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We have too many "too big to fail" gaming companies negatively impacting the industry, and we need to do something about it quickly.

Freedom Gate Co.

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This has become a major problem. SquareEnix, Electronic Arts, Activision, Namco Bandai, Ubisoft, Tencent, Take Two, THQ Nordic, Zenimax, are just a few of the Megagiants in the gaming world, the Megagiants having at least 20 companies or more under them, several acquired.

The reason why this is a problem is because Major gaming corporations are destroying two key things that keep the industry well:

1. The Mid-sized developer
2. Game Creativity

These companies are huge, but they are still companies that need to make a profit off their software or other ventures. This means room for risk is put aside in favor of searching for the next big checklist hit. We've seen checklist style games throughout this generation more than any other, when developers and their publishers follow a formula that plays it safe to create minimal risk. This of course, effects game creativity.

If you've been wondering why many of the biggest games are very similar to each other in how they are structured, even though they are in completely different genres, that's an example of what checklist development does. Sometimes, you basically make the same game with different aesthetics. For example, Watch Dogs, no matter how much you may have enjoyed the game, uses the same design checklist as Assassin's Creed.

But let me get to the point. These big gaming corporations are causing less unique ideas in the marketplace which leads to lack of variety on the store shelf. Before, we required the medium and smaller sized companies to even things out, But now, these large corporations have been buying or merging with other companies left and right for two generations now. There aren't that many studios left, and the death of the medium and small tier company has crippled not just the variety in releases, but new Ideas.

Some people will point to Indie gaming studios, but this actually doesn't come close to solving a problem. In fact, it's part of a new issue that has materialized since Indies rise in 2008. Things have been rigged against the Indie developer. At first, indie developers could run on their own as long as their small projects paid the bills. But now requirements and costs FORCE indie developers in most cases to seek a publisher. If these indie studios end up being successes over time, the publisher usually scoops them up. This only contributes to the problem and does nothing to solve it.

Big gaming corporations also have one more major problem that really negatively impacts the industry. I have already went over how the big corporations are buying or merging with many studios, as well as how they don't focus on risk and unique ideas. But I haven't really told you just how much more of an issue it can be.

If these gaming corporations acquiring all these studios released them back into the market, the market could heal. The trouble is that many of the companies acquired over the years no longer exist. Major gaming corporations have killed hundreds of developers for not meeting their internal, often nonsensical, expectations. Even if there's clearly potential. This habit of them acquiring and then killing these studios is why talent and unique ideas have been severely crippled. Sure, sometimes a major corporation will partner with a smaller studio with a unique idea or two, but then eventually they will acquire that studio and those unique games are most of the time gone.

The importance of digital platforms allowing small developers to release cool new ideas is quickly reversing in the opposite direction due to new regulations making it hard for the small indie developer to succeed without a publisher. Even major mid-sized studios, with only modest finances, also need to look for a publisher as they no longer have the ability to stay afloat. I predict the next generation to be the most damaging yet for the industry. I don't see how companies like SNK, Sega, 505, and more will be able to stay a float without some kind of acquisition or merger.

The state of the gaming industry is in pretty bad shape. We have had a significant number of studios die the last two gens. Often by these mega corporations themselves. I will admit, sometimes it is actually the acquired studios fault they end up closing and not the buyer, but that doesn't off-set the hundreds of dead companies where it wasn't their fault.

If we want to see amazing talent, variety, and new game design ideas again, to see the gaming industry healthy again, these big corporations have to be broken up. We need anti-trust limits on how many studios are allowed to be acquired, and we need to regulate the business models these companies use which leads to acquired studios developing checklist style games, only to be closed down a bit later, which always results in terminations or layoffs. Over 1 million layoffs and terminations put together worldwide in the last 2 generations! In addition to this, we are seeing more unfinished games as well.

Now some may not necessarily agree with me on this issue. The way the industry has been run the last 2 generations has given us the biggest audience of gamers we've ever had in number. But it's also important to realize that this isn't sustainable either, at least outside of mobile. We've just had numerous releases the last 6 months showing that this isn't sustainable. We've also had a hardware example, the Wii, showing that we can't rely on part of that large audience.

