State of the Hobby (2020)

2020 is almost done and soon 2021 will be upon us and I am curious as to everybody’s thoughts and feelings on the state of gaming as it stands currently.

Myself personally, I have chosen to stick to more indie and retro titles not only this year but the past couple years in fact, due to a mixture of clearing my backlog, but also not being enticed to play most modern/ AAA games. I cannot say for sure in what state the hobby is in as a whole, but I think the mainstream gaming sector is hit and miss honestly and that is just based on what I have read and seen from others, so please take it for what it is.

I think that the indie gaming scene is thriving though, with games that we could never have imagined playing years back, whether they be built in a personal edition of Unity or by a whole development team.

As always I hope all is well with everybody through the pandemic and beyond, with whatever personal concerns and issues you all are going through.

~ Prin

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Do you mean it is hit and miss with you, or generally with gaming audiences? If the latter do you mean from a reception standpoint, or a financial standpoint or a mix of both (given they likely overlap)?

Personally I probably play about between 2-3 indie titles for every mainstream title I play, for various reason. Some have to do with length, some with mechanics. I like short games and few mainstream studio games are short. There are always exceptions because there may be a year where several quality big studio games feel worthwhile to engage with, while other years my playlist is dominated by interesting indie games. I definitely buy more indie games and they make up a significant portion of my backlog. I have so many I want to get to.

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I would say a bit of both. I feel that this year and in recent times there have been plenty of bigger games that have come out that have been well made, The Last of Us: Part 2, Red Dead Redemption 2, to name a few, while there have also been some games where the ball was obviously dropped for multiple reasons, Cyberpunk 2077 being the most notable and recent for that very reason. I guess the same could be said from a financial standpoint as while I consider myself to be very fortunate in where I am in that regard, there are countless others that just aren’t.

If we were to look at gaming financially, the newest generation has already been released, and while the systems have shown to be powerhouses and quite well made (able to load some games within mere seconds, even), and are selling well where consumers are able to find them in stores or on legitimate marketplaces and for a legitimate price, the lackluster ability on the manufacturer’s end on estimating demand has caused the scalpers to come out of the woodwork once again to prey on those desperate enough to shell out double a consoles worth in order to get one.

That wouldn’t necessarily account for mainstream titles but would be related to the current state of things in general.

I feel like with how things stand currently, I am prone to take a more patient approach to gaming unless something truly caught my eye, and so far, that hasn’t happened yet. I have instead found myself digging through older libraries for titles to play, looking to the indie and even underground scene, and keeping my ear to the ground for mainstream titles. Even with some titles that look great and have been received favorably, I will more than likely wait for the more complete package to come out for a cheaper price, which is more palatable for me to digest than full price for games that will obviously come out with all DLC included later on down the line.

The last “new” release I purchased, was the Super Mario 3D All-Stars physical release, and while I have played about 30 minutes of it roughly, it has mainly sat on my shelf and looked nice as something to have.

I hope that wasn’t too drawn out as my reasoning. Ultimately, I believe that while the retro, indie, and underground scenes are burgeoning, there is much to be desired with the mainstream market.

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The large studio games you listed are an interesting group, largely because there is a commonalty they all share: crunch. RDR2, TLOU and Cyberpunk, whether considered well made or not, all involve the spectre of crunch. And arguably even RDR2 had problems at launch. Not anywhere similar to Cyberpunk, but certainly issues due to the size of the game, and likely due at least in part to the invisible hand of crunch. And I think that dominates a lot of the discourse around large studio games right now, and definitely factors into my thinking on the topic. It also influences where I spend my money and the games on which I spend my time.

I also tend to wait on picking up large studio releases until they go on sale, saving my money for indies that I really want physical copies of.

On the new console front, I think one of the realities of limited supply is the fact that hardware is always limited by the supply chain at launch, rather than a underestimation of demand. It should be noted that apparently Sony had more, and sold more, PS5s at launch than they did PS4s, which means they have improved on initial supply issues. Nonetheless there is simply a limit to the number of hardware units that manufacturing can pump out, so demand for new consoles will always be highest at launch. I don’t think it’s a matter of misunderstanding initial demand, it’s that the launch of new hardware is always constrained due to realistic physical limits on manufacturing.

On the scalping front, we have retail systems that allow people to buy up large quantities of items, and not just consoles, for resale. This is compounded by the fact that some consumers are willing to pay the scalpers. It’s capitalism at its finest and as long as all the pieces that enable this remain in place, it will continue. I couldn’t buy an Analogue Pocket earlier this year for exactly this reason.

