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Hennig: People Ask for Story Based Games But Aren't Necessarily Buying Them, They Just Watch Them

Amy Hennig talked about the rising costs of game development as a real problem. She said that loot boxes and the focus on games as a service are the publisher's answers to this issue and matters are made worse when people ask for single player games but don't actually buy them, preferring to watch online.

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AspiringProGenji278d ago

I’d argue that people watch more MP games being played than SP as seen in Twitch. That doesn’t mean they don’t play the games. They just watch their fav personality playing games. Honestly I don’t have the time and patience to watch playthrougts. I just play the game myself

uptownsoul278d ago (Edited 278d ago )

If true (which I tend to disagree)...that just makes what Sony & Bethesda, as well as other developers, so IMPRESSIVE!!!

Bringing Single-Player only/Single-Player focused games even when other developers/publishers shy away.

HATS OFF!!!

GaboonViper278d ago

The day SP games die i'll quit gaming.

Zabatsu278d ago

I can only agree GaboonViper.

Highlife278d ago

Agree single player games are great. While not the best game this gen i had the most fun playing dying light with my wife. It felt like i was playing a single player game but with someone. We need more games like that. Want the single player experience or if i want play with someone.

Mr Marvel277d ago

You and I both GaboonViper.

Now if you'll excuse me... I'm off to start playing Nier: Automata (after just platinuming AC Origins).

nix277d ago

I'm a SP gamer through and through. The only time I watch others playing SP games is when I'm done with my game and I just want to see how others play and if they had the same reaction as I did. Also I would stop gaming if they stop making SP games. I'll probably buy old games or catch up on the backlog which is huge.

inveni0277d ago

Hennig says this but helped create a series that has sold 42 million copies. :/ If anything, SHE'S part of the problem, because people expect the games to be as good as Uncharted 2.

KickSpinFilter277d ago

I love MP but if SP died off F-this.

Rangerman1208273d ago

Don't forget about Nintendo with games like Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda Breath of the Wild.

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ShottyatLaw277d ago

Agree. With that said, I don't think that the let's play comment was her biggest point, though. It's maybe a part of the issue, but I would say competition is the bigger factor. There are so many games competing for our time and money now, it's hard to bank on a AAA game succeeding in either the SP or MP space. Her point about costs and consumer expectations is well-taken:

"A lot of too-dramatic articles were written about it — the death of linear story games and all that kind of stuff — but look, there is a real problem: this line we’ve been running up to for a lot of years, which is the rising cost of development, and the desires, or the demands even, of players in terms of hours of gameplay, fidelity, production values, additional modes, all these things. Those pressures end up very real internally. If it costs you, say, $100 million or more to make a game, how are you making that money back, and making a profit?"

I don't know the solution to the problem, but the shortsighted "just make a great game" rationale of some of us isn't it. Plenty of great games fail to sell well, and few devs set out to make a poor game. There is a lot of risk involved, and when risk starts to be too high, for-profit companies will shift course.

Doing away with let's plays won't help that, and her mention of them seems misinformed.

TFJWM277d ago

I agree with almost all of that. What great games haven't sold well thou?

cyguration277d ago

Smaller budgets? Smaller scopes?

Why do people keep saying "player expectations" as if it's some all encompassing zeitgeist that must be sated?

Cuphead moved 2 million units in a fairly short amount of time and was made on a pretty small budget. Life Is Strange is another game that seems to sell well on a smaller budget and is a narrative-heavy game and the graphics aren't that great at all.

I think expectations are tempered if the sacrifices are made in the right ways. If you don't have the best graphics you should have great gameplay. If the gameplay is thin, put the time into graphics or voice acting. We see games that sell well with these tradeoffs all the time, from the Vanishing of Ethan Carter to A Hat In Time. Layers of Fear didn't have a lot of gameplay but the narrative and visuals are quite engrossing, allowing it to sell quite well.

Limbo and Inside weren't visually demanding games but the gameplay was intriguing and the stories were unique, so they, too, sold well.

