Killing the Middle Man

How quickly can a video game developer keep their job before their quota is called in. Companies that focus in video game profits such as EA, Activision, 2k and Bioware have shifted their media management towards the popular Hollywood management style. By this I mean that these companies either develop cheap low-risk indie games or blockbuster $250+ million franchises, in search of creating the next Halo series.

Marin 2kMid-level developers, who only produce mediocre profits, are being done away with. Cuts to the industry will cause both short term and long term problems to the entertainment and gaming industry. First it will cause a lack of creative development that will lead to reduced quality. Competition will also decrease due to the fact that some companies will not able to operate under these new budgets.

Take-Two interactive shut down its 2k Marin branch due to lack of funding on Oct 19, 2013. This company had recent success with the Bioshock franchise. (The 3rd installment in the Bioshock franchise, named Bioshock Infinite, was developed by Irrational Games.)

guyIt seems that no one is safe from the ultimate failure that befalls these mid-market video game developers. Baseball legend Curt Schilling filed for bankruptcy for his small company 38 studios after he missed a payment of $1.1 million.

On the other side of the spectrum, companies like Rockstar games are flexing their muscles. With the recent rebirth of its Grand Theft Auto franchise they are enjoying continued success. In the first day alone, GTAV raked in over $800 million and over $1 billion in three days. In the UK, GTA is as popular as tea and crumpets with sales already reaching $3 million.

The companies at the top are enjoying the recent trend and have used it as an opportunity to acquire assets. EA put its money where its mouth is and purchased PopCap games in 2011 for $1.3 billion. PopCap Cash-In It reminds me a lot of how companies like Disney went on spending sprees, bought LucasArts, and ultimately bought up the competition.

What will happen if we can’t stop the entertainment monopoly on our video games? Will we end up with games catering to the lowest common denominator? I hope to live in a world where the narrative of a video game can make you imagine again, with each new game an individual experience with high and lows. Games that are labors of love, that developers spent time and effort to bring to you the best possible product.

I guess I only have a real problem with developers that release new title installments annually as if it were a new iPhone. The Call of Duty franchise is an enjoyable experience with days of re-playability due to the upside of its online multi-player. I just can’t help but wonder how much better this franchise would be if it did not regurgitate the next game with visual upgrades. It is not fair to the players and the overall landscape of games is diminished.

I urge readers to comment and tell me your opinion on the new trend. How long can this trend last? Will the next generation consoles encourage mid-level developers to produce? I want more diversity in my games and hope to see a significant increase of competition in the video game marketplace.

Christopher Ross

4 thoughts on “Killing the Middle Man

  1. I agree with your statement about the Call Of Duty franchise. I think that if Activision and Infinity Ward took 2 years to collaborate on one game instead of each launching one separately every year, they could churn out a vastly better game. GTA V is a great example of a developer (Rockstar) taking their time with the development and producing an amazing game. I could wait every 5 years for a game like GTA but not others like sporting games. But I definitely agree with these big companies cutting funding to the mid-range studios. I think focusing on the big developments is really where gamers want these companies to be targeting.

  2. Unfortunately, I think this trend will continue. There really seems to be no room in the inn for these mid-level developers and I don’t think that will change with the new generation. I just don’t see anything able to stop it. Either you have all the money and power of an EA-type company behind you or you are a small, independent developer. Outside of those two, you will be hard pressed to put out a money-making game.

  3. I agree with Matt on this. I also believe this trend will continue as there are already the top brands, and they are almost too far ahead for others companies to start up and think that they can make a run to compete with them. Overall it was a good article and I wonder if any of these trends will change(or how they will be influenced) when it comes to the new generations coming out.

  4. I strongly think that games should not release a so called upgraded version every year. It’s not like it is a sports game where they come out with a new version each year, only to stay up to date with sports media. I like more game play with the games that I get, for example the Assassin’s Creed franchise does a wonderful job of not having the games come out back to back. There is at least a couple years in between each of them, I think they do that so that others who get the game later still have time to beat the game before the new one comes out.

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