Today I thought it'd be a good idea to take a look at 'fanboys'. Most of you know what we're on about and most of you may consider them a major annoyance. Thing is, why are they so prevalent, now more than ever? What makes them tick? Why do they need to sit there typing out venomous and ill-considered comments? Well, I'll try my best to think this one through.
A fanboy's someone who has a favourite. It can be a company, franchise or console. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. We all have our preferences, but fanboys feel the need to attack. The target for attack could be almost anything. It could be something that contradicts, copies or competes with 'their' favourite. This incessant attacking of what isn't exactly to their liking has a negative impact on plenty of websites, with topics and threads often getting derailed and insults being thrown around. It's not just forum's threads that are receiving these negative commentators. Developers and Community Managers are now in the scopes of these insecure whingers, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and the like. From a personal point of view, this is bad news as well. I, as someone who plays games, don't want to be associated with these people. I'm on forums, I tweet to developers and Community Managers, so it saddens me to even think about being remotely linked to or involved in this behaviour.
It wasn't always like this. Back in the days of the arcade machine, people were grateful for what they got or could find. There was no long-term investment involved. People threw in their loose change, played the game and that was that. They moved on to the next one or put in more change if they enjoyed it. I'm sure the games were discussed, with the good games receiving more money than the poor games, but the animosity among gamers wasn't there. Unless you count people wanting to beat each others high score animosity.
Then it changed. People started buying consoles and buying the games. This cost more than loose change and also involved picking a game to invest in as well as a console. The dilemma of choice was personified in the heated rivalry between Sega and Nintendo. People (most of them) only had one or the other. They'd invested in their console, they'd picked their side and this is where it began. It was personal. It was my decision, my money and my collection of games vs yours.
Then it got worse. More games were available and decisions needed to be made. People no longer had the problem of no games being available. It's safe to say we've reached a point where too many games, too many good ones at that, are being released one after the other. These games are longer and more expensive than ever. MMOs are measured in lifetimes, not hours. First Person Shooters last years thanks to their multiplayer components. Sports games are played all season either online or off as people now have an experience that truly emulates the real thing. People have to decide what game to play, what hours to sink and what games to miss out on. But how can you not play this game? You're a total n00b.
Developers became 'likable'. Community Managers put a friendly face onto the big corporation's perceived identity. They started helping out charities. Their owners became Sirs and Knights! How can you not like this company? That other company are nothing but corporate whores dying to sell out. Fuck them!
Game characters became 'personalities', appearing in Playboy, newspapers and on our TVs in their own shows. Even in my cereal! Games were no longer one-off 5 hours escapades. They turned into 40 hour franchises, with spin-offs and trilogies coming left right and center. How can you not like this franchise? That character is so gay compared to this one.
So here we are, with people investing hundreds of hours and hundreds of pounds (or dollars) into their chosen game series, developer or console. They're in deep. They've picked their sides, and once you pick a side? You want that side to 'WIN'.
Like in sports, part of wanting your side to win is wanting the other side to lose. You start to attack the enemy. You point out how your choice is better, more original or has sold more copies. Wherever you look for it, you're trying to find the upper hand. You want the competition gone. You want to stand on top and be declared winner. Vindicated. That's where I feel all of this anger and 'fanboy' behavior stems from.
If you don't agree with what I've said or with my ideas on why they're here or why they attack, that's fine. They're just my ideas and thoughts and as such, aren't fact. (Leave a comment why don't ya?)
What must be a fact though is that this hate of competition or difference that fanboys show is crazy. It's this competition that's improved gaming in huge ways. It's difference that leads to change. The arms race that occurs when developers are fighting for sales helps to ensure quality and advancements being made in what is possible from our consoles. It means each new console has to be better than the other guy's console and it has to be at a competitive price.
With piracy becoming a hot issue again (the legislation to combat it especially), it seems like a good time to see how some companies are dealing with piracy and people just not paying for games. They're allowing them to pay what they can afford or even better. Games for free.
It seems to be that there are two ways to tackle people not paying for your stuff. DRM the hell out of your game (this upsets people it turns out) or you can make it easier on them to access it legally by reducing the price or even making it free.
'Pay What You Can Afford', 'Pay What You Want', whatever you want to call it, it's been around for a while. There have been albumsand films that have used this sales method and it 'seems' to have worked for them. The most well known example of this 'Pay What You Want' price scheme within games is (arguably) 'The Humble Indie Bundle'. Now, this is a charity focused effort, so its relevance on commercial products aimed at making a profit may be skewed, but it's important to see that these games come with no DRM and that people will often pay above the minimum required. This is a win for the developers on two counts as they receive a cut of the money and get their name out there, increasing their potential future sales with publicity that they could never afford on their own.
This being said, it seems that 'Pay What You Want' is better at drumming up publicity and getting games into people's hands rather than actually making a profit. Actual figures can be somewhat hard to come by but, thankfully, one particularly successful and relatively well known project called 'Proun' has revealed all.
"...Didn't I make a lot of money with Proun? More than ten thousand euros, isn't that a lot of money? Yes and no. To me personally, Proun did incredibly well. That is a lot of money to make with a side-project, and since I get to keep most of it myself... wow!
However, over 250,000 people played Proun... Through Ronimo and through my connections to indie developers all over the world, I know what kind of money a game that achieves that kind of success can make. If I would not have done the Pay What You Want model and would have done a fixed price on Steam instead, I think I may have made 5 to 10 times as much money. That is while even taking into consideration that without the Pay What You Want model, the game would have generated a lot less buzz and much fewer people would have played it."
