Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The end of "gamers"

The "Gamers are dead" is a hot topic recently. If you'd miss it, the idea is that those who are good in a game are a small and irrelevant minority, financially successful games must aim for a broader audience dubbed as "anybody". "Gamers" are a small and exclusive group who have loud noise but small wallets, so can be ignored.

I find very hard to believe it. Even the most "nolifer" gamer is nowhere in commitment from a professional athlete. The ratio of "serious players" and "observers/casuals" is much worse in Football or Basketball than in video games. Yet no one want to make these sports "more casual", nor they show signs of financial failure. People actually pay to not play, just watch good players play.

Maybe the video games are different from sports in this respect: everyone wants to play and no one wants to watch other people play, even if they are good. Well, Google and Amazon bet one billion dollars on the opposite when they battled for, which is good for practically one thing: letting other people watch you play.

On the other hand, Wildstar, directly designed for these "real gamers" is dying, forced to merge all servers. EVE Online is stable with a very low (400K) subscriber number. Where are the "real gamers" and their fans to support these games?

The solution is that these self-announced "real gamers" aren't really good. They are above average of course, but the high school basketball team is also above the average student, despite not being any good and having no career in basketball after high school. The "real gamers" are far from being competitive in the leagues that attract visitors. Yet they are full of themselves and demand recognition for their upper-mediocre performance. They avoid competitive games and stay in casual games like WoW while spouting hate on it for not being hard enough.

Wildstar failed because it was a hard game and these "gamers" either tried and ran away or didn't even try. EVE is stable because it's a sandbox: in absence of official toplist, anyone can explain why he is a God and everyone else is crap. Most obviously: his kills are "real PvP kills", while the kills of others (especially against him) are "ganks", "blobs" and "ECM". CCP would kill EVE in a year by creating an official, zero sum killboard (meaning: when someone loses a 100M ship, 100M kill generated for all the killers and not for each of them), as the "real gamers" would quit in the moment they face their 30-40% ISK ratio.

Games aiming for competitive players, like League of Legends are very much coming up. The market for chest-beating self-announced "l33t" is collapsing.

PS: my chart has a life of its own.
Don't forget to donate to Mordus Angels against the evil Goons and their minions!
Too many people demand response on the recent MoA Aeon loss, despite I wrote that response 2 months ago.

PS2: FCON propagandists created this poster in response to "Burn Branch":


maxim said...

Wildstar sucks as a product, so i feel that it is not fair to judge the "real gamer" amount by WildStar success levels. I personally am as "real gamer" as one can reasonably be while still keeping a job and having a family, and i positively hated Wild Star.

Otherwise, you are correct. It seems that the part of game market that caters exclusively to AAA-consuming XBoxLive-swearing male-fantasy-craving less-than-social M&S is finally collapsing on itself. That didn't even take too long - less than 15 years (if you count since Unreal).

The only thing of curiousity left for me on the subject is how people conveniently forget that the word "gamer" existed long before even PSOne and really has nothing to do with lack of commitment or "basement dwelling" to begin with. An actual gamer is, in fact, the opposite of that.

However, less-than-scrupulous journalists seem to enjoy pretending that gaming didn't exist before Halo, because that allows them to focus on perceived failings of current generation of gamers.
Well, that's one of reasons why #gamergate is a thing.

maxim said...

P.S: love the poster :D
though it
would be nice if there also was a poster that a person not living in Eve could understand. So that i could show it to people who don't play Eve and get them to play Eve :)

Lucas Kell said...

The people you are talking about, the hardocre gamer crowd, they still exist, they just don't play MMOs. There's no decent hardcore MMOs left out there, so most of those players player other games competitively. MMOs are failing market because nobody is willing to push boundaries anymore. Everything is just a clone of another MMO.

And the gaming market is not going to be changing much if at all. There's a lot of screaming from people about how evil gamers are and so on, but it's not the first time and certainly won't be the last. The mainstream market won't be changing any time soon though because it doesn't need to. The issue is the vocal minority. The vast majority of gamers, even casual ones being perfectly fine, even if certain people with no clue about the games industry are unable to see that.

Arrendis said...


I'll mention it to the FCON guys, maybe they'll come up with something more public-accessible.

Anonymous said...

Football is a poor example. Using England as an example there have been numerous campaigns in to create new battlegrounds (additional playing areas), introduce more casual friendly content (more small-side competitions) and many technical game changes to make the game easier for for newbies (new rule-sets in kids football).