Games don't have to be $100 million blockbusters to find an audience. Instead of forcing consumers to pay for bloated projects on games that a lot of people don't find very interesting (like Agents of Mayhem), how about instead publishers shrink budgets and focus more on a solid direction that appeals to a specific market demographic?

DaReapa277d ago

Well said, cyguration. Shadow Tactics is another great game that comes to mind.

ShottyatLaw277d ago

My digital libraries on pc and console are full of great indies made on the cheap. I would be lying if I said I didn't wish it was also full of AAA blockbusters with high production values and all the bells and whistles, though. I want dozens of games like UC4 to be releasing every year, not one or two a year.

These forums show us the same issues Henning talks about, though. "Indiestation" and "indiebox" are thrown out like insults. We see games like State of Decay 2 and other mid-tier games prematurely crapped on for looking like a "budget" game.

Even when we see great AAA games like Titanfall 2 or Dishonored 2 come to market, their sales are much lower than they should be (for multiple reasons).

In my mind, if you want proof that the SP AAA market is tough, look at the lack of product being released. Don't look at the few highlights, go back a generation or two and compare the output. If things were better, companies would be cashing in by releasing more of those titles. What company wouldn't tap into a successful proposition like that?

Indies help fill the gap, but Henning's right, many of our expectations are for bigger, greater, prettier games and experiences. Otherwise Ouya would have succeeded.

I have faith it'll work itself out, but it's definitely a problem.

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rainslacker277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

I don't think the industry needs to worry about how many people are watching the games on YT(or whatever). What they need to focus on is making their games more attractive to more people who actually spend money on buying the game.

It's easy to say it's not worth it because there can be hundreds of thousands of people watching the game, but it discredits the millions of people who are actually buying the game.

I think the expectations of what a game will sell, or will have to sell based on budget, needs to be reigned in and brought back to reality. When Square Enix says that selling 5 million copies of Tomb Raider was not up to their expectations, you know something is wrong at the executive level, as very few games, even MP, sell over 5 million copies.

Publishers can keep chasing after the MP dollars all they want. But if they go around over-saturating the market, then we're going to start seeing publishers complain about how the consumer doesn't want to pay for those games anymore either.

Basically, publishers need to stop trying to capture the market based on market trends and focus groups. They just need to make good games, market them properly, and try not to piss off potential customers by acting like idiots.

I think the next article that wants to parrot the "games are getting too expensive to make" needs to be required to ask the question of someone, "exactly how much is the average now, compared to last generation", and if they're savvy journalist, maybe they can ask how the increase in software sales actually affects returns, because it's already very public knowledge that software sales overall are at an all time high.

It's fine for publishers or developers to parrot that costs are increasing, but it doesn't mean jack squat if we don't have a frame of reference on how much, and from where. You want gamers to get behind you, then give them facts, not hyperbole.

Obscure_Observer277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

@rainslacker

"I think the next article that wants to parrot the "games are getting too expensive to make" needs to be required to ask the question of someone, "exactly how much is the average now, compared to last generation"

No offence, but as someone who claims to work in this industry (which i do belive) you ask some pretty silly questions which you should know that you´ll never have a direct answer for. Do you think that she would really answer to that question? Putting her future projects at risk? Like: "Boy, if we want a game developed by this Henning woman we gonna have to dish out some 100 milion dolars for an average AAA game!" I know that´s is a pretty simplistic example but it´s also a pretty logical one.

"and if they're savvy journalist, maybe they can ask how the increase in software sales actually affects returns, because it's already very public knowledge that software sales overall are at an all time high."

All time high? Is that so? Though it´s is an assumption on my part, i´m positive that Gran Turismo Sport is the more expensive Gran Turismo ever created and the worst selling one and i honestly think that the same aplies to Forza 7 as well. And if that´s the case, this phenomenon is pretty much in line with what Henning is saying here.

