Nobody can see the future. However, in order to be prepared for what’s to come, it is helpful to extrapolate, to take current trends and see where they may lead us if nothing is to change.
I’m going to make a bold prediction: Within the next year, YouTube is going to die. Yes, the youtube.com domain may still resolve to some Alphabet-owned service, but it’ll largely resemble MySpace. Google under Eric Schmidt has mismanaged the site so badly that it is beyond saving at this point. It won’t be long before a mass exodus occurs, and with it the destruction of what little remains of the game industry.
When digital distribution services like Steam first started to gain traction, the way early adopters found new games was by reading various gaming blogs. Promotion on video game sites was how games like Spelunky, Recettear, and Long Live The Queen initially got popular. But many of the other games they promoted weren’t nearly as well made.
And three years ago, we discovered the reason why they were promoting such terrible games. The gaming press is part of a clique of game developers who used their connections with the media for viral marketing. See, writers who are paid per click need to publish a number of articles each day or they won’t be able to pay rent. So if one of their game dev friends sends them an article that’s practically pre-written, of course they’re going to jump at it. When you’re paid pennies for every 1000 hits, you’re not going to ensure that every article you post is actually worth reading. Though I’m not defending writers who accept per-click pay rates. If they had any brains, they would quit and find a job that’s less unpleasant, like cleaning up after zoo animals.
When this corruption of the gaming press was discovered in a sex scandal known as Burgers And Fries, the gaming blogs lost their tastemaker status overnight. Instead of apologizing and trying to salvage what little they could, they doubled down and attacked their own readership. Now, no one trusts their coverage anymore, and their traffic consists only of pseudo-intellectuals whose hobby is reading nonsensical left wing think pieces and scoff at the idea of video games as a product to be sold.
After the death of the gaming press, consumers turned to video coverage to find new games to play. Of course, this had the unintended consequence of biasing the sort of games that got popular, as YouTube creators weren’t going to bother with games that, while fun to play, were uninteresting to watch someone else play. This also encouraged game developers to pander more toward YouTubers, and less to actual gamers. There’s also the problem of YouTube creators acting in the same corrupt manner as the gaming press. I got two dirty words for ya: Influencer Marketing.
All of this, the dumbing down of content, the naked corruption, the blatant censorship, all of it has led to the imminent destruction of YouTube. And with its destruction, it will take what remains of the gaming industry.
Since the Burgers and Fries scandal in 2014, the gaming industry has been on life support. YouTube Gaming is the only thing that’s been keeping it going these past few years, the only thing still driving the sale of games. So once everyone moves to a new video platform, one which does not have a algorithmic bias toward longform gaming content, sales of new releases are going to crash.
The question is, after everyone who only wanted to leech money out of the industry leaves for greener pastures, who will rebuild?
Many of the early masters of video game development have turned to the false idol of social justice. If we are to create a solid foundation to rebuild upon, we must learn the ethos and the methodology that created the classics of our hobby. With the prevalence of various abandonware sites and GOG, this shouldn’t be too much trouble.
We must also look to what inspired these classic games. Many of the early computer games were based off of the original Dungeons & Dragons, which was itself heavily inspired by the Fantasy books which were popular at the time. So we must go back to the Fantasy and Science Fiction canon of the 70s and look to it for inspiration. One must have a knowledge of the genre’s roots to craft a Fantasy story that stands the test of time.
We also need to eliminate greed from the development process. The acquisition of money should be a means to continue making new games, not the end goal in and of itself. Make money to make games, not make games to make money. This may sound funny coming from a fan of capitalism like me, but honestly… with the quality of product that big gaming corporations are putting out, do you really think they’ve EARNED their filthy lucre? Do you really think they’ll survive with the hype machine dead? When the bubble bursts, when their rent-seeking collapses, they’ll get what’s coming to them.
If the gaming industry is ever to return to its prime, it will need to be recreated by gamers with the drive to see it done right. Nobody else is going to it, so it’s up to us to rebuild. Otherwise, video games will be relegated to the recesses of our culture, just like other dead mediums like stage theater and epic poetry.