Imagining a better vidyagames industry for 2017

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As we all hold hands and rejoice at the death of 2016, avoiding with all our might recognition of the fact that 2017 will be the year that hands an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons to a far-right mentally unstable man-baby, let’s take some time to imagine a better world. A world where consumers make the games industry work for them, rather than the other way around.

Virtual Reality will die on its arse.

Actually, this isn’t exactly hard to imagine, and if you look closely you can sort of see it starting to happen already. It’s one thing to try and convince people that they desperately want something they’re not interested in. It’s quite another to also try to convince them that they have much more money than they actually do because, generally speaking, retailers don’t accept wishful thinking as payment in part or in full. Of course, the VR game lineup is really strong, with all those top-quality exclusives that would be literally impossible on traditional formats like…. er… oh, you know, that one that…. hmm…

The incessantly vacuous sales pitch from the panicking companies desperately trying to hawk VR hardware and software doesn’t bother me. These companies have human beings working for them, after all; men and women with bills, families, animals that reciprocate their love because no other human being will, etc. They need money to live (the ones at the bottom of the food chain, anyway) and I say best of luck to ‘em. What does bother me is the way that some reporters have – willingly or otherwise – allowed marketing speak to fondle their writing. Recognising that VR games on the whole are unremarkable as ‘games’, some writers are now talking about ‘experiences’. Ugh.

One of the worst things about VR is how stupid you look wearing the ridiculous headgear.

Anyway, let’s imagine a world where the VR market crashes, yet nobody has to lose their job; and as a result, VR prices plummet to much more reasonable and attainable figures, so nobody has to hand over enough money for a small car in order to enjoy their “experiences”.

The Nintendo Switch will be great and lovely and successful.

Now, as my regular readers and friends will know (I make that at least three people, four if you include my mum), I’m one of those people prepared to give Nintendo a fair amount of leeway. “People like me” can attract a fair amount of venom and scorn on the interwebs but, as far as character flaws go, I’m fairly confident that places me at least three levels below Hitler. You might be surprised to learn, then, that I’m becoming a little concerned about the Switch.

The initial reveal didn’t have me jumping up and down in glee blowing a Waluigi vuvuzela, but I thought it seemed like a pretty neat idea. A brand new Super Mario game too, hopefully at launch? Yes please sir! Might be underpowered compared to its peers (again)? Don’t bother me none, guv. But Nintendo can be its own worst enemy at times, seemingly determined to make at least one really stupid decision per generation, success coming despite their idiosyncrasy as well as because of it. Speaking of which, I find the hints and rumours regarding ports and re-releases alarming.

Switch touch control confirmed.

Skyrim in 2017? I mean, really? Xenoblade Chronicles X is probably one of my favourite ever games, but I’m not sure I want to buy it again. Splatoon re-released? Give us a sequel, you fools! Loads of people have already played it, that was one of the few really successful Wii U titles! Ditto Mario Kart 8. If the rumours of a bunch of new tracks and characters prove true, okay I’ll probably buy it, because Nintendo. But I’ll still feel a bit ripped off.

Let’s imagine a world where the Switch is released at a reasonable price, it sells loads, nobody hates other people just because of the games they choose to play, and Nintendo inspires more big studios to do loads of cool stuff. Oh, and that VR patent comes to nothing, of course.

4K, HDR, different versions of the same console, and all that nonsense fades away.

This is another case of being told what you want by the people trying to sell it to you. Usually, this approach works (just look at Apple). Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. Remember 3D TVs? Remember how it was poised to be The Next Big Thing and yes of course it was inevitable that you’d have to buy one at some point if you wanted to get the most out of your videogames? Remember how the poster boys of interactive 3D were Killzone 3, Avatar, and Crysis 2? No, probably not.

I’m not quite as stupid as I appear to be (that’s not possible). I’m well aware that 3D TVs and 4K/HDR displays aren’t directly comparable. But surely we can all agree that the principle is the same from a business perspective? And when you throw the PS4 Pro and “Project Scorpio” into the mix, things get messy.

A photo of defunct Belgian indie rock band Ks Choice, because shut up.

It’s divisive, and not even in a simple “the more expensive machine gives the best experience” way. Both Sony and Microsoft are admant that the old(er) machines will be able to play all the same games as the new(er) machines. While there’s plenty of time for that to change, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt there. The first PS4 Pro had barely left the factory, however, before confirmation was already in that some games would run poorly on a standard PS4 versus a Pro (The Last Guardian) and even that some games would run poorly on a Pro – if you wanted to play in 4K – versus a standard PS4 (Skyrim). Remind me why this was a good idea again?

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to imagine a world where all the money and research goes to making great new games, rather than a significant portion of it going to convincing you to buy a new TV or a console that you already have.

Remakes and remasters will finally go away, or at least be reduced to a small number that people actually ask for.

I touched on this with the Switch, but the problem is of course more longstanding and widespread than that. Once upon a time, backwards compatibility was just the way things were with a decent console. Any 3DS can play any DS game, the Wii U can play any Wii game, the Wii can play any GameCube game, the PS3 could play any PS2 game… until Sony took the feature away from all models leaving the factory, ostensibly to cut costs. Xbox 360 backwards compatibility was patchy, and the situation is even worse with Xbox One. PS4 currently has no backwards compatibility at all. Why the reluctance to allow consumers to play old games on new machines in recent years?

PlayStation Now, The Uncharted collection, the Bioshock collection, the Master Chief Collection, The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Return to Arkham, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition, Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim – Special Edition, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Saints Row IV: Re-elected…

It’s a complete mystery.

Whatever the reason (we’ll probably never know), please feel free to join me in imagining a world where old games only get re-released or remastered when people ask for them and, as a nice ol’ bonus, all consoles are unlocked to allow full backwards compatibility.

You’re going to need a pretty good imagination for this one.

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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