"It's fine for publishers or developers to parrot that costs are increasing, but it doesn't mean jack squat if we don't have a frame of reference on how much, and from where. You want gamers to get behind you, then give them facts, not hyperbole."

And exacly how providing gamers these info/sfacts is gonna help them?

rainslacker277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

I know what the averages are. But how many people are being skeptical of me when I say that costs haven't risen substantially?

If publishers want to talk like this, then provide meaningful facts, not hyperbole.

I've been offering up numbers in a regular basis, but I don't have the advantage of having a public name to give any weight to what I say.

But I st way too many people saying nothing but hyperbole and expecting people to have faith they're telling the truth, when there is empirical evidence available to all to day that it may not be as black and white as they imply.

I don't expect direct answers, but I'd rather people start demanding that we stop being talked to like idiotic sheep, and expect more from those that report these pubs and devs because they just want to be parrots for the game industry instead of actual journalist.

Providing these numbers wont help them, but I don't care about helping them. I care about treated like I'm a valued consumer. It may help them If they are actuall telling the truth, because while people can be cheap, most do understand that they can't get things for free or at/below cost

shloobmm3277d ago

It doesn't matter if they watch more MP games because they are sitll buying those MP focused games at a considerably higher rate than SP ones. As good as HZD is its sales are shit for a console that has 70 million in sales.

UCForce277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

That’s because these major publishers only care about profits, not players. Horizon Zero Dawn sale is still solid and it’s good enough. I think these major publishers think way too big with lack of focus.

Trez1234277d ago

Well sony thinks it did fantastic and we're getting more SP from them. Thats really all that matters.

AspiringProGenji277d ago

This console sales = games sold is nothing but a myth, but I am already tired of debunking it everytime. You ignorant doom and gloomers never learn

shloobmm3277d ago

It's not doom and gloom it's the truth. While AAA multiplayer games sell in the 10's of millions for a game like HZD to hit 4 or a game like Nioh to be nearing only two with all of the positive press it has received is not good thing when you have 70 million consoles. To think that the core audience that we all want Devs and Publishers to focus on is less than 10% of the console base is concerning. All you hear is how exclusives are the most important thing yet even when they come out and even when they are good hardly anyone is buying it. It's not a myth it's a fact. You can't sell four millions copies of a game with only 3 million consoles sold so obviously there is legitimacy to that argument. It's also worth noting that by looking at the numbers if you were to take console sales down to 50 million you would be taking a million copies off the table. Just back you pretend that their is no correlation between the two doesn't mean its not there.

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n1kki6277d ago

In fairness not as many single player games are in the top streaming because people stream 1 playthough and then shelf it.

IGiveHugs2NakedWomen277d ago

Amy Hennig is joining the corporate chorus and repeating the excuses companies like EA and Activision use to create ponzi schemes in video games. The good single player games are selling, the rest aren't.

mechlord277d ago

im not sure i fully agree with this. i tend to watch the first 2-3 episodes of SP games i'm on the fence about. If i like them i buy them and if i dont...well. i dont think people generally make a habit of watching full playthrus...that would be incredibly boring

Zeref277d ago

I love how every dev in the world are saying that Single Player games are risky even someone as talented as Amy Hennig(who basically specializes in SP story driven games). Yet there are always the arm chair devs that somehow know more than the people actually making them.

agent13277d ago

Exactly! watching a sp game play through is extremely boring we want to play sp games and search and experience their world by our self we want to enjoy all the challenges in the game we want to really feel the story and it's not possible by watching the game in youtube or twitch.
When sp games need support, amy henning and other failed developers talk against sp/story driven games

+ Show (6) more repliesLast reply 273d ago
PhoenixUp278d ago

Did she ignore all the successful narrative based games in recent times

KaiPow278d ago

You do have to admit that Let's Plays have hurt sales though.

sigrid278d ago

I certainly don't.

I hope this isn't going to be the new piracy argument, where industry says it hurts sales but then all the research shows that it actually doesn't effect sales at all.

