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Is Our Industry Broken Beyond Repair?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 13, 2006   |   Episode 114 (Show Archive)  

   

Hey you video game companies, do you really want to make this giant line of game fans angry?
As much as we love it, as much as we support it, as much as we feel connected to it. The truth is that the video game industry does not want to be your friend. It doesn't want you to hang around, it doesn't to hear your thoughts, and it most certainly doesn't want you to buy what it's selling. It may be difficult to hear, but the video game industry doesn't care about you or your family ... and if you're going to be an informed consumer then you ought to know the facts.

Have you ever reserved a game that you've been looking forward to only to show up and discover that there are no more copies waiting for you? Have you ever saved up all of your money for the latest and greatest next generation console only to be turned away because somebody didn't manufacture enough units? Have you ever tried to get your friends into an upcoming game only to be stumped when they ask you when it's coming out?


Even if you have the $600 to spend, chances are you won't be able to get your hands on the PS3 this Christmas!
Let's face it; these are not the kinds of problems you would expect from one of the largest entertainment industries in the world. We're talking about an industry that makes more money the well-established record industry, sporting events and even the box office, so why is it that we have to put up with so many problems that seem so easy to fix? Is it just growing pains or are we part of a flakey industry that really doesn't care about its fanbase?

With just months to go before the PlayStation 3's official launch, Sony made a

Ask Tyler, there is no reason to fight over a PS3!
disappointing (albeit predictable) announcement that they would only be able to ship 400,000 units to stores this holiday season. For a company that is looking to hang on to its dominance in the video game industry, 400,000 PS3's is a small number ... especially when you consider the twelve month head start Microsoft had. While stores are still taking reservations for Sony's next generation console, most employees are ready to admit that there will be plenty of shortages and even those who put money down early may not get what they paid for.

And it's not just Sony, last year Microsoft had exactly the same problem. When the Xbox 360 launched last November there were fist fights outside of Best Buy, hundreds of systems

I would say that the Japanese really know how to sell the Xbox 360 ... but that would be a lie!
going for thousands of dollars on eBay, and millions of angry Microsoft fans left out in the cold. You would think that these companies would want to get as many units on the store shelves as possible, that way they could shore up their base and sell as many consoles (and games) as humanly possible. Yet every system launch it seems like there's some reason why the companies can't seem to get their consoles out and into your house.

It's not like any of this should come as a surprise, we've been dealing with system shortages since the PlayStation 2 launched six years ago. Console manufacturers know that they have a short window between when they announce the console and when they can piece together the systems, yet we are

Who knew there would be so many people excited about killing zombies? Well, everybody! There's no excuse for stores to run out of Dead Rising!
constantly running into companies that can't get their act together and get enough systems to the stores. Considering that Sony originally announced that the PS3 would launch spring of this year there should have been more than enough time to get at least a million units built, but sadly that is just not the case. Blame on whatever you want, but at the end of the day it comes off feeling like neither Sony nor Microsoft takes this industry very seriously.

Unfortunately it's not just the hardware. When it comes to finding that game you've been waiting for it can be something of a crap-shoot. Unless the game you're waiting for is the next Halo or Grand Theft Auto sequel, you never know if your favorite video game store will have any copies left. Even if you reserve the game that doesn't always mean you'll find one when

Who can forget the never-ending delays surrounding Dead or Alive 4?
you get there. No matter what kind of game it is, it sometimes feels like the game stores never purchase enough to take care of all of their customers, we're playing a game of hit and miss and the consumer is often the loser.

Is there a reason they can't manufacture enough copies so that everybody that wants a game can buy one? It's one thing to be surprised by the success of a niche title (such as Katamari Damacy), but when it comes to something like Prey or Dead Rising there is no reason that game stores should run out half way through the first day. For an industry as large as ours we shouldn't have to cross our fingers and hope the local GameStop got enough copies LocoRoco to satisfy all of the PSP owners in the area.

And in case you haven't noticed, keeping up with the latest release dates is enough to drive anybody away from video gaming all together. Nailing down a specific release date is a tricky task that even the professionals have trouble with. It doesn't help that the video game industry doesn't have a day dedicated to their releases; instead we get release dates that feel very random. And

If you ask David Jaffe, sites like Defunct Games can't say that we are part of the video game industry. It's his industry, not ours!
I'm not even taking into consideration those games that get pushed back for no reason (Dead or Alive 4) or pushed up at the very last second (Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins).

Even video game advertising fails to tell you when a game is coming out. Internet adverts rarely tell you a specific date; instead they opt to give you a vague "coming soon" or "October 2006" release date. If the video game companies aren't willing to tell us when their games are coming out then why should we bother being excited for them? Is it too much to ask for some clarity in the release dates? Wouldn't it be a better business practice to tell people when the games are coming out? That way we can plan, be ready and head to the store early so that we are actually guaranteed a copy of the game.

This is certainly not how fans of other industries are treated. When you go to buy a DVD or compact disc you know exactly what day it will come out (Tuesday) and

Rockstar Games has the right idea, they are putting the release dates right in their advertisements!
that your local store will have enough copies. We all know that every Friday a new movie will take over a couple screens at your local theater; it's never a mystery when your favorite movie is coming out. And let's not forget that sporting events are planned out months ahead of time, giving people plenty of time to get ready to enjoy your favorite pastime. These industries have managed to get it right; they know how important it is to let people know what's going on, that way nobody is in the dark.

If you look back at the biggest games of the past few years you'll notice that almost every one of them had some sort of release date advertised weeks in advance. Everybody knew that Halo 2 was coming out on November 9th, and October 26 was the day that millions of Grand Theft Auto fans had a chance to wreak havoc in San Andreas. More recently Electronic Arts made sure to put Madden's release date (August 22) into both print ads and television commercials. These three companies know from first hand experience how important it is to set a release date, stick to it and then advertise it. If you aren't

Why is it that I know exactly when the Bleak Future DVD is coming out, yet I still don't know if Warhawk will be a PS3 launch title?
willing to go that extra step and tell us when we can expect it then you might as well not be trying to sell your game at all. Buying a video game shouldn't be a guessing game, there's a reason that no other industry treats their fans that way.

It would be easier on everybody involved if the video game industry could just come together and find a single day each week when all games would be released. You see this with music, movies and DVDs already ... and it certainly seems to be working for them. Just imagine how much easier it would be to know that the game you've been waiting for will be on store shelves on Wednesday (for example), there would be no guess work or any confusion over the difference between a street date and a ship date. You would know that every Wednesday you could go into your local game store and browse their aisles to find the newest games.

And a single-day release wouldn't only be convenient for us consumers; it

I'm sure it'll be months before we know when Halo 3 comes out, but at least we'll know the exact day!
would actually make the job of the game seller a lot easier, too. Instead of receiving new games and having to make room every day of the week, employees would only have to do this act once every seven days. Instead of them having to look up a date that may or may not be correct, the employee could simply say, "that's coming out next Wednesday." It would be so organized, so simple. And best of all, it would show that the video game industry isn't the chaotic mess that we all think it is.

The things that gamers demand aren't that difficult to provide. We aren't asking for $20 games that pack a thousand hours of game play, we aren't complaining about sequels and rip-offs. Instead we just want the industry to care about us as much as we care about it. We want them to let us know when their games are coming out. We want them to make enough consoles so that we don't have to fight somebody to the death in order to play the newest Tony Hawk game. We don't want to reserve a game months ahead of time only to find out that the store got five copies for ten people. If this is the biggest entertainment industry in the world, then maybe it's time somebody takes it seriously and starts treating us with the respect we deserve.
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