What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate
Perhaps it's inevitable when one makes the jump to big business. Maybe the huge mega-global corporations are perfectly justified in saying something like, "how the hell can we possibly listen to every gamer out there?"
But you know, these days, we often see a very common complaint from gamers: "such-and-such company doesn't listen to us!" Square-Enix is a frequent scapegoat but one will often equate faceless executives with the likes of Activision and EA as well, and many hardcore fans will typically bemoan certain business decisions because their "feelings were ignored." But in defense of the companies in question, we may unfortunately have to embrace the maxim- money talks. Activision releases a Call of Duty every year because it's a giant cash cow. EA will continue with its popular franchises. Square-Enix will keep doing what it thinks is right in catering to a Western market. Fans from yesteryear can scream until they're blue in the face; they can send letters, make petitions, and freak out in the forums and comments sections at gaming websites...and if the corporation in question has grown to a particular size, those complaints may go unnoticed.
Due to the fact that this industry continues to grow and often remain in flux, we do have smaller studios amongst mammoth publishers (and even smaller publishers), so we can usually see the clear contrast. Take the recent new/old Cole fiasco concerning inFamous 2. Well, Sucker Punch isn't a gigantic studio and when it became painfully obvious that "douchebag-Cole" wasn't going over well, they went and responded. They did some work and made a significant change. They listened. This doesn't always work, though, and the level of effectiveness appears to be directly related to the size of the development studio or publisher. This isn't 100%, of course, as some companies are just better at listening to their fans but we do notice a difference. That being said, perhaps individual game makers do keep an eye on the community at large (they're gamers, too), and what they see on message boards may indeed impact the Monday meeting. So that's something.
In the end, is it okay for the big companies to focus on money? Isn't financial success (or lack thereof), the truest form of fan feedback? If this product makes money, and keeps making money, isn't it serving the fans to continue to produce similar products? It seems sensible. But what happens when the rising cry of, "we want something different" doesn't register in time, and the company spends a ton of money and resources on something that just doesn't work? Companies stayed on the music/rhythm bandwagon too long, as evidenced by last year's huge drop in that category. It's a complicated issue, especially when you factor in the different types of gamers (hardcore, casual, and everything in between), and the differences in games and game-playing (genres, multiplayer vs. single-player, etc.). It can't be easy to determine the exact formula for success, but we still say listening is important, regardless of size or financial indicators.
8/22/2010 10:13:06 PM Ben Dutka