It’s E3 time again. I frickin’ love E3 and I have no idea why. I get excited for the conferences and the trailers and the reveals and the gaffs and the press reactions and everything from the show floor. It makes no sense. I’m currently playing a game that is 5 years old, and after that I’ll probably play a game that is only two or three years old. My urge to be up to date on the goings on in the game industry is not in lock step with how up to date I am on actual games. I used to think that meant I was out of touch. Now I think it’s great.
There was a time in the early 90s when being a gamer meant that you played pretty much everything. There were a lot of games being made, but you could reasonably dabble in every available genre. You could sample all of the types and styles of experiences being worked on. There were many samey clones of tentpole games, but if you played one of them, you got the gist of the rest. Not so much anymore. Even given unlimited time, or a profession that revolved solely around playing new games, it would be physically impossible to play, or even know about, all of the games coming out. There are too many, on too many platforms, with too many requirements.
There has been a lot of chatter about the bursting of this bubble and that bubble. The indiepocalypse, the downfall of mobile, the mid tier crash, the shrinking of AAA. All of it is bunk. What part of indie is collapsing, is it the part where people put small projects up on itch.io? Is it the garage developer with three titles? Is it the large budget, but laser focus of something like The Witness? What indie bubble is doing the bursting? There are just too many of them. Mobile is failing? What part? The small compulsive game, the collectible card game, the touch controlled adventure? Again there are just too many. There is no one class of game that can be dubbed triple A, just like there is no one group of indie games.
The real issue is this. There are fewer and fewer massive blockbusters. There are less and less giant hits. There are no other Minecrafts. That isn’t a sign of a collapse. That is a sign of maturity. There are so many games available, that people can and will be choosey about what they play. Studios betting everything on a runaway hit has never been a great idea, it’s just less so now. Steady business that funds development of the next game, and the next game, and the next game, is the best that can be hoped for. Congrats, game industry. That’s called sustainable business.
I will watch this year's E3 coverage and get excited about all the new announcements. Over the next few years I will play a tiny fraction of those games, and that will be fine. Each of those games will have it’s audience and many of them will earn a modest return. Enough for that studio to make a new game, or maybe two smaller games. Universal acclaim will become more and more difficult to attain, but overall, more people will find real, steady, and fulfilling employment making games. We haven’t reached any sort of apocalypse yet, not by a long shot.