關於2016年末的“AAA級遊戲災難”的討論

作者:Kevin Murphy

回想起來,當我們剛進入2016時人們還在談論着2015年最熱門的話題“獨立遊戲的災難”。在2016上半年這一話題是不是還會從人們的嘴巴里出現,但隨後它便漸漸被淡忘了。有趣的是,當Steam Spy最近發佈了一份關於Steam上40%的遊戲是發行於2016年的報告時,這一話題卻並未重新浮出水面。

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相反地,在過去幾周我們更多地聽到人們在談論着AAA級世界所面對的“災難”。

2016年最後一季度誕生了許多大型遊戲,而大多數這些遊戲所創造的新聞都是關於它們的糟糕表現。最先問世的《戰地》表現得很好,但之後出現的《泰坦隕落2》便擁有非常糟糕的表現,雖然它的評價不錯。這可能是因爲人們已經玩過藝電的《戰地1》或等待着《使命召喚:無限戰爭》或《恥辱2》的發行。

類型疲勞

關於《使命召喚》,我們會發現《無限戰爭》的銷量只有《黑色行動3》的一半,這也是許多《使命召喚》玩家仍然在玩《黑色行動3》的原因。動視其實是在和自己競爭!每一款遊戲中的多人玩家元素基本上都是相同的,所以玩家也就沒有什麼改變的理由。遊戲的預告片也是人們在YouTube上第二不喜歡的視頻類型。

動視其實應該讓《使命召喚》休息幾年,但這裏的問題在於他們擁有3家工作室同時創造着不同的《使命召喚》遊戲,所以即使他們決定休息,我們也仍會在明年或者後年看到下一款《使命召喚》遊戲的問世。

相比之下育碧便巧妙地在2016留給了《刺客信條》休息時間,並且在年初的時候讓《全境封鎖》和《孤島驚魂:原始殺戮》發力,然後便是在16年年末問世的《看門狗2》。而《看門狗2》的表現也是低於人們的預期。可能是因爲人們已經厭倦了育碧開放世界模式的遊戲,或者是他們在年末有太多遊戲選擇了吧。當然也有可能因爲人們對《看門狗1》的失望導致他們對續集報以觀望的態度。

連續發行!

這裏的問題在於,大多數玩家都不願意等待,即使他們有意這麼做。他們可能只會等幾周便轉向下一款大型遊戲,也許他們會在12個月後遊戲打8折的時候再去選擇之後被自己拋棄的內容並只玩幾個小時的遊戲。

就育碧來說,在繼續推動《彩虹六號:圍攻》和《全境封鎖》的同時,他們的另一款大型遊戲《榮耀戰魂》將在6周內問世,另一款遊戲《幽靈行動:荒地》也將在隔年發行。我們也不要忘記《刺客信條》很有可能也會迴歸。他們同時還擁有像《南方公園》等小型遊戲以及像《Steep》或《The Crew》等多人競技/賽車遊戲。

大多數這類型遊戲以及來自其它發行商的類似遊戲都側重多人遊戲元素,即希望將玩家長久留在遊戲中並在公司發行下一款大型遊戲前推動他們去購買DLC和其它微交易商品。

現在的AAA級戰略似乎忽視了有一半以上的其它發行商也在做着相同的事的事實,這個市場被分割成了更小的部分,而遊戲預算卻在不斷增加着。

即使暫時忽略獨立遊戲而只算上AAA級發行,你也會發現2016年的遊戲市場已經過度飽和了。大多數玩家沒有足夠時間和金錢去玩他們想玩的所有內容。你可能會說像《最終幻想》,《守望先鋒》,《最後的守護者》,《爲戰而生》,《毀滅戰士》,《幽浮2》等遊戲都不是年年發行,所以明年的市場可能就不會這麼擁擠了,但是你只說對了一半。這些遊戲的發行商將會在明年繼續推出新遊戲,即使是基於不同的IP。人們或許仍會繼續玩《黑色行動3》或最終轉向《戰地》或《無限戰爭》。但你同時也需要考慮有許多玩家在5月份玩了《守望先鋒》後便未曾玩過其它遊戲!

