Today, Amazon unveiled its new piece of electronic wonderment–The Amazon Fire TV. Of course, this $99 device streams the typical video services and offers the ability to look at your photos on the big screen, but the interesting part is that the Amazon Fire TV also plays games. There’s not many, of course; right now there’s the Minecraft Pocket Edition and a few Amazon exclusive titles, but the potential is there, and amplified by being able to use a touch device like a tablet as a secondary controller for the console.
But, the Fire TV is just another device in a growing pile of consoles (multi-purpose or otherwise) trying to bulldoze their way into the current gaming market. Aside from the “Big Three” with their consoles and portables, and the always evident PC market, there’s the mobile market, the OUYA, Oculus Rift, a plethora of Steam Boxes, Amazon’s device, and whatever else another company may think is a good idea to release. The market is being overwhelmed with people trying to get a piece of the profit pie, and this behavior could easily make the entire industry fall in on itself.
A second fall of the gaming industry seems a bit extreme, but it has happened before. When the game industry crashed in 1983, we saw many of the same ailments within the industry as we do today. There were far too many consoles in the market at the time: The Ataris, Colecovisions, Odysseys, and so on flooded the market and led to consumer confusion. You couldn’t know what to get without an absurd amount of research, and many people will end up either making a bad decision (and therefore end up distrusting the industry) or never partake in the purchase in the first place.
But it’s just not the consoles that were the problem with the collapse; it was the games, as well. Shovelware flooded the market, further breeding consumer distrust and confusion. Too many consoles, too many games, and not enough quality control are the main reasons that the industry collapsed in on itself back in the day.
But, doesn’t that sound familiar? The supersaturation of consoles aside, we are accosted by multiple game releases every day. The indie movement may have brought gaming development to a whole new level, a level where developers may make what they wish without the restrictions of a company needs for profits, but it has also led to an incredible amount of failed, broken games. Moreover, the Xbox Live Indie Game program and Steam’s policy changes allow poor quality games to flood the market. With the sheer quantity of games on the market and with more coming every day, it is difficult to know what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s even out there to play.
So, will the games industry collapse again? It’s hard to tell. It’s clear there are signs pointing to it, but the first fall didn’t happen in one day; it slowly tumbled over a number of years. Nintendo, the previous savior of the gaming industry, appears to be struggling to stay afloat. Microsoft and Sony have turned their consoles into multi-entertainment devices, which may or may not be an effort to keep in line with the obviously cheaper options like the Amazon Fire TV which can also play games. The “AAA model” of game development that companies so heavily rely on big bucks for bigger profits is beginning to fail the big numbers companies spend those big budgets on. The PC market is suffocating under the strain of thousands of games spread over various distribution services, with little way to organize and differentiate. If something isn’t done soon, it’s very likely that everything will fall under a slew of badly programmed mobile titles… although, industries in general are a very fickle thing; maybe nothing bad will come of it after all.