If nothing is done, and the cycle continues we will have a select few companies controlling the majority of the market, much of the output will be checklist style games, and the amount of design and genre variety will be near non existent. At that point there will only be so much these companies can do to monetize consumers, and the industry will implode with mobile being the only area unscathed.

We are already seeing massive signs of unsustainable execution currently today. It's definitely not looking good for the near future if things don't change.
 

Freedom Gate Co.

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Just because you don't personally like a situation, it doesn't mean it isn't sustainable.

Sustainability and your personal taste have nothing to do with each other, and you have not brought a single element showing that this actually has to do with the former and not with the latter.
Unless you've ignored all the big gaming controversies the last several months this isn't a personal thing, it's unsustainable. I haven't even touched on game budgets yet in more detail, that's another big issue.
 

Hinedorf

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Stop blaming companies being too big to fail. They are rich because they found a way to get peoples money for a mediocre product.

If all Madden gamers said "enough was enough" and stopped buying the new version primarily for the online crap then EA would be forced to do something differently.

You wonder why Konami went mobile? They didn't go mobile, they went profitable.
 

Salvatron

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You touch on the impacts of capitalism in the gaming industry and how it can affect game quality from larger developers/publishers who absorb smaller developers, but there are still smaller and independent developers releasing quality and financially successful titles.

My only suggestion with regards to the boards and capital of these gigantic companies hindering a team's creative ability, I would argue the laborforce should unionize/organize for better working conditions; no crunch time, etc.
 

Roni

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In a way, it's less out of control than it was at the turn of decade. In the early 2010's, everyone was chasing that Call of Duty money. And the games suffered from it.

We still see it happening right now, except the quality of the games has somewhat grown, because people realize we don't want the same type of game all the time. But great AAA games getting buried by the previous/next blockbuster title is still a common sight.

You're right, this isn't sustainable... But I'm not sure we can do anything about it, really. Every game company exec will always push and believe his game is the next best thing. They'll always go for it.

And this "going for it" will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Capcom, for one, has already realized this. They've done a complete 180 on their old stance: they're now scaling back and making niche games, games that will be consumed and loved by a couple million people, maybe a little more.

This allows the project to be cheaper and yet still sell well within the niche it's in. Here's hoping more publishers realize this, so we don't end up with a crash on our hands. It would take a while for our industry to get going again if it all comes crashing down because everyone got greedy and decided to release their most expensive project at the same time!
 

Abriael_GN

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Unless you've ignored all the big gaming controversies the last several months this isn't a personal thing, it's unsustainable. I haven't even touched on game budgets yet in more detail, that's another big issue.
I haven't ignored them. There have been "big gaming controversies" for decades, and the vast majority of them were big because press inflated them for clicks.

It's actually funny to see people buy into them, encouraging bad writers to vomit even more overblown crap on their sites.

Again, a situation you personally don't like does not "Unsustainable" make.
 
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PengTiki

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Sounds like you're describing the game industry reaching a similar point to the movie industry. A handful of big corps churning out mainstream entertainment while indies and smaller companies try to break new ground. These things move in cycles and it will always be thus.

A lot of the big studio games at the moment don't interest me that much but I expect they will learn some new tricks in future. They will have to. Vote with your wallet. I find that really easy to do because indies and smaller devs are making loads of great games. A lot of them deserve full price. While AAA games always get discounted later or you can get them second hand (for now).
 

Freedom Gate Co.

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I haven't ignored them. There have been "big gaming controversies" for decades, and the vast majority of them were big because press inflated them for clicks.

It's actually funny to see people buy into them, encouraging bad writers to vomit even more overblown crap on their sites.

Again, a situation you personally don't like does not "Unsustainable" make.
So you haven't been paying attention to the last several events, that required policy changes, or government intervention.
 