And one solution is simply to wait it out. There will be plenty of PS5s and Xbox Series Xs as 2021 rolls around. And as supply costs drop and manufacturing lines can ramp up production, we’ll see far more of them on shelves rather than in scalper’s pockets because the supply will start to balance out with the demand. Until then Sony and Microsoft have made it very easy to continue playing new games on old systems. I was able to play Miles Morales despite not owning a PS5. And when I do get a PS5, that disc will grant me the PS5 version. Plenty of other big games have released for both new and old gen consoles. There’s no rush to move to the new gen, which is great. I am perfectly content to continue playing games on my PS4 for the time being.

And I’m also content to continue buying indie games for my Switch, a platform that has been fantastic for indies. Every day another indie I want is coming to Switch. Umurangi Generation is something that I’ve been wanting to play, and it will soon be on Switch. Essentially if I wait for almost any indie that seems to be on people’s radar, it will probably hit Switch. I love it. So I spend a lot of time collecting games for Switch that I’m excited to play, largely more excited than many of the big tent pole games of the year. I think of the mainstream studio releases this year I played Animal Crossing New Horizons and Miles Morales. I am finishing Age of Calamity and just started on Doom Eternal. To be fair part of the reason was because ACNH took up a lot of my play time this year, but also because I’m content to either skip or wait on playing a lot of the big studio output this year.

I managed to play through Mario 64 on my copy of Mario 3D Allstars and stopped there. Not because I don’t want to continue, but due to time constraints. Also any amount of Mario 64 is enough for me to require a break from 3D Mario. I have a lot of nostalgia for that game, but the further I get from the N64 era the less I miss playing those games. They were certainly influential but everything they influenced is a touch more enjoyable. Which brings me to Mario Sunshine, a game I plan to play over my holiday break from work. I look forward to playing the one classic mainline Mario game I’ve never played before.

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I feel like I’ve played more games this year than perhaps any other year I’ve been playing games… About 100 apparently. Most of them are on the retro side of things, but that’s what I largely enjoy.

I follow gaming news somewhat, but mainly just to keep an eye out for the sorts of titles I’d be interested in. I think the only game I bought Day One and started playing right away this year was Sakura Wars, which I guess says everything about my tastes. (I have bought 13 Sentinels as well, though I haven’t started yet.)

I hardly ever play “AAA” games so I don’t get caught up in the hype for anything really. I am admittedly interested in checking out Ghost of Tsushima at some point though, since I’m a sucker for anything samurai. (Currently playing Nioh 2 actually, so I’m definitely good for now.)

For the industry as a whole, well it seems things are going swimmingly. I feel the last console generation we had (PS4 era) was significantly better than the previous one (PS3 era), particularly in regards to content from Japanese dev studios. And then there’s been the whole indie movement of course, which has been great both for experimentation and for bringing back lots of old-school genres of gaming that I enjoy. I feel that has really hit its stride in recent years, and I think it’s great that something like Hades can bask in the spotlight these days as much as it does. I also appreciate how the days of “odd” or niche games being stuck in Japan is largely a thing of the past now. And I think it’s cool that we’ve been seeing lots of solid collections of old arcade titles being re-released.

There are loads of issues in gaming that are brought up regularly (crunch culture, rushed releases, day one DLC, limited time releases, bad online behavior, whatever needless drama of the week is going on in whatever gaming fandom), and they are indeed unfortunate problems. One of the biggest ones still IMO is mobile gaming gambling, or “gacha” as folks call it. Actually just about everything to do with mobile gaming seems unsatisfying to me in one way or another, but I find it particularly disconcerting just how the whole micro-transaction model operates for so many popular titles these days–including those that are clearly aimed for younger children. I have no interest in these sorts of games, but I do have to wonder how much that’s just going to be “the future” from here on out. (See: Genshin Impact’s big success.)

New consoles have released, but as is always the case I don’t see much reason to jump into the next gen right away. The PS5 and Xbox Series seem fine, but stepping back a bit it all definitely feels like late-stage diminishing returns. It feels more like we’ve gone PS4 -> PS4.1 (the PS4 Pro) -> PS4.2 (the PS5), you know?

I don’t keep track of a backlog anymore, but I do have plenty of games I haven’t started yet on my PS4, Switch, and my Vita (yeah, I still have it on my nightstand). I feel like I really ought to put buying new games on hold for 2021, and just focus on what I’ve got already for a year. That’d take a lot of will power that I probably don’t have… >___> Maybe a limit of one new game purchase every 2 months or something would work, ha ha. But regardless, I think I would like to try diverting time to other hobbies a bit more this upcoming year.

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I can certainly agree with you in many regards. When compared to the strides that previous generations have seemed to make, let’s say from a graphics point of view, this newest generation does seem like a slower push forward and while the games look good so far, that isn’t and hasn’t been my biggest selling point in quite some time, probably since we jumped from the 64 bit era to the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, and Dreamcast. I care more about engaging stories, and gameplay primarily at this point and I don’t see that changing all that much. I just want to be able to pop in a game, not wait that much to play it and that is it, and with the amount of space each new game is taking, how many updates get pushed out for this and that, I feel like I am becoming a relic in the hobby as I just don’t want to spend the time and patience to go along with that.

