Daily Reaction: It’s The End of The World as we Know it

December 20, 2012Written by Sebastian Moss

Every weekday leading up to the big day, we at Daily Reaction have been writing about the latest line from ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Today it’s ‘eight maids a-milking’, so we’re going to milk the biggest news story at the moment – the end of the world. Seb and Dan discuss things in the games industry that won’t be around for much longer.

Seb: The obvious example of something that is facing its own apocalypse is THQ. They’re declaring bankruptcy and looking for a buyer – the brand may remain, but the company as we know it is set to change. Whoever buys them will likely cut down a lot of the development studios that don’t make an immediate profit – so while we’ll certainly see South Park and Saints Row, further away titles like Patrick Desilets’ 1666 have a less certain future.

Now a more controversial company to mention here is Sony. Ok, put your pitchforks down and dowse your flaming torches, Sony itself is sure to be around for a good while yet – but so much of it has to change. The amounts of money the company loses each month and the complete lack of investor confidence means that they need to do something drastic. Over the course of the next year, expect further closures of divisions that aren’t successful as the company shrinks to try to reflect its smaller position in numerous marketplaces. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean the loss of more first party studios, like we saw in 2012. With the Vita’s difficulties in the market, we also really have to ask ourselves if Sony’ll ever make another dedicated handheld. But it’s not all doom and gloom as Kaz Hirai plans to expand into new markets such as medical technology, so that could mean a chance for Sony’s rebirth.

Sadly something I don’t see as having a real chance of being reborn is the AAA singleplayer only game. That’s been dying more and more this gen, and is sure to get even worse on the PS4, when increased dev costs mean that publishers have to do everything they can to make a return – microtransactions, season passes and DLC. There’ll be a few singleplayer RPGs, certainly, but as a whole, singleplayer only AAA games are set to go extinct.

Dan: Well given today is all about doom and gloom, why don’t we continue down the path of destruction and see what else might disappear in the coming years? As technology moves forward we are going to see a number of changes, and already have seen a move away from some outdated technology. The newest and fastest growing tech in the audio/video department has been the expansion of the HDMI cable, a single cable capable of sending true 1080p signal video, and multichannel audio through a single lossless port. Its become a byproduct of the HDTV generation we live in, and has meant the inevitable death of the composite cable, much like the RF adapter which now can only be found in the history books.

Another byproduct of the advancement of technology has been the move towards cloud based streamed media, a move which has already taken down giant companies like Blockbuster and will soon hit the games market with services like Gaikai. Years ago, Blockbuster seemed like an untouchable business that took down countless smaller rental stores, now finding a store is like spotting a white whale. Now, as the games industry moves toward the cloud, companies like Game and GameStop will face a similar fate as customers will no longer have to be asked if they would like to put $5 down to pre-order some future title. A sad fate, but realistically the need to travel to a store for a physical product is becoming less convenient as online services seem to be growing year by year. Even physical sales are being eaten into by online retailers like Amazon.

Much as retail stores will have to adapt to the changing market due to physical products moving into a virtual world, the need for consoles as we know them will also be left with some difficult choices in the future. With cloud based services giving us the ability to run high-end games on almost any device, the need for an external box that only increases the barrier of entry for new users will need to change or be forgotten. Whether this means that TVs will now include services like Gaikai in a similar manner to the Smart TVs we have now, or whether consoles will just be a means to an end like a cable box, we will have to wait and see what happens over the next 10-20 years.

Lastly, the one thing that will continue to be a trend as we move into the next generation of consoles will be the closing of developers that produce titles that just cannot become profitable. This generation has been marked as being one of the most memorable for the amount of studios that have had to be closed, and as we move forward it is unlikely for things to be any different. This is especially true as the development cost for titles will only increase for AAA titles, and the number of independent titles will likely see a spike, leaving a great deal of studios caught in the middle. This will eventually lead to those studios closing down completely, or being restructured, all of which will lead to countless layoffs throughout the industry.

If the world doesn’t end tomorrow, what do you think won’t be around for much longer anyway? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and follow Seb and Dan on Twitter to get insider tips on how to survive the apocalypse in style.

Be sure to email DR ideas, podcast comments and pics of you in a tin foil hat to [email protected].