Jubenhimer

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Some people will point to Indie gaming studios, but this actually doesn't come close to solving a problem. In fact, it's part of a new issue that has materialized since Indies rise in 2008. Things have been rigged against the Indie developer. At first, indie developers could run on their own as long as their small projects paid the bills. But now requirements and costs FORCE indie developers in most cases to seek a publisher. If these indie studios end up being successes over time, the publisher usually scoops them up. This only contributes to the problem and does nothing to solve it.
I don't really think this is true. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all employ policies that allow indies to self-publish their own games with ease. And if an indie developer needs to find a publisher, no problem, they can just turn to one of the several indie focused publishers like Devolver Digital or Adult Swim Games. You don't need a big company to release a successful game anymore.

The importance of digital platforms allowing small developers to release cool new ideas is quickly reversing in the opposite direction due to new regulations making it hard for the small indie developer to succeed without a publisher. Even major mid-sized studios, with only modest finances, also need to look for a publisher as they no longer have the ability to stay afloat. I predict the next generation to be the most damaging yet for the industry. I don't see how companies like SNK, Sega, 505, and more will be able to stay a float without some kind of acquisition or merger.
I don't really see any evidence of this at all. If anything, Mid-sized games are actually easier than ever to make thanks to modern development tools making things easier. What was once only possible with 50-80 people. large budget, and a 2 year development cycle on the PS2, can now only take a about a dozen people and a smaller budget within the same amount of time.

Now some may not necessarily agree with me on this issue. The way the industry has been run the last 2 generations has given us the biggest audience of gamers we've ever had in number. But it's also important to realize that this isn't sustainable either, at least outside of mobile. We've just had numerous releases the last 6 months showing that this isn't sustainable. We've also had a hardware example, the Wii, showing that we can't rely on part of that large audience.
People keep saying this, yet they fail to realize why the Wii's success fell, and why Smartphones succeeded. Wii declined because Nintendo didn't evolve. They spent the next 4 years with a convoluted mess of a system known as the Wii U with poor marketing. Much of the Wii audience didn't know or even care what the Wii U was, so they either kept playing with their old Wiis for a little while longer, or decided to find their interactive entertainment elsewhere, which happened to be smartphones and other gaming platforms.

I can understand your arguments regarding the AAA gaming scene. But AAA games are much like Hollywood Summer Blockbusters. A lot of it being flashy, superficial stuff made with enormous budgets and high-end graphics to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Not all of them are like that, but a lot of them are. If you want real creativity, you just need to look outside of the handful of AAA games released each year, which will only grow even fewer next gen as game budgets climb higher.

I'm a staunch believer in sturgeon's law. 90% of all media is shit regardless of decade. Only the 10% is really worth remembering or consuming. This is true for all media, games included. Problem is, people don't like seeing nuance, so they think everything needs to be from a big megacorp. or a small business, when in reality, it's a wide spectrum.
 
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Abriael_GN

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So you haven't been paying attention to the last several events, that required policy changes, or government intervention.
I have. And most of them are knee-jerk-press-fueled overreactions, none of which is any different from the knee-jerk-press-fueled overreactions that have plagued the industry for decades.

But feel free to keep that tinfoil hat on if it covers you from the sun.
 

Freedom Gate Co.

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I have. And most of them are knee-jerk-press-fueled overreactions, none of which is any different from the knee-jerk-press-fueled overreactions that have plagued the industry for decades.

But feel free to keep that tinfoil hat on if it covers you from the sun.
You just keep proving you haven't by constantly taking unrelated situations and conflating it together. We have had several bad things happen in the industry with serious consequences you are not aware of otherwise you wouldn't be making this statement.

You took a few overblown things and used that to generalize all controversies as "knee-jerk" completely ignoring industry changes and job casualties. That's the behavior that got us here in the first place.
 

SaltyBeagle

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You just keep proving you haven't by constantly taking unrelated situations and conflating it together. We have had several bad things happen in the industry with serious consequences you are not aware of otherwise you wouldn't be making this statement.

You took a few overblown things and used that to generalize all controversies as "knee-jerk" completely ignoring industry changes and job casualties. That's the behavior that got us here in the first place.
Maybe you should detail out what situations you are talking about instead of being incredibly vague.
 

