The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

A Changing Games Industry

Five years ago, though still held in contempt by many, companies like Electronic Arts and Activision were releasing some of the most successful titles in gaming. Meanwhile, Bethesda and Blizzard were fan favorite studios; the epitome of what it meant to be a top tier developer. Together, these developers released titles such as Mass EffectBattlefieldCall of DutyWorld of Warcraft, and The Elder Scrolls, among many others. Fast forward to today and a very different picture is painted. 

EA, Activision, Bethesda, and Blizzard are all now reaching staggering stock drops, concerning management changes, and a loss of good will from fans. The most recent development in these events being the departure of Bungie from Activision. With the loss of Bungie and Destiny, Activision shares have dropped about 10% down from the drop they were already heading in.  

Activision isn’t the only company losing share prices, as EA also continues to face a concerning stock price drop, though the prices seem to be settling at the time of this writing. After the colossal failure of Battlefield V’s marketing campaign, and the lack of a genuinely successful title in 2018, EA is faced with the same dilemma as Activision.  

As I mentioned before, Activision and EA were always held in some form of contempt for their practices, but Bethesda and Blizzard weren’t. However, both of those companies seem to be hitting their worst rough patches in a very long time. Blizzard is owned by Activision, and therefore are also affected by those stock drops, but they face problems of their own. In recent months and weeks, plenty of the Blizzard Staff, including one of the founders, have left the company. In the second half of 2018 Blizzard announced a mobile game to the dismay of fans, WoW has lost many subscribers after a poorly received expansion, and esports was abruptly terminated for their MOBA Heroes of the Storm. For the first time in a long time, all of Blizzards acclaimed games are facing trouble. 

The other golden child of the games industry was Bethesda, who also faces many of their own problems. After nothing but critically acclaimed games for years, Bethesda released Fallout 76 in November of 2018. The game was full of countless bugs, bad business practices, and a general lack of creativity that many fans were accustomed to. Not only was the game bad, but Bethesda started refusing refunds after promising them to customers and didn’t meet expectations for items that deluxe edition players paid for. In a first for Bethesda as well, they were grouped along with EA and Activision among fans, for their practices.  

Five years ago, each of these developers were releasing acclaimed titles that also generated much more than their titles today. So, what happened? I believe these developers have all come to a point where they no longer understand the customers within the industry they have dominated for so long. They needed to meet too many sales expectations without any of the good will and innovation, and the fallout of that is what we see now. If we look at the industry as of 2018, it would appear that they never learned to adapt.  

Headlines broke when EA closed down Visceral Games, a studio responsible for a linear Star Wars single player game. This sent many into a mindset that large developers could no longer make single player games, as they were no longer profitable. Yet, each game nominated for game of the year at The Game Awards in 2018 was a single player game; one of which earned more money in one weekend than any entertainment product in history at over $700 million. Single players games are major earners for other developers, yet our mentioned developers haven’t focused on single player games in a few years.  

Sure, multiplayer games can generate more money and are a safer investment, yet multiplayer has been approached without adaptation as well. EA and Activision continue to release full priced games along with micro-transactions. Meanwhile, Fortnite is free without a single loot box in sight. There are cosmetics that can be purchased, but no loot box involved. Epic Games changed their approach and are now earning billions as the top multiplayer game, and the first to be entirely cross-platform. Each multiplayer game that EA, Activision, Bethesda, and Blizzard have dealt with this year though, have all failed to meet monetary expectations.  

Some may believe that these developments are bad indicators of the next games industry crash. Signs of a near industry wide crumble due to the failures of the leading publishers. If you look at the success of so many different developers though, and the ever-increasing amount of money that these games generate, it is clear there is no crash coming, there is an evolution to the industry instead.  

While EA and others continued practices that no longer worked and continued to release games that were tired and lacking, other developers like Epic, CD Projekt Red, and Rockstar among many others, paid attention to the changing industry and adapted to it. For every failure of the former giants of the industry in 2018, there was a massive success.  

It is never good for such large companies to completely shatter, as that gets rid of some major competition and potential. These companies still have plenty of money though, and in a best-case scenario, these recent failures may force these companies to change their own operations for the better. The games industry is certainly changing, and it appears it will only get better. 

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