My deployment is ending soon and I’ll be able to head home once again until at least 2022, so that will be nice, and during this upcoming period, I plan on taking more of a step back from gaming and trying to divest into other aspects of life that I have neglected for the past couple years, and that I have wanted to get more into.

I don’t really have a backlog as well anymore, other than two Kitty Horrorshow collections I plan on playing in the next couple days. Even my Steam library backlog is bare. haha

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For me it’s rather funny to read all these deep thoughts about AAA vs indie, the industry and so forth. Up until very recently I wasn’t even aware of the distinction between indie and mainstream games. I just played whatever on the basis of interest. Now I do mostly the same, but nowadays I realise that I do tend to play more indies than big fat AAA games. Similarly to @bmo, I like my games to be on the shorter and leaner side, and indie games tend to fit that description more than mainstream titles that need to justify the big bucks.

Looking at my catalogue of played games this year, as I’ve posted on the main site, this was a great year for gaming. I played a lot of good, meaningful games, some of them which changed my thoughts on things (Secret Little Haven, The Missing), others were just pure fun (ejem… Hades).

This was also the year I finally gave in and --after decades of purely mouse + keyboard-- got a controller. Gotta say, I will never understand how people play FPS (or any game that involves shooting, for that matter) with a controller.

Oh, and this is the year I discovered I liked a whole new genre of games: killerstar's SkyRoadsLike Shelf | Grouvee

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You need to add ATARI’s S.T.U.N. Runner to that list. I doubt you can find a way to play the original arcade cabinet, which is a lot of fun, but I am sure it’s still fun in emulation.

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In 2020: having a fantastic time with games. My favorite things this year are Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service, and the Oculus Quest 2. Tons of nice freebies from Epic Games too.

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me and my friends are kinda the same way. Us older folk are more apprehensive of the challenge of balancing life with that of a 40+ hour game and tend to put them on the backburner ( This means a lot of things that are third person Action aDventures or triple A games dont get playeD)
My friend is also easily seduced by humble bumbles.

a lot of the retro inspired games aren’t that great and are gimmicks but i play them anyway. some are good. and a lot of indie/retro stuff is enjoyed by younger generations to (or so it would seem)

i imagine a TON of games were played this year (for quite a few reasons) VR still has a ways to go, switch is still the shizzle, table top simulator was enjoyed by many this year.

Streaming through Products like Geforce Now or services like Shadow is the way of the future in gaming i believe. I plan to do that with my next PC upgrade (wont be soon) is switch to Shadow Tech.

I can put this into perspective. Currently the format is such that you can get some free games in different ways on any platform. Or you can subscribe to a service and get access to more games (Amazon Gaming, Playstation Plus) If you are a 12-14 year old kid who doesn’t have an income beyond allowance then a PS5 is a nice thing to get for xmas and the potential rewards of PS Plus. You’re going to want a few games a year (lets say five) that you can sink hundreds of hours into and play the hell out of them.

But if you are older (or just have a job and have access to more than that) you can have anything from a switch to midrange PC and have access to quite a bit more.

This leads me to think that the Triple A games are more fighting for the marketshare of the grandparent who goes to GameStop looking to get the 12 year old something for their birthday, or something like that.

For a lot of people they aren’t so easily swayed to fork over the cash for those kinds of games because they just have access to more. They certainly aren’t as limited (if that makes sense)

But imagine if the way of consoles and PC bottlenecks was a thing of the past. a 12-14 could potentially play anything (And with anyone, which is key) if someone were to say play fortnight but that kid doesnt have a way to play it? they can do it through something like a Shadow or Geforce now, humble, and pretty much everything. it might not be the best metaphor but to me it seems like it’s going to be a bit like ‘cord cutting’ but for the vidya industry. When it catches on it will force Sony and Microsoft to be heavy handed and double down with DLC exclusives and other nonsense in the hopes of locking them into platforms, services and storefronts. Not sure how that will work but I dont think i like the idea of buying a 650 system a 50 dollar game then having to pay a monthly fee to play it with the bells and whistles of that system.

@Prin I don’t really have a backlog as well anymore, other than two Kitty Horrorshow collections

not knowing what you are referring to, the ones i had (free games) I went through pretty quick. (like an hour or two)
Some were pretty good!

Very true. That’s a fun cabinet. I’ve (somewhat lazily and poorly) tryed to track (via shelf) arcade cabinets to try.

dont know what the future will bring but i’m pretty confident that seeing what I have the past few that SEGA will continue to be awesome/good guy!