所以AAA級遊戲災難是什麼情況?獨立遊戲是否會因爲看到這些大塊頭們的隕落而感到痛快?其實也不全是這樣。但也有我們不能忽視的事實。

以CryEngine遊戲引擎而出名的CryTek便宣稱他們將關閉5家工作室。其中一家便是位於索菲亞的Black Sea Games,然後他們也宣稱將變成一家獨立工作室。的確,在許多遭遇了糟糕銷量且不得不關門的大型工作室中,那些富有才能和經驗的開發者便開始決定“是時候去創造我自己的夢想遊戲了,”所以本來你可能只面對一個強大的競爭對手,但現在你面對的卻是無數更小型的對手,並且所有的這些人可能比Steam上的大多數開發者更加優秀。

我們將會看到什麼

假設將會有一些公司繼續遭遇失敗。儘管表現不盡人意,《無限戰爭》以及其它我所提到的遊戲仍然繼續大獲其利。在達到收支相抵時,他們將開始賺取純利潤。這些賺錢的工作室通常都不會關門。而那些看到利潤下降的工作室則會去嘗試一些新內容

我認爲我們將看到一些公司不再專注於多人遊戲和用戶留存。作爲一名玩家,在2016年我更傾向於短遊戲,因爲它們總是能讓我全面地體驗遊戲內容並能夠快速轉向其它內容。大多數玩過《毀滅戰士》的人都很喜歡這款遊戲並會向別人推薦它,但卻沒人會去談論它的多人玩家模式。當然,這一模式也擁有自己的擁護者,但這並非這款遊戲的主要吸引力。玩家們都承認自己有許多想玩的遊戲,但是AAA級開發者卻仍想要將玩家長久地禁錮在一兩款遊戲中。不過這裏也存在調整的機會。

儘管單人玩家內容的創造成本較高,但卻是一種更穩妥的選擇,因爲玩家知道這樣的遊戲不會要求他們投入太長時間。單人玩家遊戲也不需要玩家長期寄託於他們的服務器上,所以往往擁有更長的銷售尾巴,因爲不管玩家是在遊戲發行時還是發行後10年內購買遊戲,他們所獲得的體驗都是一樣的。iD的《德軍總部》和《毀滅戰士》便是我在最近幾年裏最喜歡的遊戲,因爲它們帶給了我既有趣且擁有不錯的故事的高質量遊戲體驗,然後也能讓我繼續遊戲。它們是值得我去花錢的。而我卻不能同時玩6款不同的多人遊戲。並且我也不能爲一款只有5個小時活動的多人遊戲支付60英鎊的費用。我覺得這是不值得的。而如果你實在不想玩單人玩家遊戲的話,你倒是可以選擇《黑色行動3》,因爲這款遊戲的多人遊戲內容相對較便宜。

銷量!

發行商開始着急的一個標誌便是,即使是全新的遊戲也執行了促銷活動。就像剛發行一個多月的《戰地1》和《泰坦隕落2》便分別打了6折和5折。《無限戰爭》和《殺出重圍:人類分裂》也都打了很大的折扣。

這是史無前例的!這同時也是一種自我毀滅的選擇,因爲如此的話接下來新遊戲的預購與早期購買者便會大大減少,因爲玩家都知道等到假日促銷時他們便能夠以更便宜的價格買到遊戲。所以對於早前的《使命召喚》玩家來說他們將沒有一起遊戲的對手,所以等到假日促銷的新購買者到來時他們已經放棄了遊戲。而這種促銷方法是發行商的一種短見,在這個過度飽和的市場中他們應該採取一些更全面的方法。

預定文化

2016年末大多數遊戲的預定也呈現下降趨勢,我認爲這可能是受到人們對於年初發行的《無人深空》和《黑手黨3》的失望的影響。Square Enix關於《殺出重圍:人類分裂》荒謬的預定活動並未帶給遊戲任何幫助,這與《看門狗2》擁有較低預訂數量的原因是相同的。

