Video game developers have a vision when it comes to creating their games. A worthwhile, unique idea is birth and through collaboration between people who want to see this idea become reality, a video game is produced. Video game factories however, are the boy bands of the video game industry.
Whenever a new form of art becomes popular enough, it doesn’t take long for a business to form around it; and with industry comes corporations. Corporations then inevitably suck the artistry right out of it. Instead of an idea, they license and use established intellectual properties. Instead of a vision, they have marketing research. Instead of fan communication they have focus groups.
It’s interesting how humans seem to have develop a sixth sense when it comes to art. Whether you’re a video game enthusiast, or a movie buff, a painting connoisseur, you love music, books, whatever. If it’s a product that was produced without passion, you can tell. That isn’t to say that the product is necessarily bad, they’re usually just decent. The movie is “watchable”. Music on the radio is corporate, pre-packaged disposable sounds that is optimized for “catchiness”.
Video game factories work under the same principle. The developers who truly had the passion and understood the game, finish telling their story. The Publisher is left with a successful and popular IP that they know will sell on name recognition alone. A new “studio” is opened and individuals with the proper skills are hired on to add to the franchise. Enough resources are spent on marketing to create the necessary hype, rendering the quality of the product irrelevant, as far as sales figures are concerned. The community is left divided, disappointed, and scared. Now with its reputation in shambles, the publisher realizes that name alone won’t sell the product anymore, and thus the IP is “shelved”, and is not heard from again for some time.
Since the turn of the millennium there seems to have been in increase in the establishment of video game factories. There have also been examples of proper video game developers being converted into factories. 343 Industries, The Coalition, WB Games Montréal, Bioware Montréal, Treyarch, Sledgehammer games, Ghost Games, all examples of video game factories. Bungie, Infinity Ward, Criterion Games, DICE, DreamWorks Interactive AKA EA Los Angeles AKA Danger Close Games AKA DICE Los Angeles, all examples of developer to factory conversions.
A while ago I raised the question of whether or not Bioware is in trouble. That question has been answered. Bioware is on its deathbed and they know it. They fought the good fight, but after contracting EA, the tumors kept growing and are now inoperable. The last, desperate attempt to save its life is coming in the form of an experimental treatment called Anthem. The dosage is similar to that of the Destiny drug, itself derivative of Borderlands. If the EA responds to the treatment, then with increased communication practices and careful monitoring, Bioware might pull through.
However! Early signs indicate that the treatment isn’t having any effect. The autopsy will undoubtedly confirm the cause of death as excessive corporate interference. Alright, enough with the medical drama jargon.
Based on the information we have now, here’s what’s gonna happen. Anthem will fail. EA is gonna take Bioware out back and put a cap in’em. They’re gonna say: “Oh shit, what do we do with Dragon Age? Oh I know!” A new studio will pop up overnight, filled with people who really needed a job and don’t really have any interest in working on someone else’s creation. They’ll call it Chantry Studios, or Warden Software, or Whatever interactive. Even if there’s a passionate individual, with great ideas, and is looking to put his mark on things; that attitude’ll be beaten out of him within weeks once it’s made abundantly clear that he’s working for EA. The use of the Frostbite engine is mandated. Why? More name recognition. So they can say “powered by frostbite”, as if anyone gives a fuck. This Dragon Age game will fail as well. It’ll be Mass Effect: Andromeda all over again.
But we were thrown a curveball with that visit from Anita Sarkeesian. What a fuck-up that was. I don’t mean that to bash Anita. Even though I have no clue what kind of valuable information she could possibly impart onto the developers. She’s not a developer, she’s not even a gamer. But fine, maybe Bioware knows something I don’t, but even so! From a PR standpoint, why the fuck would you tell the world about it? You know goddamn well that people shit on her. You have her come anywhere near your offices and people are gonna shit on you too. Most people don’t make the distinction between Bioware Montreal and Bioware Edmonton. Your name is the only thing keeping you afloat right now and it’s half way in the toilet after Andromeda. What were you thinking?! This isn’t a good sign either.
Bungie meanwhile, same shit. Was Halo some kind of a fluke? Did they somehow fall ass backwards into a successful franchise? That can’t be. More likely, most of the people who worked on halo have moved on, and not to the 343 conveyor belts. Halo 4 wasn’t half bad, but they really tickled the grizzly bear’s butthole with Halo 5. I don’t know what they got planned for the next Halo, but they really need a new marketing department. With the Xbox One X they can hopefully bring split screen back and keep their precious 60 FPS.
Bungie has to stop treating its player base like domesticated cattle. Bioware has to show us how Anthem is different from Destiny, The Division, and the like; Iron Man suits aren’t enough. Do whatever you can to convince EA that loot boxes will only help in tanking the game. Keep it cosmetic only at the very least, but do not make it a priority. Stop worrying about the money. You’re Bioware, people already know about Anthem. Make a fun game and the money will come.
But to all publishers, trust your developers more. That’s the only time you’ll get a true work of art. Deus ex became what it was because Warren Spector was allowed to make his dream game. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare laid the groundwork for the juggernaut the franchise is today because Vince Zampella and Jason West was given the greenlight to create a vision they had since before Call of Duty 2. Never has a world famous franchise been conceived in a lab.
Maybe music has, I’m not sure. A few months ago I was in a shop and there was a radio playing. I recognize the voice of the singer, it was Rihanna. The song was god awful. I did a google search just now in an effort to find it. I wrote: “Rihanna wah wah wah” and there it was. “Wild Thoughts” it’s called. I hear a lot of people talk about Drake and how good of a rapper he is. I’ve only ever heard one song of his and I wanted to decapitate myself. He wasn’t even rapping. Hell he was barely singing. It sounded like he was drowning in a pool of semen. But maybe it was just a bad example, maybe he was off his game on that record. I just don’t want to see video games go the way of mainstream music. You don’t have to sacrifice it as an art form in order for it to be a thriving business.
Papito Qinn is into the whole YouTube thing, is the winner of the 2016 SpookTAYcular Scary Story Contest, and a twitter incompetent. “Anthem will fail. EA will shut Bioware down, then open a Dragon Age development factory. A mediocre Dragon Age game on par with Mass Effect Andromeda will be released and franchise will be “shelved”. That’ll be that for Bioware’s legacy.”