Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Too Much of a good thing?

So, I was reading an article about the Ratings of Publishers (link), and there is a quote in it that really got me thinking -

Should both of these publisher deals go forward (Activision-Blizzard and EA-Take Two), the result would be two huge publishers who collectively publish over 250 console and handheld games every 12 months, a significant percentage of the market in any given year.
250 titles in a year? And that's just two of the publishers in the business right now! The question is really starting to become "how many games will you really play in a 12-month period?" Now, understandably, I won't play 250 different games in 2008. I probably bought more games in 2007 than I should have, which isn't unusual when I get new game systems. I bought games I don't play, because my kids play them, so that adds some. But how many games really can be put out by the industry each year that are worth playing? It's pretty historic that outside of the "ultra-classic games" like the original Super Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog - and I mean the 1991 and 1992 releases - people don't flock to buy "bargain" games. So how many various titles can you really expect to be bought in a calendar year per person. If you look at the software "take rate" per console, I think you get a pretty clear understanding of "not that freaking many" - Microsoft boasts that the 360 has a somewhere around 7 titles per console sitting on a shelf. So, people who bought the 360 have bought on average 3 titles per year since the console's release. That includes such "AAA" titles as Halo3, Gears of War, Rainbow 6 Vegas, Rock Band, Guitar Hero 2 and 3, Rainbow Six Vegas, Project Gotham 3 and 4, Forza 2, Mass Effect, BioShock, Call of Duty 2, 3, and 4, along with others that I could spend an hour listing off. I listed 15 titles that I would consider the "hot games" for just 1 system, many of which came out in the last 12 months.

You have to add in that currently there are at least 6 unique systems to consider (PC, 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP). So let's do quick math - figure on the top end that the average for all systems is at least 5 each per year. That gets us to 30 titles bought per "complete family unit" - meaning if a family had all 6 systems that they would have bought around 30 games in a year. That's a lot of games to play through, especially if they are all long-playing games like RPG's which can be expected to have 100+ hours to playtime. Then realize that Activision, Vivendi (aka Blizzard),
EA and Take Two pumped out a combined 250 titles last year alone. That's a lot of games to put out on shelves to be considered for purchase. And that's just 4 of the major publishers, of which there are nearly 70 unique publishers out there.

It all comes down to - how many games can you really play in a year, I mean really? And how many gamers go back 1+ year to get "platinum hits" or spend the time to replay that really awesome game from 2-3 years ago? Replay value is gone, because we have so many other games out there to vie for our attention.

I think I need to dig out my Dreamcast soon... or maybe my Saturn.

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