The gaming industry continues to grow even as let's plays and live streaming have taken off. Games like Minecraft, Day Z, PUBG, Binding of Isaac and so many others found their popularity almost entirely through exposure from streaming.

AngelicIceDiamond278d ago

@Pow Not sure, I remember Titanfall 1 was all over Twitch and hearing ppl say they're gonna pick it up after watching ppl play it. knowing it was MP only which goes with what Genji was saying.

bluefox755278d ago

No, because it implies that people would buy the game if they couldn't watch it, and there's no evidence of that. Certainly with Telltale games it probably has some effect, but those are basically movies to begin with.

rainslacker277d ago

Lets Play's tend to be harmful to games that aren't all that great. I doubt they have any affect on actual good games, and I believe that they may help get people to want to buy the actual game.

BrianOBlivion277d ago

Watching a "Let's Play" has become the de facto means of understanding actual gameplay in lieu of the demos most of the industry is no longer interested in releasing.
I seriously doubt there's enough people opting to watch an entire game rather than play to have a measurable effect on sales. Save a bit here to lose a bit there.
If it's really hurting sales, that's on them.

staticall277d ago

@KaiPow
I, personally, bought quite a lot of games due to watching Let's Plays, same as most of my gaming friends.
For example, i bought Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier when i saw how SSoHPKC was playing it and i was not disappointed, got exactly what i was expecting.
I bet some people will not buy the game if they saw the walkthrough/Let's play, but they wouldn't probably buy the game in the first place. Walkthroughs/Lets plays are like the demos nowadays.

P. S.: I'm not saying that particular game was perfect, but i got what i was looking for, it wasn't the regular publisher's catch, "show one thing, sell something different".

G3ng4r277d ago

Piracy hurts sales. YouTube uploads/streams are free advertisement, unless the game is bad in which case it would hurt sales but reviews would have already handled that.

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-Foxtrot278d ago

Pretty much, there's been ones that succeed and ones that fail...but usually the ones that fail come from stupid decisions the developers make.

I mean the article says this about Prey

" The featured image at the top of the article portrays what is perhaps one of the finest examples of this phenomenon: Arkane’s Prey was an outstanding title in this category and yet it sold poorly despite strong critical reception"

Prey didn't do shit in sales because people are watching games on Youtube or not interested in story driven games...they didn't buy Prey because it wasn't a GOD DAMN Prey game. People wanted a sequel from the original Prey game featuring Tommy when he walked into the portal at the end and it popped up saying "To Be Continued".

What did they expect.

Mr-Dude278d ago (Edited 278d ago )

Don't forget, at the time Bethesda/Zenimax had their weird and stupid review policy, that reviewers recieved a copy after launch. It sure did some damage, the same as their other published games. I find it weird that their own games sell truckloads, but their published games do not...

Joe913278d ago

Exactly I wonder what they will say about GAAS when they stop selling becaues these companies are too greedy. The reason why single player games seemed to fail is because too many studios was putting out half ass games.

SolidGear3278d ago

Prey was amazeballs though. Not the original but this one. Definitely top 5 of 2017.

Ittoittosai278d ago

@gear soild you're in a minority on that OP man.

starchild278d ago

I doubt most people care about that. Most of us just want to play good games. Prey was a great game in my opinion, but I guess it just didn't get the exposure it needed or it didn't catch people's attention.

Godmars290278d ago

Yeah, because the Prey released wasn't the Prey promised, was yet another space bounty hunter title that got shafted and replaced by a Bioshock clone, the people interested in one weren't as interested in the other.

-Foxtrot278d ago

@Godmars90

Want to know a secret....I didn't think Prey 2 which was cancelled was the sequel we wanted either. I mean a generic space bounty hunter where Tommy is reduced to an NPC. No thanks. Seemed again like another IP then a sequel

BUT...because it had Tommy in and was obviously going to be set in that world it was more of a true sequel we deserved then the series being rebooted to something nothing like Prey.

rainslacker277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

Outside of some rare examples, you can look at the games that flop and most of us can point to exactly why it failed.

