THE END IS NEAR?

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The end is near?

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Abermore, one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of titles that premiered in recent days on Steam made me think that the end of an era is near. Yes, you guessed it, Abermore is a steaming pile of garbage. To be fair it is not the only one and not the worst one that I have seen recently.


The end is near?

So why would I concentrate on Abermore? To kick the developers when they are down? To criticize Steam for lack of care what is published on their platform? Actually no. To both questions. What was significant in case of Abermore for me was not the fact that the game on premiere is extremely buggy (Cyberpunk 2077 level of buggy), not the fact that it clearly should have been put up as early access (instead it is being sold for full price of about 13 Euro), but the fact that, according to one of the developers, most of the team behind it pretty much dropped from this project around the day the premiere was announced.

No, it was not some social media drama, it was not a dark secret suddenly revealed, not even a spat between the developers. The reason was more prosaic - they had to take some other jobs and are not able to support the game as much as they used to. Again, this should put the game in early access category, but developers decided to publish it anyway with plead "be gentle" to their clients. The clients were not gentle, game gained very negative reviews, which is hardly surprising taking under consideration the state it is in.

But, as I said, I do not want to put down developers for their decisions, the Abermore case reminded me of something that was predicted long ago - the upcoming crash of gaming market. Again. Just like it was in 1980s we are coming close to the limit of what can be offered to players and still make money. Years ago it would take a small talented development team few months to come up with a decent game, now, with progress of technology and expectations of the clients, it would take them years. The problem is most of people involved in game development have funny habit of eating from time to time, they need a place to live, they need money to pay their bills, they need to sleep, etc.

While big companies have a lot of employees, they still use crunch time to make things done, even though they have tons of money, and their final products are... not that great usually. When it comes to small developers they need to cut corners in order to save money and time, so they tend to make smaller, casual games, not something comparable with AAA standards (at least the smart ones do not try this). And examples as Abermore show that the era of small developers coming up with great ideas and making money on it will soon come to an end.

It is impossible for them to be tied to a project for months and years, unless they have some sugar daddy, who will finance their work. And even then it would take them years to reach a level comparable with the big companies. There is no way a project like that could make a profit. Now even the big studios struggle to make a profit - simple example is Metro Exodus, a decent game, made by decent developer, which made most of its income from... deal with Epic Games platform. In fact if not for that deal they would more likely not made profit at all (as far as we can guess).

It looks like gap between AAA studios and small developers is getting bigger and bigger and soon the whole industry could come to a crash. Big studios will take years to make good games, which could flop (see Babylon’s Fall - 4 years in development and 1000 players on the premiere), while small developers will never make good profit, so they will never grow to be bigger company and take on bigger projects.



07-06-2022


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