Did The Videogame Industry Die Along With Sega?
SE-GA!!!! Anyone who owned a Sega Megadrive/Genesis will know that word, sung with confidence and self glorifying haughtiness, at the start of many a classic Sega game. It was a seal of quality and quirkiness, a sign that you were playing a Sega game, and all the baggage and craziness that came with it. Yet, Sega very rarely use it to introduce their own games anymore, with only those games that are deemed ‘retro’ having any chance of having the logo heralded at the start.
The reason is that the confidence has gone, and those crazy blue skies are a thing of the past, because Sega are now just another videogame publisher. The difference between Sega and the others is that Sega bang out poor Sonic games every now and then, and manage to mess up enough classic game conversions of old titles that many don’t bother, looking to emulators instead for their Sega thrills.
Pure joy refined
I remember reading an article, when Sega decided to drop out of the hardware race, where the writer gleefully predicted that EA would soon ‘be looking in their rear mirror at the bright red Ferrari catching them up on the fast lane’.
That prediction proved false, with layoffs, poor financial results and a total lack of innovation and risk taking already getting the vultures taking notice, hungry for Sega’s many prized assets. Assets it has no idea what to do with itself. Essentially, the Sega of old, of Burning Rangers, Daytona USA, Crazy Taxi and the like, is dead, replaced by a Western focused Japanese publisher with no clear idea where to go.
So with ‘our’ Sega gone, what is the videogame industry becoming? Microsoft want to turn gaming on the Xbox into just one option on the screen of a money-making ‘do all’ set top box. Sony can’t decide if it wants to follow suite, although is more promising than Microsoft. Nintendo, who went their own way with the Wii, and did very well, is slowly being convinced that games should just be one part of a wider offering in a console.
This kind of game just wouldn’t, ever get a retail release now
In the realm of computer gaming, where we used to have Atari, Commodore, the PC and many, many more, we now have just the PC and Mac to choose from, which isn’t really a choice as 90% of Mac games are PC or iPhone ports. Where there were many, now there is one.
We also have mobile gaming in the form of the iPhone and Android, both of which started out well, but now both of which are being taken over by the evil of the IAP and ‘free to play’ nonsense, nonsense that is slowly but surely encroaching on the consoles and PC. Note: although the new platforms that let you play Android games on your TV look nice, just remember that having them on your TV will not make these Android games any less shit.
I don’t like where the industry is heading. A future where free to play, micro transactions and season passes are the norm, where all the consoles are almost identical aside from an exclusive here are there, where there is only the PC as an alternative, an alternative that itself is limited to slightly better looking and slightly better performing versions of console games, and where gaming as a whole is just one option to select in the black/grey box sitting under your TV.
The future. Hope you like grey.
The industry may be making more money than ever, but that industry is looking less and less like a videogame industry and more and more like one facet of a wider industry that has that awful, nasty word emblazoned on it: multimedia. The passing of the Sega of old may just be a coincidence, happening at a time of great change in the industry, but it was all the money men needed to whisper in the ears of publishers and platform holders everywhere: “See? It doesn’t work, you need to expand and find new ways to make money”.
These same money men are right now whispering in the ears of Nintendo and Sony. They are already in charge at Microsoft, and have been since they decided to charge for online play. “See, we are now making millions charging them for playing the games they have already bought, just think what else we can do!”.
Sega, please come back. Please come back and save us from this inevitable future, a future of grey skies. Bring back the blue skies of old and cast these grey clouds, hovering over the landscape of gaming, away for good.
Hurry. They are closing in.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.