ME:A-buggy as hell and marketed poorly.
Pery: Barely marketed, and mostly only the community knew about it, followed by numerous delays.
Most Sonic games: Sega devaluing the brand over decades
Quantum Break: Marketed as a TV show, with 22 minute poorly executed cut scenes masquerading as TV episodes.

Should we make lists of failed MP games for these publishers and industry people who keep saying that it costs too much to make a SP game? Games fail or succeed all the time. It doesn't matter if they're SP or MP. Whether a game does well, or poorly is dependant on a variety of factors that go beyond the nature of their game play. Release schedules, marketing, production quality, platform for release, developer involvement with the community, and the list goes on. I could make a list of successful SP games this gen that actually would be longer than the MP releases for the gen. Sure, the really successful MP games do extraordinarily well, but chasing after that while ignoring the rest of the market is a great way for a publisher to quickly become irrelevant for anything other than their biggest success.

The reason that we see publishers saying that SP games are failing, is because their expectations for sales are just set too high, and their budgets for SP games aren't under control. The publishers who seem to be able to manage their budgets, and make/market their games properly, seem to be doing very well this gen. Sony, Nintendo, and Square Enix in particular seem to be quite happy with their performance this gen.

isa_scout277d ago

Agree 100% Foxtrot. I LOVE the original Prey. I must've played it 4 times. I didn't buy Prey for the exact reason you describe. I wanted a Prey game not a sci-fi Dishonored. I like Dishonored, but don't name your game Prey when it's cleary not. The only thing the original game has in common with the new one is the title. I'm not saying it is a bad game, but it's not a Prey game.

ShadowWolf712277d ago

Prey's biggest problem was that it was an outdated, archaic relic. Way too many gaps in the action, not enough variety in the game itself. Simply tossing in multiple endings and the occasional jumpscare of a chair suddenly attacking you do not a great game make.

Plus that "twist" was telegraphed a mile away.

rezzah276d ago

for me, I didn't play Prey because it was a FPS. I've grown to dislike FPS, I prefer TPS when it comes to story telling in games.

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PhoenixUp278d ago

Let’s Plays increase sales. Look no further than Minecraft as proof of that basic fact.

Free publicity gets even unheard of games more attention than they would’ve if no one covered it.

Godmars290278d ago

For certain games and only certain games. They don't really help AAA titles, especially when considering DLC and MTs - which are on the damn publishers.

PhoenixUp277d ago

For any type of game really. There’s been no study that lets plays decrease sales

Zeref277d ago

There's been no study that it increases sales either.

PhoenixUp277d ago

Yes there are. Five Nights at Freddy’s and Amnesia are very popular because of Let’s Plays.

Danganronpa gain popularity in the West because of a Let’s Play in 2011 which resulted in the series eventually getting localized.

Don’t give me that BS that Let’s Plays don’t help games. Many titles have been given far more attention because of them. Minecraft as a whole is proof that Let’s Plays often leads to success for software since it’s free publicity.

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Joe913278d ago

Of course she knows she was a part of one of the biggest single player fanchise lol she just for some reason backing up what EA did maybe trying get in on the next game EA does cause it don't make sense she saying this and was a part of the Uncharted series.

Zeref277d ago

She knows what she's talking about. Why do gamers think that they know better than the developers?

I'M not sure about the comment about lets plays decreasing sales of sp games but everything else makes sense to me.

gangsta_red278d ago

I'm sure there were a lot more unsuccessful narrative based games as well.

UCForce277d ago

Same goes with MP focus. Remember Lawbreakers and Evole ?

gangsta_red277d ago

But that's not what we're discussing now is it UCforce.

zackeroniii277d ago

thats what i was thinking pretty idiotic of her to say such a think considering she worked at naughty dog who make the best story based games

Obscure_Observer277d ago

@PhoenixUp

Nope. All that she´s saying is that MOST single player gamers are not selling as well as it used to, while the cost/risks of making it is all high. And gamers should put their money where their keyboard is.

