I used to be a contributor for a now defunct gaming news site. This site was created, and run, with a specific business model which was used for a sports news site that was bigger, and obviously more favoured, by the parent company of this network of sites. The business is one we gamers would recognize as geared towards the casuals, the non-core gamers, and designed to maximize hits for ad revenue. It's basically nothing new. Before I came on board for that site, I asked the question about if contributors would ever be forced into "hit mongering" articles. I, as a core gamer, am not a fan of the slideshow articles where lists are made to maximize page views and I made it clear I didn't want any part of that. The answer I was given was "no, we don't give out assignments" which was not at all the truth.
About a month into writing for the site, the hit mongering tactics began and everyone was forced to do a top 5 slideshow list. I fought hard against this, making it public knowledge that I detested this kind of gaming journalism. In the end, if I wanted to keep the job I had to comply. The interesting fact of this though is that I wasn't the only one against this, and the issue was brought up behind the scenes. I would come to learn that the attitude of the "corporate leadership" was "slideshows work for the sports site, so they'll work for the gaming news site too."
"Why would anyone think this" you might ask? The answer is simple. The owners of the site had no first hand knowledge about the industry, or gamers in general. All they knew about gaming was one Call of Duty game (MW2) and that sports fans loved the slideshow lists. These were businessmen that had not done their due diligence. They had no genuine interest in the industry, no knowledge about the interests of the audience they needed to appeal to, and only had money on their mind. No matter how many times they would be told that gamers hate the typical hit mongering and sensationalism of current gaming journalism, all they could see were traffic statistics and how that would convert to ad based revenue. This kind of mentality extends to the publishers as well, all the way to the Big 3 platform developers.
While watching the latest Sessler's Something, Adam brought up an interesting fact that caused a flashback for me. Someone had asked him about what his opinion is on the Wii U's current condition and he brought up that Nintendo, as a publicly traded company, has fewer stock holders than Microsoft or Activision and that these stock holders are guilty of insular thinking, believing that what worked for them with the Wii would work for them with the Wii U. I then thought of companies like Activision and EA and thought to myself "they are just as guilty of poor decisions as Nintendo is."
The suits and stockholders of EA or Activision aren't gamers. They have no interest in games, or gamers, and only care about money. This mentality is the driving force behind the decisions we all rally against this gen. Online passes, day one DLC, on-disc DLC, and now microtransactions and the possibility of always-on DRM appearing on consoles. All of these actions are designed to reap the maximum possible profit regardless of how it may alienate the userbase.
If there is a decline in the quality of gaming, if there is a "crash" imminent, it's because of the suits who don't know what they are doing but can market it well, and the casuals who are impulse buyers and don't think of the future repercussions. Just as sports fans are a very different type of fan to a gamer, so to are casual gamers very different types of fans to core gamers. In order to be successful and well respected, the best action you can take is to be dynamic in your approach. It is impossible to make everyone happy, but it is very possible to make a lot of people happy.
Personally speaking, I think it's tacky to get involved in a business you have no interest in on a deep level. If all you care about is money, be a silent partner. One should always know the market they are selling to.
The second I heard that the suits who wanted to push these hit mongering slideshows said that the only reason any of us could be opposed to it is because we're "journalists" and can't see how much money could be made from the non-core gamers, that's when I saw that same mentality in so many different publishers and developers this gen.
Owning a business degree simply means you stuck through post-secondary schooling, it doesn't necessarily mean you're smart or intuitive. Being a CEO just means you've worked hard for a long time and were recognized for your work, it doesn't mean you can predict what people want or like. These things also do not entitle you to completely ignoring the truth in favour of doing things via your favourite money making schemes.
This entire blog, of course, can be countered by the success of games like Call of Duty. A franchise much maligned by countless core gamers for its refusal to change and grow. How can I say that these suits don't know what they are doing if they are making millions off of one franchise alone? Quite simple really. Call of Duty caters to a specific demographic more than to the core gamer. That being the impulse buyers, the foolish parents, essentially the ignorant. These people don't care if Call of Duty is resold as the exact same game with every iteration, all they care about is the next new Call of Duty. Can anyone say that a business truly understands the market if their sole success is selling to, to use a term I hate using, sheep? Or is it that they're following Nintendo's mentality of insular thinking but somehow manage to get away with it?
All I know is, the more ignorant suits get involved with how the industry moves forward, the more anti-consumer tactics are employed, the more game quality is dumbed down, and the more problems for the core gamers that have always been the blood and backbone of the industry arise.