Silvawuff

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I think you bring up some interesting and valid points about the state of the industry OP, but I also think that the gaming industry isn't the hades you're making it out to be, nor do we need to do anything about it outside of choosing to support a company or not. What I personally think is that the industry is in a state of flux, and it has a lot of bad behaviors that have become worse because consumers have allowed it to happen. Example, if we all stopped purchasing DLC, maybe we'll start to get whole, finished games instead of paying full price for a half-finished game and buying the rest of it a la carte.

These things tend to sort out over time, especially as technologies improve, new companies pop up, and policies change. Breathe. Enjoy the end benefits as a gaming enthusiast, and try to focus on the good aspects of why you enjoy the hobby. If you just focus on all the negative bits, that's all you'll ever see.
 

manfestival

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Lack of a current gen zone of the enders game is the actual disappointment of the generation
 
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Well, there is no such thing as "too big to fail" entertainment giant... I mean, look at all those Japanese studios, devs, etc. from the 80s and 90s, they were HUGE, and now they are mostly gone.
 

GermanZepp

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Just like the big Hollywood movies, too expensive to be risky, too risky to speak your true mind, might offend someone. Too risky to try something new. The masses consume a blob like product with top notch production values, but empty as fuck. It happens in lots of industrys.
 

Jubenhimer

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Just like the big Hollywood movies, too expensive to be risky, too risky to speak your true mind, might offend someone. Too risky to try something new. The masses consume a blob like product with top notch production values, but empty as fuck. It happens in lots of industrys.
Yeah. The problem, is the people who think that's all there is, and are too stubborn to step out of their comfort zone and experience the broader spectrums of Film, TV, Games, Music, etc. If you don't like the current state of the AAA market, then don't keep whinning about it, just ignore it, buy the games that really interest you regardless of who or where they come from.
 

Petrae

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Personally, I'm just waiting for another big videogame crash.

Not sure it will ever happen, because they're "too big to fail". One can only hope.
It’s highly doubtful that we’ll ever see a repeat of 1983. A lot of moving parts would have to align to make that happen. I don’t doubt that a crash is pretty much the only thing that could reverse the shitty course that the industry has embarked upon, but I just can’t see it happening. What would the catalyst be?
 

Barakov

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It’s highly doubtful that we’ll ever see a repeat of 1983. A lot of moving parts would have to align to make that happen. I don’t doubt that a crash is pretty much the only thing that could reverse the shitty course that the industry has embarked upon, but I just can’t see it happening. What would the catalyst be?
That's the big question. Right now there's so many platforms as well as revenue streams for publishers that crash like that of '83 is unlikely to happen. I'd think a smaller crash is likely, though. I think the only probable one is if all these streaming services by Google/Walmart etc. go tits up at the same time. It really depends how it plays out.
 

DiscoJer

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There's a lot more to gaming than AAA games, though. If anything, I think one of the most fascinating things about modern game development is how viable single (or two) person development teams can be.
 

Abriael_GN

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You just keep proving you haven't by constantly taking unrelated situations and conflating it together. We have had several bad things happen in the industry with serious consequences you are not aware of otherwise you wouldn't be making this statement.

You took a few overblown things and used that to generalize all controversies as "knee-jerk" completely ignoring industry changes and job casualties. That's the behavior that got us here in the first place.
Disagreeing with you does not mean not knowing. It just means that I think you're blowing things that have always happened way out of proportion. And you are.
 

Ballthyrm

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There's a lot more to gaming than AAA games, though. If anything, I think one of the most fascinating things about modern game development is how viable single (or two) person development teams can be.
You haven't read much, have you? Most if not all of these "single" Dev tell horror stories about how they burnout multiple times. How they lost friends along the way.

Also, just look at the credit, they all got some help along the way, be it music, publishing. It's all there in the game credits.