但如果消費者最終變成監察者一般去催促開發者長期完善遊戲而不是專注於預定,這便會形成有關發行未完成的遊戲並在之後進行完善的循環,這或許也不是什麼壞事。

但是在如此擁擠的市場中,這種做法似乎也不可能長久維持下去。但對於數字產品來說預定也不合理。畢竟沒有商品的商店就不再是商店了。

結論

我並不能忍受我們繼續以年初所開始的話題而結束2016年。不管是大型還是小型的工作室仍會繼續創造遊戲,繼續發展與衰敗,繼續僱人與解僱人,並繼續做他們該做的事。關於重蹈20世紀80年代圍繞着雅達利的遊戲產業坍塌的覆轍的討論其實是危言聳聽,這種說法忽視了電子發行不需要從貨架上轉移商品的事實。這同時也忽視了現在的遊戲公司即使破產了也有無數開發者將取代他們的事實。如今幾乎所有人都能夠創造併發行一款遊戲,他們並需要擁有相同的技能也沒有分銷准入障礙。儘管消費者的信心受到了影響也出現了類型疲倦,但評價,Let’s Plays以及退款等方式都能夠有效緩解這些問題。

我認爲這一產業仍將好好地維持下去,但不可避免會出現一些讓人堂皇的改變。那些願意聽粉絲的話並敢於創新的公司將會有不錯的表現,而那些冒險去創造下一款大型MMO或電子競技遊戲的公司可能遭遇半途而廢的情況。我們也將看到一些專注於單人遊戲或多人遊戲的低成本的小型AAA級遊戲,因爲發行商既要嘗試着去保護自己也要摸清楚風勢走向。

最後

雖然和本文不是很相關,但我還是想說,因爲各種原因,2016年對於世界上大多數人來說都是悲傷的,而遊戲則是幫助人們逃往另一個世界的一種有效方法,這能夠保護人們的心理免受肆虐於我們媒體(遊戲邦注:不管是社交,現實還是虛假媒體中)的消極元素的影響。

如果你需要的話可以使用遊戲去保護自己,但千萬不要將其作爲絕對的保護殼。我們還是需要正視現實世界。不要忽視你的健康也不要忽視你周邊的環境。我們比之前的任何一代人接受過更好的教育也擁有更多信息。所以我們必須能夠找到合適的前進方法,而這也將能夠讓你真正融入現實世界中。

本文爲遊戲邦/gamerboom.com編譯,拒絕任何不保留版權的轉發,如需轉載請聯繫:遊戲邦

AAA-pocalypse?

by Kevin Murphy

I recall that as we entered 2016 there was still talk of the Indiepocalypse – 2015’s hot topic. It remained on everyone’s lips (either seriously or derisively) for the first half of the year and then it gradually petered out. Curiously, it didn’t seem to resurface when Steam Spy more recently released the alarming statistic that approximately 40% of all games on Steam were released in 2016.

Instead, what I have heard about in the last few weeks is talk of disasters coming to the AAA world!

2016’s final quarter release schedule was jam-packed with huge titles, and the news from most of them was that they were under-performing. Battlefield 1 was first, and did pretty well, actually, but Titanfall 2 came out straight afterwards and did extremely poorly despite great reviews. This is most likely because people were already playing EA’s Battlefield 1 still and/or waiting for this year’s Call of Duty (Infinite Warfare) to release just a few days later, or Dishonored 2 a few days after that.

Genre Fatigue

To look at Call of Duty a moment, apparently Infinite Warfare has sold only half as well as last year’s Black Ops III and a leading reason why is that many COD players are still playing BLOPS3. Activision are competing with themselves! The multiplayer in each game is extremely similar, after all, so there’s really very little reason to move on. The game’s reveal trailer was also the second most disliked video of all time on YouTube.

Activision should probably give COD a break for a few years, but the problem is that they have 3 studios each creating a different COD game at once, so we’ll probably see one next year and maybe one the year after that even if they decided today to apply the brakes.

