Jan 16, 2014

Everything That's Wrong With The Social Gaming Industry - In 22 Pictures

We were recently contacted by an anonymous reader/game developer who wanted to share his thoughts on the state of the social gaming industry. After reading his experiences, this was simply too good to pass up. For anyone interested in an insiders look at Silicon Valley's gaming scene, here is an intimate report by reader Iosefatau:

Hello AwesomeRobo readers and game enthusiasts alike. I am one of many artists making (Or at least trying to) a living in this volatile, yet rewarding game industry. I recently ran into a series of anonymous images called Innovation on the App Store, and I was reminded of a year spent in Silicon Valley, seeing what social gaming had to offer. I'd like to share my story to give you an idea of what I experienced.

These companies promised the world, and underwhelmed me so much that I find myself cursing ever having made that decision to take a year to explore that bubble industry. Before I go ahead, I'd like everyone to know that A)I transitioned from a relatively well known gaming studio with AAA franchises and B)Worked at one of the big three social companies (Eg. Zynga).

Now isn't that advertising image kind of curious? Kind of looks like the previous one above in terms of concept. Here's an interesting statistic: I never ran into a single game designer in Silicon Valley's social gaming scene. The entire premise of these 'social gaming' companies was to rip off existing concepts from other companies, slap a fresh coat of paint on them and push even more marketing dollars towards shoving these microtransaction nightmares down the throats of their 'whales' (Account manager lingo for high paying customers). You think the folks at Sony and Xbox are doing it bad? These games are unplayable past a certain point without buying 'gems', or whatever other BS in game economy they pushed.

Now wait a f***ing minute.
While the perks of the job were pretty decent at first, including rather regular midday outings to bars, all expense paid cruises for our team, free catered lunches and dinners every day, that facade of benefits quickly wore down as I found myself conflicted as to what I was contributing to. This became especially obvious during those Friday all hands meetings where the CEO would continuously rail on as to how console gaming was 'dead' (I kid you not) and social gaming was the future before doing raffles for free iPads.

While watching the glazed over eyes of my coworkers during these meetings in disbelief, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They were drinking the koolaid, but I didn't buy that bullshit for a second. I mean sure, these social games made tons of money from bizarre demographics (My project was raking in money from 40-60 year old retirees), but to me they stood for the equivalent of the same equation ruining the mainstream industry right now: All money, no innovation. 

Oh come on.
These companies had the gall to put out these shitty, photocopied games with different visual themes and praise themselves as 'innovators in the social gaming field,' and I began to really hate myself for being part of it. The job hunt began at around my tenth month there, and I wanted out..Bad. Even the lowest indie studio had more soul, at least they were trying to put out something that they loved.

What really killed me was the caliber of some of the talent present at the studio, and how they were throwing it all away at these soulless rehashes. I actually learned a lot from the talented artists at the studio, and made some great friends there that I still keep in touch with. It's a mystery as to what it was that kept them there, but unfortunately I think it came down to being the only decent paying gaming-style job in an area devoid of proper gaming studios. 

Close to a year in, I put in my 2 weeks and left to greener pastures, an MMO company in a different state that offered everything I had missed. Actual attempts at innovative game design, passionate developers and a project willing to take a risk. Ultimately the project got canned, but honestly the fulfillment I got out of that was a thousandfold compared to the 'cut and paste' approach to game development I found in the rather incestuous social gaming industry.

Fast forward to 2014, and I get the feeling that it's more of a bubble than it ever was after seeing these insane number of images, featuring countless clones of 'base raider' style social games. When innovation grinds to a halt in exchange for a quick buck my friends, your days are numbered. When people finally wise up, I don't think it's hard to predict that these so called 'gaming companies', ivory towers of sketchy micro transactions will implode on themselves in a spectacular manner. The company I worked at, with it's incessant claims of the gaming biz being dead shut it's doors 2 years ago.

Below you will find a few dozen more troubling examples of just how stagnant most of the social gaming industry is at the moment, run by non-gamer execs unable  unwilling to innovate or take any risks, endlessly seeking that buyout over contributing anything meaningful to gaming. My hope lies in the indies to correct the wrongs that studios like these have propagated.

No comments:

Post a Comment