Gamers are dead does not mean that the old demographic is meaningless, but that the traditional demographic is not the only group of players using electronic devices to play games. Misrepresenting it to give the impresion that traditional gamers are worthless only drives up resentment for neo-gamer from prius-gamer

Anonymous said...

For game developers self-proclaimed "real gamers" is just a loud and tiny miniority from the forums. They don't buy games and don't have any influence. So we just ignore them.

mugg said...

Wasn't the whole 'gamers are dead' bandwagon just a ploy by Zoe Quinn's friends to silence criticism towards her?

NetherLands said...

'Gamers' have existed since at least the mid-seventies and spawned a multitude of fanzines etc.

In fact, one of the longest running (and most succesful) independant comics is Knights of the Dinner Table by KenzerCo, a purely gamer-aimed periodical.

However, what happened is that table-top games require constant social interaction so they forced people to develop at least some social skills, and unredeemable players kept to themselves and/or their groups.

Computer gaming and esp. the Internet removed both these assets: no facetime and bonds to locality meant not much need to (learn to) behave, while at the same time unredeemable groups/individuals were suddenly playing in the same game worlds as others - and often the most succesful, due to lack of oversight/rickety game mechanics/ too much pandering

In other words, the greater Fuckwad theory at work.

This resulted the a- and anti-social behaviour that became the hallmark of self-styled 'real gamers'.

Now if your monetization works right, a game company can get away with focussing on them to some extend in a PvE game, and with WoW it's big numbers at work (though the more they focus on endgame/raiding, the more subs they're losing) but with e.g. new games in their start-up phase like WildStar they never seemed to have asked themselves why 'peons' would be wiling to p(l)ay WildStar for an extended time, and in large numbers, just to allow a (relatively) free ride to 'the 1%'. Add in that in order to feel better than others - the primary motivator for many 1% - you'll need plenty of others 'to lord it over', too, and you won't even keep many of those you're catering to, either.

Anonymous said...

The concept of 'real gamers' smacks of no-true-scotsman to me.

Anonymous said...

@mugg : pretty much.

Although, as someone pointed out, only in gaming would producers/marketers/journalists say "Our customers are idiots" and still expect them to frequent their pages and buy their product.

Anonymous said...

lack of history.

hard games are dying. NOT the gamers.

just play arcade and the games till the video game crash. Some gamers back then had to be outright masochists to beat some games. And while doing it throw sizable chunks of money into the machines.
Really do your self a favor and play some of the old stuff.

The industry changed regularly. Now nearly a decade into with smartphones and tablets, the "casual" games are taking over (I also wrote this back in the day with NES). So the target audience changed again. And us old farts are left out remembering the old days.

Just look at the cons this year. It's like game consumption changed again within 3-5 years.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know whether it is my nostalgia biased perception, but I started playing computer games when the Commodore C64 come out and continued playing ever since. I work as a coach in HR and as a lawyer so my social skills might not be the worst ^^

In my memories, there used to be ultra-difficult shoot'em up games and challenging RPGs ( Bard'S Tale for example, then during the time of PSX there was FFT Final Fantasy Tactics, awesome... And challenging.
Hell, we loved playing "ELITE", Privateer, Wing Commander, Rebel Assault X-Wing vs TIE Fighter...

I don't know but it seems to me that games became more and more easily accessible.

There are still some difficult titles out there, but they are niche products.
It's like with the Kardashians... Everybody nowadays wants to live the life of a millionaire, but does not want to invest the work needed for that success.
Same goes for the games. For our first RPGs (Dungeon Master and Chaos strikes Back by FTL) we had to draw our own maps since there was no automap function (except maybe in the AMIGA version) and there was no internet, so we couldn't look up guides and walkthroughs...
IDK Wildstar but EVE is not a game where achievers go to in masses as EVE has become a huge farming/grinding playground.
And seriously, the "real gamers" I know would never play like Gevlon, they need not more excel sheets in their spare time...

Iiene of Kul Tiras said...

There is no specific "Real Gamer." Never was. People play games for their own reasons and aren't accountable to others that play for other reasons.

As to all these people that think "WoW is too easy." No it's not. If it's so 'easy', then show me the achievements for 10 and 25 heroic raids dated less than a month after the raids were launched. Show me your achievement for PvP arena rating that's so great. If it's "so easy" you should be ROFLstomping the content, right? Claiming YOU'RE a real gamer, it's the rest of the team that sucks is a bad argument. A chain is only as good as it's weakest link. You are on a team, and a team is a chain.