Ubisoft did wisely decide to give Assassin’s Creed a break this year, but in its place we had The Division and Far Cry: Primal early in the year, and then Watchdogs 2 releasing in that same crowded end of year schedule (not to mention the Assassin’s Creed movie). Watchdogs 2 also performed way below expectations. This could be because people are tired of Ubisoft open world formulaic games, or because there were too many games to choose from at the end of the year (Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian also released in this same period for PS4 owners). However, it’s also quite likely that people’s disappointment over Watchdogs 1 caused them to adopt a wait-and-see approach with the sequel.

Back to back releases!

The problem is that most gamers don’t wait and see, even if they mean to. They wait and move on to the next giant title in a few weeks, maybe picking up the forsaken game at an 80% discount 12 months later and playing a few disinterested hours.

To look solely at Ubisoft for a moment, they’re continuing to push Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division content, while their next big launch, For Honor, is due in just over 6 weeks, with Ghost Recon: Wildlands due later next year. And let’s not forget that Assassin’s Creed will likely make a return. They’ve also numerous smaller titles like South Park, and multiple sports/racing games like Steep or The Crew.

Most of these games, and many similar ones from other publishers, are multiplayer focused, hoping to keep players engaged long term and buying DLC and other microtransations until that company’s next big game comes out.

These current AAA strategies seemingly ignore the fact that there are a half dozen other massive publishers doing the same thing, and the market is getting carved up into smaller and smaller pieces while game budgets grow and grow.

It’s unsustainable! The games market in 2016 was most definitely over-saturated, and that’s even if you count only AAA releases and ignore the indies. Most gamers didn’t have enough time or money to play everything that they wanted to. You could argue that Final Fantasy, Overwatch, The Last Guardian, Battleborn, Doom, XCOM 2, and others weren’t annualised releases and so next year won’t be as busy, but you’d only be half right. Those same publishers will have new games next year even if they’re in different IPs. And people may still be playing Black Ops III, or finally have moved onto Battlefield or Infinite Warfare. You also have to consider that many who drank the Overwatch cool aid in May haven’t played a single other game since!

So, AAA-pocalypse? Can the indies take some guilty pleasure in seeing the big guys fail for once? Well, no, not exactly. But something has got to give.

CryTek, admittedly less of a content creator and more known for their CryEngine game engine, just announced that they’re closing 5 studios. One of these, Black Sea Games in Sofia, Bulgaria, then announced that they’re becoming an indie studio. So for every major studio that does suffer poor sales and has to close down, we should remember that many of the talented and experienced developers in that studio will decide “now’s the perfect time to try to make my dream game”, and suddenly where you had one big competitor, you now have a dozen smaller ones, all of whom are likely to be more talented than the vast majority of Steam’s overpopulated developer base. Indies must be aware of this.

What might we see?

That’s all assuming that we will have companies failing left and right. Despite disappointing performances, Infinite Warfare and many of the other games mentioned still grossed millions upon millions of dollars. After breaking even, profit is profit. Profitable studios don’t usually close. But companies who see declining profits do usually try new things.

I would think that we’ll see some shift away from the constant focus on multiplayer games and user retention. As a gamer, this year I more and more appreciated short games because they let me experience something in its entirety, and move on to the next thing. Most people who played Doom loved it and would recommend it to anybody, but nobody is talking about its multiplayer mode. It has its players, sure, but it’s not the main draw. Gamers acknowledge that there’s loads of games that they want to play, but AAA developers are still trying to keep them locked into just one or two titles for as long as possible. There’s an opportunity to listen and adapt here.

