Feature: Where have all the games gone?

kid-in-a-candy-storeI can remember what it used to be like five or six years ago: I would walk into my local game shop after work almost every Friday to see what was new, and there would always be at least a couple of new games on the shelf for the PS2 and the Xbox. The Gamecube was a slightly different story, but that had a lot to do with Nintendo’s relationships with third-party developers at the time.

My question is: where have all the games gone? Why is it usually weeks or sometimes even months between the release dates of games for our modern consoles, when we used to see games hitting the shelves en-masse every month, six years ago? Well, I’ve been looking closely at the games we’ve been getting lately, and I’ve got some ideas of my own as to how this may have come about. This is purely speculation, of course, and I might be talking completely out of my ass, and there are probably more reasons for it than this alone.

Anyway, as far as I can see, the videogame industry is not what it once was. Fifteen years ago, small teams of as little as ten people, including programmers, sound designers, and artists, could easily produce games which pushed the limits of the hardware available at the time. The core team who developed the original Mortal Kombat (excluding the pen-pushers and everyone else on the publishing side of things) was only five people strong – and Mortal Kombat was considered ground-breaking for its time. mortal-kombatIn this environment, any small team of amateurs could pool together a little venture capital and start their own game studio, and many of them did just that. With so many small studios around trying to outdo one another, we were blessed with more games than even the big, international games magazines could keep up with.

However, as the years went by, advances in technology gifted us with ever more powerful and capable machines on which to play games. Suddenly, a team of two or three programmers just wasn’t enough any more, and the teams grew in size to more than ten programmers, each one specializing in a certain area. For example, they might have had one lot of programmers who handled the coding for the OpenGL side of their game, while another lot handled the Direct 3D side. Sound and music became much more complex, what with the rise of Surround Sound and so on, and suddenly it demanded programmers who specialized only in that.