from Nintendo directly? Tough. You can’t. Thank the goddess of gaming then for Amazon and Play. Otherwise anyone wanting the good old games (and in many cases the ‘old’ can be as recent as last year) would be well and truly fucked.

The experiment.

Instead of just incessantly whining and bitching about it all I set up a little experiment to represent the general consumer with a slight interest in games. This theoretical person doesn’t sit on the net all day, doesn’t peruse gaming forums and might buy one or two gaming mags a year. They have a bit of spare income and normally buy a game once every two months. But not just any old shit. They want genuinely good games that will last them a while and forking out full price is a bit too much to justify, so they are looking for a bargain. They want to buy the games new as they don’t trust online retailers and read somewhere that the second hand market for games is bad for the industry as a whole. They are also lazy and unwilling to travel further than 5km from their Central London (UK) home to buy a game from either a media store (HMV, etc.), chain games specialist (GAME, Gamestation) or independent gaming store. And there was no skimping either. The media stores and chain game stores were the biggest and in some cases flagship stores. So our guinea pig has somewhat atypical access to large stores than the average UK consumer.

The shopping list.

After conducting some research on the internet our theoretical person is out for any of the following 21 GBA, DS, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and Gamecube games:

GBA: LoZ: A Link to the Past, Metroid Fusion and Advance Wars 2.
DS: Mario Kart DS, Elite Beat Agents, and Mario and Luigi: Partners in time.
PS2: GTA San Andreas, God of War II, and Resident Evil 4.
PS3: Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Elder Scrolls IV, and Wipeout HD.
Xbox 360: Gears of War, Dead Rising, and Dead or Alive 4.
Wii: Zack and Wiki, De Blob, and Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles.
Gamecube: Resident Evil Zero, Viewtiful Joe and Eternal Darkness.

All good or great games, you’ll understand, and common enough to be realistically found in a store.

The experiment begins.

Now our theoretical is disabled by virtue of being not real so I took the liberty of hunting down these games in real life. In the space of two or so weeks I managed to get to most of these and in the end had to phone two stores with inquiries. Here be the results.

The results.

Overall very disappointing. In fact I our theoretical person had low expectations but the results were even worse than anticipated. So what does this mean? Well the sample size is rather small so we take these results with a pinch of salt. However, most people might not wander around 15 stores looking for games; I’d give up after three. It is important to remember that most games are bought at retail, so ‘just get them online’ doesn’t wash. Originally, I stated that our guy was after new games only. The above results are for new and second hand with Viewtiful Joe and Metroid Fusion being the only two second hand games because there weren’t any other copies of stuff that was second hand. I should know, I spent hours rifling through filthy game cases. All on your behalf.

So by platform.

GBA. Despite every first edition DS and DSlite having a GBA slot and the GBA itself bought in such high numbers the platform is all but abandoned on the high street. You won’t find a GBA section in the media stores and GAME and Gamestation have a tiny collection, if any. Indy stores were a bit more of a winner but in all but one of the Indy stores the GBA section was less than 12 games thick.

DS. With apparently all the world owning a DS it was surprising to see that it was still tricky to find the quality titles. Looking for these titles was also the hardest on the hands being that there are just so many mediocre and shit games on the shelves. Sad faces for Mario and Luigi all round.

PS2. With the PS3 doing so badly for so long you thought Sony may have had a bit of a contingency plan with the PS2. As with the GBA, huge install base but no shelf space. Ridiculous that GTA and GoW 2 were totally invisible in all but the Indy store. Criminal that RE4 just wasn’t there.

PS3: With the total lack of games for the PS3, it was anticipated that you’d be able to find these three games quite easily. After all, if you can’t find three of the best games when there are only 20 games available for the platform you’d be right to be pissed off if you were Sony. Sony, I hope you are pissed off.

Xbox 360: Again, a slew of average games but very few classics. Not bad though. 1 in 2 chance of finding Gears of War which is unusual for a game with a sequel and the same chance for Dead Rising. DoA 4 though? No chance.

Wii: Surprise of the whole shebang is Zack and Wiki, being the most available game of the lot. Shame about De Blob, again a classic and good to see that Resident Evil Ummbrella Chronicles is out there. Albeit with mixed consistency.

Gamecube: Depressing result but totally anticipated.

By retailer:

The HMVs of the world.
Scoring a whopping 17 out of 105. Which is crucial when you think that going to a game specialist or independent store is something that most normal consumers will never ever do as they are such horrible shops. No PS2, GBA or Gamecube games. Some of the newish games.

The Game Specialists.
Thankfully scoring better than above but still lowish considering these are the game specialists. 24 out of 105. Where exactly is the specilising?

The Independents.
The best scoring with a wowing 29 out of 105. But did they do well without the big budgets, chainstores and branding? Yes, yes they did.

Conclusions.

Overall depressing really, for a number of reasons:

The games industry bitches about the second hand market. Try finding these games new. Just try. In lots of cases there’s no other option but to go for second hand, especially online.

The sign of things to come? Games are made to make money not to further the art. Most games are bought at retail. Most great games cost millions to make. From this little survey, most games disappear from shelves after a year or so. So the thinking persons money is on cranking out shit shovelware. You have been warned.

Non-obsolete but old platforms are all but abandoned. So you’ll be continuously buying new platforms in order to have a reliable supply of games even when the older platforms work perfectly well. There’s some mileage in backwards compatibility but is so costly for what I imagine means little return. Backward compatibility is gone with the DSi, only half works on the PS3, works with the Wii but try to find the games and I imagine is the same for Xbox titles. Expect support for PSOne, PS2 and Xbox to disappear with next gen.