While single player content is expensive to produce, it can be a safer sale, with gamers knowing that this one game won’t demand all their time or hook them for the next 6 months. Single player games also don’t need to reach a critical mass of players to populate their servers, and can have a much longer sales tail because the experience will be the same whether the game is bought at release or in ten years. iD’s Wolfenstein and Doom reboots are my two favourite shooters of recent years because they gave me a high quality experience with a fun, passable story, and then let me move on. They’re worth the money and I’d buy more of the same. I can’t play 6 different (‘different’ being a generous word) multiplayer games simultaneously. I also sadly can’t afford to pay €60 a pop for multiple games with only 5 hour campaigns. It’s just not worth it. Black Ops III did start selling their multiplayer component cheaper if you didn’t want the single player stuff. I’d love to see that in reverse!

Sales sales sales!

One sign that the big publishers are sweating is the size of discounts on even their newest releases. I picked up Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 just a little over a month after their initial releases at 40% and 50% discounts respectively! Infinite Warfare was also heavily discounted and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was a whopping 67% off on Steam!

That’s unprecedented! It’s also self-destructive as now next year there’s likely to be even less pre-orders and early adopters for the new games, as they know they can probably get huge savings if they wait until the Holiday sales. So the early COD adopters may have nobody to play with and abandon the game by the time the Holiday sales purchasers arrive, who in turn will themselves have nobody to play with. That’s short-term thinking on the publishers’ parts, and they’ll definitely have to think smarter to compete in an oversaturated (as proven by their discounts – increased competition decreases prices, after all) marketplace.

Pre-Order Culture

Pre-orders of most of the later games of 2016 were down too and I’d suspect that the massive disappointment that many felt over No Man’s Sky and Mafia 3 earlier in the year has a lot to do with it. Square Enix’s ridiculous pre-order campaign surrounding Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (adjusted after considerable backlash) wouldn’t have helped things either, and I’ve already talked about why Watchdogs 2 had low pre-orders.

It can only be a good thing if consumers are finally doing as the watchdogs (and other consumers) have been urging them to do for the longest time and not pre-order, as it perpetuates a cycle of releasing less and less finished games and only maybe fixing things later.

In a crowded marketplace, this sort of thing won’t fly for much longer. So that’s one positive. Pre-orders also just don’t make sense for digital goods. The store can’t run out!

In Conclusion

Much as I couldn’t resist ending the year with a twist on how we started it (AAA vs Indie -pocalypse(s)) I don’t think we’ll see either, really. Studios large and small will continue to make games, grow and shrink, hire and fire, and just do as businesses do. Talk of a repeat of the game industry crash surrounding Atari in the 1980s is alarmist and ignores the fact that digital distribution removes the need to shift physical cartridges from actual shelves. It also ignores that, unlike the 80s, when a games company goes out of business there are literally thousands of developers ready to take their place. Almost anyone can make and publish a game nowadays without the same skill or distribution barriers to entry. While consumer confidence is being eroded and genre fatigue is setting in, reviews, Let’s Plays, and refunds do a lot to combat that problem.

No, I think the industry will be fine, though it will see some uncomfortable shifting, for sure. Companies who listen to their fans and innovate are likely to do well, while many suit-driven ventures to make the next big MMO or eSport are more likely to fall by the wayside. We may also see a lot of lower-cost, smaller AAA launches that focus solely on single or multiplayer as publishers try to protect themselves while figuring out just which way the winds are blowing. It’s an interesting time to be a gamer and a game dev.

Final Thought

Unrelated, but I just want to add this. 2016 felt like a harrowing year for most people in the world, for all sorts of reasons. Games are a great way to escape to another world, to switch off, and to protect your mental energies from the whirlwind of negativity that plagues our media (social, real, and especially fake media).

Use that to protect yourself if you have to, but don’t use games to hide indefinitely. We have to be able to still cope with the real world (because that’s where the eyes, ears, and hands that we use for gaming live). Don’t neglect your health, and don’t neglect the world around you. It needs good people to stand up for what’s right. We’re more educated and have access to more information than any generation before us. We have to be able to find the right ways forward for all, and it will take your (yes, your) involvement in the real world.

If we could all act from a place of equality, reason, and conscience, the world would be a much better place to live in, and playing games might feel like a reward instead of an escape.

Let me leave you now with my personal theme song and motto for 2017 :)source:gamasutra