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Author Topic: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping  (Read 4963 times)

mouser

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Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« on: May 25, 2014, 05:18:20 AM »
Rock, Paper, Shotgun continues to be a great site for thoughtful commentary on videogames.  Today they point to a long blog essay on independent game developers, and the idea that we've seen a growing trend of indie games that has reached its apex, producing an unsustainable number of generic low-quality games, which is making it harder to find quality projects.

Quote
Indie gaming started out as games written with passion for people who embraced and loved them. Now too much of it is about churning out giant mounds of decent but undifferentiated product to be bought for pennies by people who don't give a crap either way. It's not sustainable...



from http://www.rockpaper...e-sunday-papers-315/

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2014, 07:07:27 AM »

Just speaking about quantities vs gamer time to play games, I was noticing a lot of that wandering around the Ludum Dare results. At just under 2500 entries, you have to glance at the thumbnails and make quick judgements. So for example with a very low sets of actual dev time spent, that's a cumulative 100,000 game dev time in total!


40hz

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2014, 08:02:12 AM »
You're seeing the same thing happening with music and literature.

You have a large influx of B-grade and C-grade "talent" glutting the market. (See Kickstarter for some truly cringe-worth examples.) And that's because "everybody has a million dollar hit song or book inside them" according to the people who run those $1500/2-day seminars that "teach you the top secret techniques the pros use." And those that don't charge (i.e. NaNoWriMo) but merely encourage large numbers of the highly motivated and sincere (but still untrained and largely untalented people) are also feeding that glut.

Once you have a market glut and the quality (inevitably) declines significantly, the product quickly becomes generic - and a commodity item. Before long you see the entire market living with generic and commodity level prices.

Professionals cannot compete with low-ball amateurs on price or quality. (Repeat that 3 times.) Low-ball amateurs can, however, quickly force out the professionals - who need to make a living from their craft - and charge appropriately to do so. Excess amateurs in a field do this by lowering standards and reducing customer expectations to the point of indifference, Eventually, the market arrives at the point where the price becomes the only real selection criteria. Because the market is so loaded with junk that most buyers no longer expect (or get) very much for their money.

You'll see this in mature markets all the time: Crap drives out quality. Lower quality results in lower prices. Lower prices necessitates compromise, and attracts amateurs into the field, further lowering overall quality. Lower overall quality produces more crap. Repeat.

Sad state of affairs. But nothing new. It's just finally caught up with the game industry. :(
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 08:11:42 AM by 40hz »

ewemoa

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2014, 08:50:02 PM »
You have a large influx of B-grade and C-grade "talent" glutting the market.

Quote
Once you have a market glut and the quality (inevitably) declines significantly, the product quickly becomes generic - and a commodity item. Before long you see the entire market living with generic and commodity level prices.

Professionals cannot compete with low-ball amateurs on price or quality. (Repeat that 3 times.) Low-ball amateurs can, however, quickly force out the professionals - who need to make a living from their craft - and charge appropriately to do so. Excess amateurs in a field do this by lowering standards and reducing customer expectations to the point of indifference, Eventually, the market arrives at the point where the price becomes the only real selection criteria. Because the market is so loaded with junk that most buyers no longer expect (or get) very much for their money.

You'll see this in mature markets all the time: Crap drives out quality. Lower quality results in lower prices. Lower prices necessitates compromise, and attracts amateurs into the field, further lowering overall quality. Lower overall quality produces more crap. Repeat.

Sad state of affairs. But nothing new.

Do you know of a nice term/phrase to describe this sort of process?  I've been looking for such a thing -- hoping for something as nice as the phrase "Streisand effect" (ofc that's for a different process!).

Renegade

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2014, 11:29:58 PM »
You're seeing the same thing happening with music and literature.

You have a large influx of B-grade and C-grade "talent" glutting the market. (See Kickstarter for some truly cringe-worth examples.) And that's because "everybody has a million dollar hit song or book inside them" according to the people who run those $1500/2-day seminars that "teach you the top secret techniques the pros use." And those that don't charge (i.e. NaNoWriMo) but merely encourage large numbers of the highly motivated and sincere (but still untrained and largely untalented people) are also feeding that glut.

Once you have a market glut and the quality (inevitably) declines significantly, the product quickly becomes generic - and a commodity item. Before long you see the entire market living with generic and commodity level prices.

Professionals cannot compete with low-ball amateurs on price or quality. (Repeat that 3 times.) Low-ball amateurs can, however, quickly force out the professionals - who need to make a living from their craft - and charge appropriately to do so. Excess amateurs in a field do this by lowering standards and reducing customer expectations to the point of indifference, Eventually, the market arrives at the point where the price becomes the only real selection criteria. Because the market is so loaded with junk that most buyers no longer expect (or get) very much for their money.

You'll see this in mature markets all the time: Crap drives out quality. Lower quality results in lower prices. Lower prices necessitates compromise, and attracts amateurs into the field, further lowering overall quality. Lower overall quality produces more crap. Repeat.

Sad state of affairs. But nothing new. It's just finally caught up with the game industry. :(

Bingo.