It is genuinely shocking. Some of these games are absolute classics that need to be experienced by gamers new and old. The gaming industry seems to be using the fashion industry model rather than the literature and film model when it comes to keeping consumers happy. Unlike books and films, a lot of these aren’t available anywhere else and it’s the masses that will be missing out. If all they are exposed to is shitty new shovelware on increasingly expensive platforms then you wouldn’t blame them for giving up on gaming altogether. In the UK, gaming is finally getting recognition (although purely on an economic basis in these dark times) and I think we need to reel back the ambition to make money a bit. I know this is a point that has been made many many times, especially here on videolamer, but how about supporting games after they are out for a bit longer? Instead of ploughing all the resources into cranking out the next sequel in time, make a bit more money from the older games and kill the second hand market by keeping games on shelves for longer than a month or two for most games or a year for the AAA titles. Who knows, it might work?

Preserving our digital heritage. Thank god for the web. Without the millions of news posts, videos, fora, blogs, images and wikis there would be no preserved gaming heritage or any record of how gaming affects some people. There are no proper gaming museums, there are a few computing museums but no National Depository or official system for preserving every new game. Sadly, games are being lost the whole time and with the above situation this time appears to be getting shorter and shorter. With such depressing findings perhaps it would be better if gaming went completely virtual, but countless surveys have shown that downloadable content and microtransactions are still unpopular with many many people and even then there is not a proper archiving system in place for the terabytes of data that needs preserving and maintaining. I, for one, like owning a physical object to hold in my hands and think it will be a sad day indeed when we no longer have that option.

So remember this E3 and all the games you were excited about because when the next generation of gamers comes round they won’t care or even know what you were talking about. They’ll have their own new games to play.

1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: The Six Hour Rule | videolamer.com on August 26, 2009

8 Comments

  1. jay said on June 1, 2009:

    I think this problem is worse in the UK than the states but overall you’re still right. The never ending push toward the new at the expense of the old is a little frightening and I’ve become something of a reactionary as a result. Sometimes I think I would be completely content if no new games ever came out and I finally had time to play all the classics I missed as well as explore the hidden gems on consoles no one cares about.

  2. Cunzy1 1 said on June 2, 2009:

    Last night I tried to pick up a copy of Okami and the Wiimade Pikmin 2. Went into three stores and couldn’t find any. In at least two of them I was told Pikmin 2 “wasn’t out yet”.

    But hey, can’t complain, managed to pick up copies of Coraline and Scooby Doo Escape from some haunted thing. Which is totally awesome and definitely some of the platform defining experiences.

  3. christian said on June 2, 2009:

    Cunzy makes the crucial point, multiple times at that, that this hypothetical consumer is not going to be looking for these games online. Sure, I could find most, if not all of them for new on Amazon. Most gamers would make this argument and leave it at that. But I’m not that guy, and neither are they. The “get it online” argument can leave our test subject out in the cold, and it pains me to see quick judgements, and solutions, being made by people who assume a base level of tech saviness (or when it comes to online buying, geography). Looking at it from this perspective, trying to hunt down games in the retail space, shows how problematic gaming shelf life can be.

    I had the most bizzare experience with Okami myself. I got it about two months ago – five stores near me had absolutely no copies. Finally, a local Gamestop had one new case left, their “last one” apparently. Since I bought it, that store has gotten at least one new copy, and two used. Another store I checked also has it, where before it did not. Glad that I got it, but it was weird to see the game once all over the shelves, then vanish outside the realm of Gamestop.

  4. Spyder Mayhem said on June 3, 2009:

    I have been absolutely unable to find either Elder Scrolls IV GOTY edition or Marvel Ultimate Alliance in local stores for my PS3. Hence, I own neither. While ordering online is neat, I don’t like to do it. Especially when it is something that should be available in local stores. Where did these games go? Why haven’t they printed more? It is a mystery.

  5. Michelle said on June 4, 2009:

    Just as my annoyance with E3 was reaching its height you land another wonderful article in my lap that manages to summarize my thoughts entirely.

    The fact that you can’t seem to find older games in shops anymore really bothers me – trying to remember back to my visit to the States, but I cretainly remember it being a lot better over there I am sad to say.

    I am most annoyed with the indies in this regard – I’m gettng used to the “game specialists” dropping back catalogue games, but I’d expect more from the indies – with more and more of our game stores looking like replicas of the last shop I would have thought more of them would be doing more to stand out.

    Doesn’t suprise me, but that doesn’t stop me from being disappointed anyway, it’s so sad.

    I really must get around to writing about my favourite indie shop ever…

  6. Cunzy1 1 said on June 12, 2009:

    Coincidentally, EDGE ran an article on THIS VERY SAME THING. After this though.

  7. Cunzy1 1 said on May 12, 2010:

    Good to see the industry fixed this issue: ‘Used Games Sale are Bigger Problem Than Piracy’
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100606-Used-Game-Sales-are-a-Bigger-Problem-Than-Piracy
    Then give me the fucking chance to buy your game new at my convenience. It makes me mad. I’m sick to the back teeth of complaints about pre-owned sales when the only way you seem to be able to buy new copies of games 6 month to a year after release is at a significant mark up online or in the pre owned section of a store or website. That’s your bad industry. Sort it out.

  8. christian said on May 15, 2010:

    Good point Cunzy. There’s a lot of stuff going on right now that suggests that the industry is in a similar mode to other entertainment sectors have been in – that is, their current model is breaking, and they’re doing all sorts of stupid shit to keep it going as long as possible, rather than figure out the big issues (for clarification, the “current model” I’m referring to is “games are made or broken based on their first month of sales, and everything must be done to force people to buy new and at launch”

Leave a Reply