Selling Illusion

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


On average, the videogame industry sees three new games released each Friday across the United Kingdom. The summer months whittle this number even further. The winter quadruples it. Taking three games as the base average per week, and increase this to a half dozen come October until the end of the year. Basic calculation would sum up a number in the triple figures; two hundred and four.

Take the price of one game at thirty four pounds. Forty is the market standard, but retailers know those numbers don’t crunch through the register anymore. We exempt Game Boy and PC games from the mix. Even basing the ball park figure on the three main formats; X-Box, Playstation2, and the GameCube, we’re looking at a cash buy of well over seven thousand pounds. No one is going to buy the entire pie, nor even the majority of the slices. Speculation and observing customer buying habits would put, again, the average number of games bought by one consumer to range between seven and twelve games per annum. This number can be argued, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll select ten as our number of choice.

Ten slices of gaming pie. Out of a choice of two hundred and four.

What decides the consumers’ choice are something video gaming corporations, and their advertising wings, have been speculating, and working on for years. Sadly, what should be the common sense answer, ‘a good quality game’, isn’t the single issue. Random picking of the Top Ten Sales Charts over the last vast number of years attests to this. What equates to be worthy of the money doesn’t necessitate equate to sales. So we see game brands frequent the Top Ten. FIFA and Medal of Honor. Sequels, for the most part, slowly choke off the chance of original game content. Advertising onslaughts do not make the dent into consumer mind sets as companies would want to believe. The last great ‘re-imagining’ of gaming in its entirety harks back over seven years ago to Sony’s original PlayStation brand material.

Yet some games are swept off the shelves, others are swept of dust.

It’s sadly easy to walk down games aisles, and lift videogames that have had used the term ‘criminal underrated’ to the extent that it has become a cliché. Slices left to cool and harden under the dim lighting of retail stores across the country. The ‘hardcore’ fraternity have personal stories to tell. The game that is a jewel in their collection, yet receives no acclaim from a wider audience. But there are even more games out there, that fall between the cracks. Not a brand name to interest the casuals, not raved about to appeal to the gaming elite.

The other one hundred and ninety four pieces.

Lacking in high production values or content to impact on the higher culture. Nor the tightly fought quality precision of gaming perfection. These are the games that are passed over on the shelf, because so little is known of them; because there is the vague memory that they hadn’t been rated very highly – an average game, nothing more. For over thirty pounds, they’re not worth the price of admission.

But the retailing market is changing. Come the end of the year, we will be entering into the fifth generation of home consoles. ‘Retro’ used to denote Commodore 64/128s and Sinclair Spectrums. In recent times past has hungrily eaten into present, now ‘retro’ encompasses anything from Sega’s Dreamcast even up to first generation Playstation2 titles. Rare gaming gems find buying prices up to four times their value online. At the other end of the scale, sees the emergence of the term ‘bargain bins’ being coined in gaming outlets. This is not an official tag, but one between consumer and seller. It is to here that the ‘criminal underrated’ and their ilk fall. To here we see those that have fallen between the cracks come to rest. Where price tags drop from thirty to five. And were these games finally may have found their niche.

The consumer is willing to exchange a small amount of currency on an unknown property. Critical examination is replaced by broader strokes, genre definitions extended to their limits. For just under ten pounds, risk taking becomes an exciting proposition.

A slice is taken off the plate, and re-heated.

We may find something that is an hour’s snack, no more. Chance could decree we gag on the first taste, agreement with our initial suspicions over the flavouring. And then again, we could find something delicious. But that’s the fun. Taking a chance with an unknown commodity. Selecting at random or basing choice on the small amount of information gleaned from the screenshots at the back of the game box.

So, with that in mind, this site is going to be home of two new weekly features. The first, aptly entitled [RANDOM SELECT], will involve what has been addressed in this article; purchasing bargain price games that I know little or nothing about. Every week will see a new game under review. Played until boredom, frustration or other parts of my life deem otherwise. Reporting back on each, I’ll try and decide whether its worth that much, or if it’s grown stale on the plate for a reason.

Additionally, to keep track of the gaming output each week, I will be selecting a game due for release at random. Ideally this will be the late Wednesday/Thursday slot, entitled [CONTINUE?], in preparation for the game’s release on Friday. In keeping with the spirit of both articles, with this week’s big release being Tekken 5 on the Playstation2, the first [CONTINUE?] piece will be on Capcom’s Fighting Jam for the X-box. [CONTINUE?] aims to answer whether these smaller release games are worth the full asking price.

Articles should be up and running as of next week, and are open for change. Keep checking back for more news and updates as the days go by.

Monday, June 20, 2005






[Planting Seeds]

There's no point buying a farm and not growing any crops.

After getting all the previous articles shifted over from the now defunct OUATIC site, and sitting rather proudly for four minutes more than necessary for what was essentially a cut and paste job, I've let this site gather dust, rather than experiment and learn in the creation of new things.

Trial and error.

Yearly crop cycles.

I want to start learning again. So, for the one person that has flicked onto this page from time to time to see if anything new has cropped up (fictious), and for my own sake (fictious on occasion), I'm going to try out ideas here. Sketches, art projects, prose, stories, reviews and a light peppering of humour.

A framework may emerge, but management have the right to re-structure whenever the whim takes them.

But hey, at least it'll be something new every so often, eh?

So keep an eye out. As for now, recommendations (whilst I get up and running) are, the new home of the OnceUponATimeInCardiff crew, and a rather tasty Film Noir piece. (On my list when the cruficing slowness of Dial Up becomes a distant memory) Pick up a copy of Warren Ellis' Come In Alone, a fantastic collection of articles written about the state of the comic book industry today. Play Ubisoft's Beyond Good & Evil (available across all three gaming platforms.) And listen to Bad Religion's The Empire Strikes First.

Laters Amigos.