So, from Proun's example, you'd think that PWYW (this is what I'm calling it now) is a great marketing tool, but not an entirely reliable or feasible way to make a profit, which is ultimately the bottom line. If a game that can be bought for a $1 is getting pirated, how do full priced games stand a chance? Even with all sorts of initiatives set up, it still seems that piracy is rampant. Arguably, there are some reports of certain types of piracy falling but the very nature of piracy means it's extremely difficult to find out exact figures.
It seems to be clear that in the battle against piracy, PWYW isn't the answer. It's a great tool and I really do enjoy seeing studios take the plunge and put faith in their product by choosing to sell their work through this method. This article manages to summarise pretty well how I feel about PWYW;
"Though I donít doubt that indie studiosí pricing experiments are better for the consumer, I have lingering concerns as to whether they are better for the studios themselves.
Iím less likely to buy indie games at full price, because I know that thereís a good chance that Iíll be able to pay what I want for it shortly down the line. The Humble Bundle folks, which used to rarely release bundles, have put out three bundles in the past six months. Between the cutthroat pricing of iOS games and the pay-what-you-want sales of PC games, indie studios might find their work being valued less and less."
In conclusion, you'd have to say that PYWY is a great 'buzz' generator and, especially in the case of 'The Humble Indie Bundle', a fantastic incentive and method for people to donate what they can afford to charity. In the battle against piracy though, it's not really making a dent. Is this because of the very nature of PWYW, or is it because no major publisher has dared to try it on a 'AAA' game, with the backing of a genuine marketing campaign? Could a true blockbuster game make a profit with PWYW? We won't really know until that happens. If it happens.
So, with a New Year comes an almost obligatory New Years post. Click on to find out just what it is that I WANT to happen, what I DON'T want to happen.
So, first, the good.
What I Want
New Console Announcements - Yep. It's what I want. I realise that it'd be foolish to expect more than concepts of consoles, fonts lifted straight from the new Spiderman film or even so CG trailers, but I just want to get the ball rolling. Nintendo announced their new console this year, and whilst Sony and Microsoft aren't really in the same game as Nintendo anymore, the 2 companies would do well to get a move on and not let Nintendo have too big of a head start. Plus I want to hear the new names. Playstation 4? XBox 720? God, I hope not.
Interesting / Risky Downloadable games - Yep. Go and play Rock of Ages, From Dust, Limbo, Braid, Stacking (any Double Fine game, really), etc. They're all great and they wouldn't exist (IMHO) without the reduced barriers to entry that a downloadable marketplace offers. These odd, interesting and sometimes downright risky (risky as in niche) games may hold a somewhat limited appeal, but for those that 'get' them, they're a joy. They're a break from the sure fire success of a military shooter, a sports sim or an open world crime 'em up. That's why love them, that's why I look forward to seeing more of them.
This Blog to Actually LAST - A personal one of mine. I just want to see this thing through. I enjoy games and often have an opinion on them, what they're doing and how they're being run. Turns out, I also enjoy writing. So for me to keep up with this thing would be great. For me and for (hopefully) you.
What I Don't Want
Lazy Re-Makes and sequels - Pow. Halo just got re-released on 360. Halo 4 is on its way. Tony Hawk's is getting a HD remake. Really? This is nothing new, and after the year we just had where every other game was 'Generic Whatevs 3' it's hardly surprising. I'd just like it to stop. I hold no real hope of this happening.
Broken Games - You know what's cool? Nowadays, console gamers can have slight bugs tweaked out of their games and balancing issues addressed with 'patches'. This also means that some games get released, broken as all balls, only to get patched months later. Not cool. Mortal Kombat was buggered, Oblivion, Dead Island and I'm sure others all suffered from this recently. It just seems to be getting worse. As soon as the press release of 'It's Out!' is written, the next one is 'Patch Out Tomorrow!'. I mean, even day one patches exist. DAY ONE! IT'S GETTING 'FIXED' ON THE SAME DAY IT'S RELEASED!? Maybe I'm over exaggerating but hey, fix it before you sell it.
Meaningless Names - You seen that new Bioware game? It's called Command & Conquer. That new Metal Gear game. Yeah, the one where you play as a ninja and slice up melons. No, no, no! Stop piggy backing on a successful name to promote a new thing, be it game or developer. You don't fool anyone, you piss off existing fans of said company / franchise and you tarnish (potentially) the name that people hold in high regard. Take a risk, create a new IP. Don't try to trick me by sticking a name I recognise onto a product I don't. Please.
What Will Happen
More Security Issues - This is the internet. Get used to it. With the great benefits of having a console hooked up to the web, fact is, you've got to accept the bad. We've had the PSN compromised this year, Steam's forums and parts of their actual service hacked and idiot Fifa players spilled their guts and lost MS points and virtual football players. For as long as there's the internet, 'l33t Haxorz' will be waving their cybercocks about and trying to show who can be the most annoying and piss off the most people. So, yeah. Look forward to that...
Surprises - Games that are meant to be good will be shit and vice versa. What? What else do you want me to say? There will be surprises. Surprised?
Bankruptcy, closures, lost jobs - So many companies fall foul of this. It just seems to be 'the way it is' but a developer cannot have a bad game. They just can't. It nearly always means the end of them, either through bankruptcy or through their owner closing them down. I wish this didn't happen. It seems like such a strange practice that is readily accepted in the industry.
Well. That's that. Hope you enjoyed it. Whatever happens. I'm sure it'll be great. Wait. I'm not sure of that at all. Whatever happens, we will be able to say 'that was a thing that did happen.'