How should the success or failure of a video game be measured?
This seems like a silly question on the surface. Success or failure should be measurable in some way. Video game sales and profit has to be the best way to say if a game is successful or not. It’s quantifiable, so there’s no room for doubt. We can say that Grand Theft Auto V was the most successful video game of 2013 because it was the best selling. Twenty nine million units were sold in sixteen weeks. Within 24 hours, over $800 million in revenue was generated. Within three days, it was the fastest selling entertainment product ever, breaking the $1 billion dollar mark in the process. These sorts of numbers are mind-boggling and makes a clear-cut statement: this game was a success.
Should this be the only way to judge a video game’s success?
Keiji Inafune, the creative force behind Mega Man, Dead Rising, and Onimusha, doesn’t think so. In a recent interview with Games Industry, he talked about his experience with crowd sourcing and how this method of funding will revolutionize the industry. He started off almost nostaligically, talking about how in the beginning he was only concerned with making games fun. But something changed for him along the way. He soon only cared how profitable a game was rather than how fun it was. In 2010, he walked away from Capcom and started up Comcept in an attempt to go back to the beginning and make games that he wanted to make.
Inafune sought to make a game like Mega Man. He couldn’t call it Mega Man as Capcom owns the rights to the franchise. So he called it Mighty No. 9. To fund it, he went to Kickstarter, raising $3.8 million dollars. He noted that the game was funded so he no longer had to worry if it made a profit. There were new measures that he could use, though maybe not as quantifiable. If the backers of the game enjoyed it, that would be a measure of success. If the game was considered to be fun, then it would be measured a success. If the game was exactly the type of game he wanted to make, then it would be measured a success.
Crowd sourcing creates new possibilities for video games that hasn’t existed before. The focus no longer has to be solely on profits. If the funding comes from fans of the series who only care about how fun the game is, that takes a lot of pressure off the developers to generate a lot of revenue to make up for all the time and money invested into the game.
Video game companies caring primarily on how fun a game is rather than primarily on profits. Revolutionary concept. If it works, we could be on the verge of a new golden age of video games, where we won’t be slow-bled with micro-transactions and Day One DLCs will be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be nice if companies made DLCs to enhance the gaming experience rather than to make a little bit more money?
This isn’t an attempt to deride profits. But if the success of a video game is measured solely, or primarily, on the revenue it pulls in and profit it makes, then we will see companies focus on the profitability of games. If the focus was on fun, and the type of game that the developer wants to make, then there’s a far better chance at getting a quality product that’s worth buying. True, it’s not easily quantifiable. But this sort of approach, judging a game’s success based on if it is a game that the developers wanted to make and/or how fun gamers consider the game, is pro-gamer rather than pro-company/corporation.
I don’t know about you, but as a gamer, I like the sound of that.