Zeref277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

Yeah, 3 out of the thousands of others that fails.truth is Single Player games have to be at least a 9/10 to have a chance to succeed, anything below that and they'll barely break even. Multiplayer games have lower standards. Look at Paladins, its not even that great of a game, just an overwatch clone but they're still making a killing.

I think Phil Spencer got the right idea for the future of single player games. Fund them with a Subscription based service like game pass, maybe launch it a week earlier on game pass and then a digital release next. Like Netflix Exclusives. But still being able to buy the game separately. If it's not successful, it's no big deal as long as they're not losing subscribers. There's less risk for the developers that way and we get bigger single player games.

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fenome278d ago (Edited 278d ago )

I guess I'm in the minority, I much prefer single player games over online focused multiplayer. I do wish more games allowed split screen multiplayer though, me and the wife still play Borderlands to get our fix.

Ittoittosai278d ago

This is what people want, Co-Op. I want to play a story based game that I can share the experience, I want the idea of destiny but actually damn story driven narratives not just half assed rushed out to make money schemes.

277d ago
wonderfulmonkeyman278d ago (Edited 278d ago )

Count me in on that minority; everything from Zelda to Kingdom Hearts to Tales Of, I've been a huge single-player-gamer since my earliest days.

Part of that comes from being an only child with evil foster-siblings at one point in my life, crushing my faith in humanity by erasing my game saves and outright stealing games and systems from me to sell for their own profit, but I digress...

The day single-player dies as a genre is the day I stop gaming. This Hennig person is, I feel, massively exaggerating the number of people who watch single player games vs buying them.
And as far as dev budgets getting harder to cope with goes, that's not the consumer's problem, nor should it be on us to solve it for them by having to pay more.

It should be on them to fix the practices that are unreasonably inflating those budget expenditures in the first place.

rainslacker277d ago

Henning is one of those people in the industry who I feel is one of the few straight shooters when it comes to addressing not only the industry, but the community as well.

however, I found this statement from her nowhere near her usual standard.

1. She doesn't call out the industries inability to control their budgets in it. Something she's been very outspoken about for a long time now....to the point that she has been one of the go to people that publishers and developers reference when they want to manage their business/studios better.

2. She blames the consumer. Something that she doesn't generalize on like she does here, and tends to be specific when she calls out part of the community.

3. Goes to extreme hyperbole to talk about increased budgets without any frame of reference. Not typical of her as she's often very specific about her frames of reference.

4. Actually implies that SP games aren't selling enough, despite the fact that quite a few SP games are doing exceptionally well this gen. Some better than even the majority of MP games. Her statement outright ignores the fact that Let's plays are not just confined to the SP experience.

Overall, I found her statement here just inadequate to her standards. I also found it distasteful to try and defend an industry, despite there being plenty of success stories where profit can be made. It'd be one thing to just be direct and say that publishers want to chase higher returns, but it seems that none of them want to actually admit that, despite everyone in the community already realizing this to be the case. They want to justify their chase after MP, that's fine, but stop treating the community as the reason, or try to act like budgets are just way too far out there to justify the price. If this were the case, then SP games would already be dead. Since they aren't, and since more big profile SP games are coming out than ever, it defies logic that they can't be profitable.

We all know it's about publishers just wanted to make more money, with less actual investment. Stop treating the community like idiots. If they want to raise the price of games, do it. See how it goes. Stop trying to justify it. It's like the industry has lost all it's balls to just do business and see if the market accepts what it has to offer.

hiawa23277d ago

I am old school, like Super Nes, Turbo grafx 16, Genesis, Neo Geo old school when there was no online, so I much prefer sp games to multiplayer online. I do like coop online but adversarial online games, meh, not really into that.

fenome277d ago

Same here, with everything you just said.

Zeref277d ago (Edited 277d ago )

You are. I like games with Multiplayer where it makes sense. For example Dark Souls.