I see this all the time.

A lot of products/services have the bar set low and become commodities.

A similar concept is Gresham's Law - "Bad money drives out good".

Competent professionals drop out of some markets because it is no longer worth their time to compete there, and consumers are left with crap until they start squawking. There are some examples, e.g. Consumers sick of toxic & GMO food > there are now organic & bio-dynamic options if people look. But, they are more expensive.

The question is whether or not a premium can be set for quality games. But... being digital, they're easy to reproduce...

I think that there needs to be a more holistic approach to games than there is now. Most are focused on platforms, SDKs/APIs, & software. Hardware is often left out, as are other accessories. There is a lot that can be done there. Bringing the game "out of the device" is where I see room for innovation in gaming.

Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2014, 12:51:54 AM »
Do you know of a nice term/phrase to describe this sort of process?  I've been looking for such a thing -- hoping for something as nice as the phrase ...).

Ya know, I felt obliged to remove a certain proper noun inspired term here because the topics are fantastically different, so much so as to poke a stick at that sleeping dog called logical fallacies! (Heh and no I won't get dragged into trying to nail down which one! Let's say if it's not a Red Herring, maybe it's a nice Red Striped Bass with a lemon butter sauce!)  8)

This is right down the alley of various economic and/or psychological and or philosophical fields. So I'm darn sure there's several related themes that could be honorably applied here with the seriousness the original post implicitly requests.

I'll file your request as a "sleeper" topic on my desk with a printout because it might take me a while before my intuitive but eclectic slow research style comes up with clues. So it might take me a while. But when I do I think I'll have at least 1 cent to contribute on the theory side.


40hz

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2014, 05:35:05 AM »
Competent professionals drop out of some markets because it is no longer worth their time to compete there

Even more frightening is that it's also happening in the realm of governance and politics.

Look how many incredibly competent individuals won't even consider public office after thinking about the huge amount of personal abuse they'll open up themselves (and their familes) for by running for one; and even worse, who they'll end up working with if they do win.

Small wonder we get the politicians we get these days. :-\

40hz

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2014, 06:33:02 AM »
“Negotiation is permissible for mediocrity not for excellence.” ― Amit Kalantri

"Ours is a world of committed hagglers." ― 40hz

------------------------------------

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wraith808

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2014, 08:41:20 AM »
Professionals cannot compete with low-ball amateurs on price or quality.

I'd argue that's the actual mindset that makes it frustrating to professionals.  They can't compete on price, but they *can* compete on quality.  And they *can* compete on service.  It's just an expectation of compensation that makes it harder, and they have to look at the long game.

As you said, its happened before and will happen again.  In many cases, it's just that the professionals have become used to an inflated value of the product.

Photography - at one point, there was an inflated photography market out there- when you needed darkrooms and had to have a certain level of expertise that was not easy to come across to develop your images well.  You also had to get the *shot* right- after shoot processing was unknown.  And charging was made on the basis of it being an artisan skill with limited a knowledge pool.

Now, photographers bemoan the mom-tographer, i.e. the stay at home mom who received the DSLR and learned a bit of photoshop and has the inroads into their childrens' parents to take the images and lowball the pricing.  What's really the problem is that they were still charging premium prices for something that had been made easier.  Talent and skill will tell in the end.  But the difference in the A-grade and B-grade and C-grade cannot be so much that quality no longer matters.  Which means an adjustment.

And, on another point, in the so-called B-grade and C-grade market, there are those gems that are actually A-grade, but would have never come to the attention of an A-grade publisher.  The consumers just have to become more discerning and educated, and the critics have to become less commercial and full of hyperbole in their reviews and more honest.

Quality will always tell once the market knows to look.  Just like with crowdfunding, the average consumer has to become more discerning and more willing to put in the effort necessary to see the signs and pick the good over the dross.

40hz

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2014, 12:53:16 PM »
'd argue that's the actual mindset that makes it frustrating to professionals.  They can't compete on price, but they *can* compete on quality.  And they *can* compete on service.  It's just an expectation of compensation that makes it harder, and they have to look at the long game.

As you said, its happened before and will happen again.  In many cases, it's just that the professionals have become used to an inflated value of the product.


That might be true in some cases - and up to a point. But seeing how readily 'mediocre' drives out 'quality' is far from being a matter of "mindset." It's much more an observable phenomenon. At least speaking from my perspective gained from operating (and in two cases owning) professional service firms.

I think "quality" as in "the people demand and respect top quality" is more wishful thinking on the part of the service provider. Because virtually all of us went into our industry with the goal of providing responsive and top notch service to the discriminating customer who recognizes quality when they see it.

Guess what? We were responsive. And our service was top notch. And we had customers who recognized quality when they saw it. But they seldom if ever appreciated what we did. Appreciation and gratitude were handled by the check they sent us as far as they were concerned.

Everybody will tell you they insist on quality. But NOT when it provides more than they minimally need AND costs noticeably more than the next guy. Your reputation and the buyer's inertia may allow you to command a somewhat higher price than a competitor for a similar service. But despite nearly every professional's ongoing efforts to educate their clients and raise expectations, the sad fact is most clients could care less how "good" something is as long as it is "good enough" to get the job done.