I'll grant you that leveling your 4th character (hell, 2nd and third, too.) is easy and boring as hell, but that's another issue. Try getting into a "FLEX" raid with 15 people, 8 of whom do 40K DPS. You will fail. I don't care how good you are. You can't just demand to get a group of your peers on demand, you have to actually build those relationships.

The problem there is the team construction process. No one has cracked that yet... You can't join 2 guilds in WoW, or 2 Oorps in Eve.

The WoW guild I'm in sucks at raiding. But at least they're not a giant sack of assholes. so I stay there. I've been in hard core guilds, and they're full of assholes.

Iiene of Kul Tiras said...

Another though.

Reading the other comments made me think, "real gamers" want a constantly increasing challenge. That challenge is ALWAYS "you against the system." With "The system" defined as the aggregate environment for that game. Gevlon chooses to fight the battle economically, with an Isk factory supporting his in game goals. The game he's playing is the Isk factory... not flying and shooting. But his reason for playing is the metagame aspect of directing that Isk to a goal. By that measure, Gevlon is most certainly a "real gamer."

Now, when I said "aggregate environment" earlier I include the social aspects as well, there are other players, but MOST players don't work well with that, they really want an evolving single player game. They want a raid system that magically provides players that are on par with their skill level... (Or in the case of the M&S, people to boost them.) That's what separates the "real gamers" from the M&S.

No game provides that. WoW uses "Item Level", which while a general predictor of possible performance, does not imply skill at all, since you can get Warforged after doing a quest series.

maxim said...

There are plenty of hard games out there that are not niche experiences by any stretch of imagination. The industry is getting pretty good at implemetation of "hard modes".

Also there is a natural tendency of gamers to want harder content as they get more experienced. The reason why hard games now are less lucrative is because tough interfaces afforded creation of some incredibly easy-to-understand games that attracted a great deal of new players.

As these players get more experienced, hard games will see a comeback. There already are mobile publishing powerhouses that grew up making casual games looking towards more hardcore experiences.

Woody said...

"Gamers is dead" is nothing to do with skill or commitment.

It was a diversionary attack against "cis white males" regardless of skill.

The idea was to avoid answering uncomfortable questions about journalistic ethics by using an enormous strawman that painted the dispute as being about "stuck in the past" white males complaining about the demise of games for their traditional demographic as opposed to being about ethics.

Sales figures blow that strawman out of the water. Young white males are still the massive majority of AAA games buyers and those gamers couldn't give a monkeys about mobile games and who (a lot of women) are buying them. Their games market isn't in demise at all and they aren't losing sleep over what happens in the niche markets.

The 'hardcore" community is another matter. The numbers of hardcore players has no doubt remained consistent as a percentage of the gaming population.

The problem is that hardcore gamers see epic expensive mass market games and believe they are entitled to that level of experience.

They can't accept that their niche is too small to finance such a game and refuse to accept the low budget niche experiences they can afford.

As result they try to hijack big budget mass market titles and pervert their design to favour their niche.

Pretty much what the social justice movement is trying to do. I loved Gone Home but despite corruption and nepotism leading to false 10/10 scores there were still only a relatively small number of people interested in walking around a house and hearing a Lesbian love story.

The Social Justice brigade aren't happy that CoD has an enormous budget whilst they are stuck playing low budget indie games like Gone Home.

So like the hardcore players they are trying to pervert the design of mass market titles and have them tailored to their niche.

*vlad* said...

A lot of games in the 80s were much more 'hardcore' than anything that is out today.

A game such as Ghouls and Goblins was incredibly difficult; no way you would ever see a game like that in an arcade nowadays. Still, we all used to play it, and no-one described us as hardcore. We were just average kids playing games in an arcade.

This need nowadays to prove you are somehow better than anyone else because of the games you play, and how much better you are at them than other people is such bullshit.

They are just games; the rest of the world really doesn't care.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't you use the API to code a new killboard using your dewhoring formula, then rank alliances and so on? Would be a nice competitor to zkillboard with some real information.

Anonymous said...

CCP doesn't run the killboards. If you want a killboard like what you suggested, then make it. I'v been in a handful of corps that run their own killboards that have their own rules(that are not the rules that evekill/zkill use) CCP couldn't care less about killboards, and that is why they have never made one.