The Problem With a Digital Store Front: A Pre-Mortem Story
Here’s the thing. I love the digital format. In fact I prefer it over the physical in more ways than one. It allows for me to save room in my rapidly cramping house, with a 2 month old daughter, a wife and four cats, I just don’t have the room I used to. Making space for a new Blu-Ray or a video game just isn’t as easy as it once was. In fact as time goes on I find myself going to physical mom and pop stores less and less often. I used to work retail and as a result in my early 20’s I found an unnatural pull towards these stores, mostly because I wanted to support the people that worked there. Things changed though.
In fact my junior year of college I had a speech class, and no not one of the special kinds, it was for developing personal skills and the ability to talk in front of groups, as if I hadn’t gained that ability in high school. The kicker is that my speech was about the dangers of an all digital store front and how it would one day lead to the loss of stores world wide and what would happen if the digital store closes? Do you lose access to all those things that you bought? Of course some of my arguments are still legitimate concerns, but I worry less about those things as time goes on. The biggest argument was one I had never thought about, but that is ease of access into the market.
Now what exactly does that mean though? Ease of access into the market, well quite simply it is the barrier of entry into a certain category. Go to amazon and you can find million of books written by random authors now. Some books are pretty good from amateur writers, some are just bologna and cheese sandwich’s with crap smeared on the bread. So people who have no skills are suddenly capable of creating something for everybody else to buy. Look at stores like ETSY which thrive on pictures and promises of what people are going to create for you.
(Really freaking weird okay…..)
This is all fine and dandy, however what happens when this market hits a digital store front and eventually makes it way to video games or even video? Now on video we have seen a lot of different fan films and frankly just bad movies release as a result. That isn’t to say there aren’t some golden gems hiding in all of the residual filth, because there is, but the filth is most definitely the majority of what we get. What about video games? Surely something with such a high bar of entry wouldn’t have random crap come in from all over the place right?
Seriously, oh yeah, all the time. One only has to turn on their PC and look at the front page of Steam to see the myriads of asset flips and games that probably spent less time in development than my morning dump. Yes I know it may be harsh, but when you charge 10$ for a game with literally no replay value, no solid gameplay and graphics from the 1970’s. I think you may be barking up the wrong tree. So is this really caused by an all digital store front? I mean bad games and movies have been releasing since the beginning of time right?
Look at movies like M. Night Shymalamadingdong’s: Avatar: The Last Airbender or even and I can’t utter the name….DC’s Catwoman…. Bad movies come out that have huge budgets, and if we are being honest….I actually kind of liked the last airbender, sure it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t that bad either. Now what about games, how about some of these gems, Alien Colonial Marines from Gearbox (creators of freaking borderlands), Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 (I mean come on classic series) or even any recent Sonic the Hedgehog game (Sonic Mania looks awesome though). Bad games release even without the digital store front, so why am I making this argument?
(It’s not that bad….right?)
Well the reason I’m making this argument is now it is so much harder to tell the difference between utter crap and what is good. My first review on this blog is of The Sexy Brutale, which is both Sexy and Brutale. The problem though is that it released with about 10 other games, small games not huge AAA games mind you, that were priced at a lesser price point and were atrocious. How was I supposed to know this though? I couldn’t have if it wasn’t for people who were willing to wade through all of the crap to let me know. Now the question is this, do we only allow good games on digital store fronts or do we have a better informed audience?
Now one thing that I absolutely hate is having to read up on every game that looks even a little bit interesting. This is because I want to go in completely blind, I don’t want to know its key gameplay mechanics or it’s story. I just want to be completely surprised. Now I am aware that this isn’t true of everyone, but as a result I just want to know, hey was the game good? If we were in a more selective market my biggest concern would most likely be, well is it an RPG, a shooter or a sports game? With a higher bar of entry the amount of “crap” that enters the gaming space would be lessened, but then games with lower budgets could never make the cut?
It really is a catch 22 of problems. Obviously things like steam greenlight have failed, since steam is constantly finding ways to innovate and is now dropping it for the very little detailed steam direct. The problem still exists though, what do we do with the digital store front. You only need to follow individuals like Jim Sterling to see the kind of crap that releases on consoles, aka the life of black tiger on PSN. That type of game shouldn’t A. Exist and B. be released for sale period. This is a problem, now obviously those games won’t sell, but what happens when they become commonplace in the digital store front?
We are really looking at the beginning of an end era. Where the digital store front needs to find some kind of quality control over the games they are selling. This applies to every medium though, but especially video games. It’s great that even 1 person teams can develop games that become instant successes, but when they are fighting for room amongst the dozens of games releasing weekly, does that really help anyone’s game? No…no it doesn’t. This is a pre-mortem warning for those digital store fronts, fix your stores, get some quality control or you will be seeing less and less people buying from your individual market places.