Because here's the thing: when somebody is buying something from you, most times they just want the product or service - with no strings attached. They do not want to go into business with you. And pricing and quality are your business's concern. Not theirs. Because if they don't like what they get from you, they'll ask for their money back (or not pay you at all) and go elsewhere. Acceptable quality and pricing are a given from the average client's perspective. They wouldn't be dealing with you otherwise.

Which becomes a a business threatening problem when you're trying to raise the bar - and some other provider is coming in with a lesser offering at a very low price point. Even a significantly lesser or marginally acceptable offering - if at a very low price point.

Much as I wish it were otherwise, "Good enough" is the rule. No matter what I want to think. And no matter what 90% of my customers tell me.

"Good enough" drives out quality 90% of the time. Those businesses unwilling or unable to deal with that find themselves in increasing competition for that 10% (and shrinking) segment of the market that actually does insist on quality in excess of their requirements and is willing to pay a premium to get it. The rest of the market is increasingly getting scooped up by the "no-frill" providers and bottom feeders - as the changes in the style and quality of medical care over the last decade so clearly demonstrates.

Maybe 'good enough' doesn't automatically drive out just plain good. But it definitely marginalizes it to the point of where it may as well have. :(
« Last Edit: May 26, 2014, 01:33:33 PM by 40hz »

wraith808

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2014, 03:24:35 PM »
Maybe 'good enough' doesn't automatically drive out just plain good. But it definitely marginalizes it to the point of where it may as well have.

Having dealt with it several times myself (a game store, contracting, my wife's photog business from the other end, hosting) I can definitely say that while it is a provable phenomenon, it is also a mindset.

I was used to getting an obscene amount of money per hour contracting.  Then, about the same time the bubble burst, the jobs dried up too.  The choice, as a friend and I were told by our mentor, was between adapting to the reaping that was occurring in the market, or taking the riskier prospect of trying to ride the wave.

I chose to adapt.  And while I've recovered to a good living, it's nothing like the insanity of before, and I can admit that the amount of money that I was making for what I was doing on the speculation that was going on... it was insane.  My friend rode the wave.  And it was hard.  And he had to search out clients and a niche and take some serious risks.  But he's in arguably a better position than he was.  In both cases, serious changes in attitude and expectations were required.  But even with people lowballing contracts because of an influx of cheap labor from all over Asia, he was able to navigate that.  Now, there's less opportunity to navigate too- so if both of us had tried in the same area, it's likely one of us would have had to fail.  But no reward without risk, right?

40hz

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2014, 05:59:24 PM »
I was used to getting an obscene amount of money per hour contracting.

Awesome! I made a comfortable living. But nothing like a killing or obscene amount of money. So in my case I don't think a sense of entitlement ever got a chance to take root. ;D

Also glad to see you negotiated the pitfalls and ended up still standing. Good work! :Thmbsup:

wraith808

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2014, 07:39:50 PM »
I was used to getting an obscene amount of money per hour contracting.

Awesome! I made a comfortable living. But nothing like a killing or obscene amount of money. So in my case I don't think a sense of entitlement ever got a chance to take root. ;D

Also glad to see you negotiated the pitfalls and ended up still standing. Good work! :Thmbsup:

Yeah... I definitely don't think that there's one size fits all for any of this.  But I do think that mindset, i.e. this is how much I'm making, so I should always make this much or more for doing this, does play a part.  And it's an understandable part... just not realistic in many cases.  It's played out over and over and over again.  Manufacturing jobs used to allow people to make a fairly decent wage- it was the backbone of middle america.  Now... not so much.  And some people negotiated that change well.  Others... not so much.

What's the difference between those that negotiate the change well and those that don't?

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Blog Essay: The Indie (Game) Bubble Is Popping
« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2014, 01:47:42 AM »
Do you know of a nice term/phrase to describe this sort of process?  I've been looking for such a thing -- hoping for something as nice as the phrase ...).

Ya know, I felt obliged to remove a certain proper noun inspired term here because the topics are fantastically different, so much so as to poke a stick at that sleeping dog called logical fallacies! (Heh and no I won't get dragged into trying to nail down which one! Let's say if it's not a Red Herring, maybe it's a nice Red Striped Bass with a lemon butter sauce!)  8)

This is right down the alley of various economic and/or psychological and or philosophical fields. So I'm darn sure there's several related themes that could be honorably applied here with the seriousness the original post implicitly requests.

I'll file your request as a "sleeper" topic on my desk with a printout because it might take me a while before my intuitive but eclectic slow research style comes up with clues. So it might take me a while. But when I do I think I'll have at least 1 cent to contribute on the theory side.

Ewemoa and gang,
I got around to looking at this today, though it started to wear me out and I only got close.

Per my quick hunch earlier, I went looking at some of the economic wiki pages. Try looking at some of these to find the phrases you like best. Supply and Demand curves, elasticity, and shifts in curves and related themes.

Those of you with sharper minds than I might be able to find the best phrases.