We should not celebrate the fact that it takes people almost killing themselves and say "see you can do it alone"
 

Klayzer

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Disagreeing with you does not mean not knowing. It just means that I think you're blowing things that have always happened way out of proportion. And you are.
Its amazing how easily some gamers are manipulated by either pr from a console maker, or media opinions on the industry. Small wonder why big business money grubbing tactics work so well in this field.
 
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theclaw135

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Traditional major publishing is unsustainable.
The ratio of development budget, to how much games are sold for, has gotten less favorable each generation.
 

SlashBringingHasher

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literally nearly every corporation is too big to fail at this point

Traditional major publishing is unsustainable.
The ratio of development budget, to how much games are sold for, has gotten less favorable each generation.
more like its unsustainable to do that when you can not do that and put out mictoransactions

its perfectly sustainable. its just easier to maximize profits
 
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zenspider

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There’s some depth to OP’s argument but you can’t make everyone happy. I’m pretty sure any indie dev would swap spots and act just the same.
Some, but it's making really off-base assumptions regarding indies and mid-level publishers. If OP was right, what we see today is the opposite of what we should expect. So many indies break out, and AA is stronger than it's been since the PS2 era.

Op does make a better point than most, but all these "worst of times" thread are so obviously focused on the top grossing AAA publishers dominating the worst parts of the news cycle.

Even then, Did Activision not just release Sekiro? Isn't Apex Legends 'dat fire'? Isn't the Division 2 getting rave reviews?

I agree with OP that there is a sameness at the top. Thing is, it's always been like that. Early PS1/Saturn is the only burst of creativity we've seen on that front, before the formulas with lowest common denominator appeal were figured out. However nowadays, the top only represents a small fraction of what you can be playing. It's the discussion that can't seem to expand for very long.
 
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Ascend

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Isn't Apex Legends 'dat fire'?
Apex Legends wasn't expected to be so successful. So much so that they didn't even really market it before its release. It's a lucky hit. The thing is that no one knows what games a game a big hit. They are constantly trying. Everyone is trying to reach the success of COD4MW.
 

StormCell

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OP, I agree with most of your insights, however the conclusions you draw from it all hedge toward the sensational. If anything, I fear that what we're observing is incredibly sustainable. So sustainable that companies are able to lay off entire teams and divisions because their checklist-style games are easier to make, require less creative talent, and much of the work is already complete from last year's iteration (re-use the same engine). Companies who are losing money in this industry might just be doing so on paper in order to make cuts and "return to profitability" next year or something... But as far as I can tell, there have never been more gamers and more whales than in today's market. I can't see how that's not working out great for the few big publishers remaining.

I'm not fearful of an industry crash as much as I'm fearful that it's here to stay, that resistance will be futile, and we'll never again see the kinds of creativity that we saw across so many genres as we did during PS1-PS2 eras. Maybe some day soon, the better indie companies out there will be able to produce the kinds of games that we miss. I mean, there's already a lot of very good indie games and competing games in the more niche genres like city-building and simulation. We're seeing a revival in classic shooters. Just give it time. Markets have a way of correcting themselves, and the so-called indie market formed as a result of this samey-ness that has taken hold of the AAA market.

If I'm being honest, I don't even really pay attention to AAA games anymore. I don't get the appeal much except for a select few games.
 
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FranXico

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Good topic, Freedom Gate Co. Freedom Gate Co.

I only think that the presence of too many "too big to fail" corporations in this industry could accelerate convergence to monopoly, which would harm it even more than the long awaited "crash". Huge corporations actually tend to take less risks and raise the barrier of entry to smalle
 

Saruhashi

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Unless you've ignored all the big gaming controversies the last several months this isn't a personal thing, it's unsustainable. I haven't even touched on game budgets yet in more detail, that's another big issue.
Honestly though, without knowing about their budgets and relative profits it becomes too difficult to really say anything.

I'd love to know, for example, how many copies of Fallout 76 were sold or how many copies of Anthem.
Then how much of that is profitable for the developers and publishers.

