Why are UK gamers so averse to spending money this year?
It's a question we've been asked, in varying forms, several times. And the answers are numerous: these consumers just spent lots on their consoles and they received loads of games with them. There actually haven't been many games. And the ones that have been released have not always been up to scratch.
These are all legitimate answers. But I have another theory: players are buying less because they want fewer titles.
Many of today's biggest games – Destiny, Grand Theft Auto V and Minecraft – have online modes and gameplay that last hundreds of hours, and are constantly updated. There have been titles like this before, of course, but whereas fans can blast through a few matches of FIFA or Call of Duty in 20 minutes, these new games demand serious time investment.
Is it any surprise gamers are thinking twice about buying the likes of Evolve when they just spent all night trying and failing to complete a Raid in Destiny?
It may sound like I'm advocating the need for fewer games – far from it. But if all the big publishers are making 1,000-hour gaming epics, is it any wonder there are fewer hardcore players around to buy the next major title?
What is imperative at this delicate stage in the life of PS4 and Xbox One is bringing in a broader breed of gamer. I'm not talking about the Wii crowd, but the in-between groups – what the mobile industry has termed the ‘mid-core'.
"If everyone is making 1,000-hour games, is
it any wonder there are fewer hardcore players
around to buy the next major title?"
Smartphone game creators are doing a wonderful job of attracting this crowd right now, with titles like Clash of Clans – games that are a little more advanced than Candy Crush but not as in-depth as, say, Watch Dogs.
The console space needs to make a move on this market as well. The expected announcements of a new Guitar Hero and Rock Band (two of the industry's worst-kept secrets) are exactly what consoles could do with. Games that don't require hundreds of hours, where people can play together and are a little more involved than just waving your hands around.
This is the crucial battleground in gaming today. Not who wins over the casual player (the mobile market has that sewn up) or who controls the hardcore fans (they're playing online via Steam or Xbox Line or PSN), but rather who can win over everyone in-between.