I think, to some degree, we are in our own little bubble here and a lot of those controversies don't really reach the outside world. :)

So if I look at Jim Sterling, for example, you can see that his videos reporting on "controversy" with Anthem and Fallout76 do manage to garner over 500k views and he has almost 800k subs. This seems like a tiny percentage of the player base and I wonder if that's just because people can't be bothered to listen to complaining about games.

Maybe people are actually having fun with these games?

Truth is I don't know if we've established what an actual video game "flop" for these guys actually looks like.

With something like E.T. we kind of know that they shipped 4 million copies of the game and they had around 3.5 million returned,
With Anthem or Fallout76 I just don't know what a disaster of that magnitude actually looks like.
Reports of "retail sales" don't help since this can really not be a reliable indicator.

That's not to say that they HAVEN'T flopped but I just don't know how much of the industry's main audience actually knows or cares about all these controversies.

Here we are just like a tiny subset of people who are maybe more aware than most. I wouldn't touch Anthem or Fallout 76 because I know about the BS going on but for every 1 of me there's like 1000 folk who will buy the games and enjoy them.
 
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Futaleufu

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THQ used to be too big to fall.

When the arcade scene started to falter in the mid 90s half of the japanese arcade developers disappeared, maybe the streaming future will be the beginning of another purge.
 
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tr1p1ex

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Definitely a change going to happen when the rise of a few these F2P games on console and pc rival many of the $60 AAA games.

And when a bunch of today's $60 games are expensive pieces of junk. The Fallout 76, BFV, Anthem, ...

I think some of these games are biting off more than they can chew. There's so much money being plowed into making the graphics look 10% better rather than into making the games polished and fun. That is something that has to change.

I know with BFV it just feels like the developer and publisher are just trying to be everything to everybody and you don't get the sense that any one thing receives the attention it needs to receive.
 
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Jubenhimer

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We should not celebrate the fact that it takes people almost killing themselves and say "see you can do it alone"
Making any game requires a lot of hard work, some more-so than others. So it's not a suprise that some people experience hardships along the way. The point is that their hard work pays off in the end.
 

petran79

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THQ used to be too big to fall.

When the arcade scene started to falter in the mid 90s half of the japanese arcade developers disappeared, maybe the streaming future will be the beginning of another purge.
Some also moved to portable consoles, especially during GBA and afterwards.
Also Sega, Taito, Midway, SNK, Capcom etc were financially affected as well
 

Freedom Gate Co.

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Maybe you should detail out what situations you are talking about instead of being incredibly vague.
No one else seems to think I'm incredibly vague, because they were actually paying attention.

THQ used to be too big to fall.

When the arcade scene started to falter in the mid 90s half of the japanese arcade developers disappeared, maybe the streaming future will be the beginning of another purge.
THQ was never too big to fail, you can look at articles and fiances from the late 90's and early 200's, THQ was constantly on shaky ground. Later on in the 2000's they tried knocking off their kid attitude and tried to get more serous games because the profits were down.

With something like E.T. we kind of know that they shipped 4 million copies of the game and they had around 3.5 million returned,
.

Wut?
 
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Freedom Gate Co.

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Disagreeing with you does not mean not knowing. It just means that I think you're blowing things that have always happened way out of proportion. And you are.
Same attitude people had last gen and look at where we are now, you don't actually know, that's the issue. The industry is crumbling around you, a reason why is presented to you, you dismiss it because you haven't been paying attention.

Some, but it's making really off-base assumptions regarding indies and mid-level publishers. If OP was right, what we see today is the opposite of what we should expect. So many indies break out, and AA is stronger than it's been since the PS2 era.
Indies aren't AA, the AA industry is barely existent right now.
 
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Freedom Gate Co.

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It’s highly doubtful that we’ll ever see a repeat of 1983.
Well the crash of 83 was caused by being able to play most of the same games on many consoles, and game pricing wars where AA or some AAA devs sold their games at $30 making the $60-$70 devs drop their prices, which also pissed off retailers in effect.

That's not going to happen in the current market, companies can't organize and pull off a game price drop these days, and you can't play one consoles games on another so, we'll likely never see a crash in that vein again.