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So I get up on this bright Christmas morning, expecting to spend the whole day perfecting my Destiny character on PS4 with all the shiny new expansion goodies. Lo and behold, the network is down. Great. Guess I’ll complain to the internet instead, I suppose…

My first thought isn’t about the motives of the hackers, or for my own personal data stored in their network. It isn’t even about how long I’ll have to wait before the network is restored. My first thought is for the state of gaming as a whole, and how dangerously close to collapse the whole industry is.

For years now, gaming has been on the decline, especially console gaming. Now I’ll be the first to admit that PC gaming has it’s benefits, especially in the current situation, but there are plenty of detractors for the casual gamer. Personally, I’ve always felt that dedicated gaming consoles have created an environment in which developers are all given roughly the same tools and produced drastically different results, often times displaying impressive inventiveness and creativity with those tools. Each generation of gaming consoles have added tools to the kit, even when we haven’t necessarily exhausted the possibilities of the last. It has been a pretty regular (and profitable) cycle for years now, and I think that if it continues, we will start seeing games included in the pantheon of respected arts, such as books, films, and music.

However, I doubt it will continue for much longer, looking at the state of this current generation. Lately, console gaming has been falling apart under the myriad pressures of high game costs, higher production costs, regular network hacks, pay-to-win mechanics, Gamestop’s continual shilling of developers and consumers alike, and worst of all, lackluster or half-finished products pushed to market prematurely. It seems that two generations ago, it was regular for a game to take 30-60 hours to complete fully. Final Fantasy games and other RPGs were 100+ hours long. On the last gen, it was pretty common to finish a game on the hardest difficulty in about 16 hours without much hassle. On this incarnation, you can beat a game like Assassin’s Creed Unity in about 8-12 hours, especially if you feel like tossing a few more dollars down. Furthermore, it feels like the games themselves have fewer and fewer activities and are becoming simpler all the time. For example, anyone who has played Saint’s Row 2 and 3 agrees that 2 had far more side missions and took much longer to complete than it’s sequel. They also deemed it necessary to remove the atypical mission progression from 2, opting for a simpler and more straightforward style for 3. The same could be said for Fable 2 and 3; 3 took much less time to finish, and utilized a simplistic leveling system instead of the color-coded multiple experience point set-up from 2. From leading us by the nose to making decisions for us, games are getting dumber across the board.

So why is this happening? In a word, money. With the sheer numbers of games on the market each month, consumers simply dont have the time to flesh out all the nuances of gameplay with each title they pick up, so developers have stopped wasting their time and money on features that only 10% of the target market are ever experiencing. Statistics show that more than half the people who pick up a new game will ever see the end credits before moving onto another new release. Some titles cost more than a million dollars, and in the end it becomes little more than math; its just not feasible to create so much content that no one will touch without charging upwards of 60$ per game, or loads of DLC that should have been included in the original game, or addin in-game purchases, or rushing a game out the door to make the sales figures in order to finish it. All of these things are signs of an industry floundering and bleeding money, and when something like a targeted hack shuts down the network on the day that hundreds and thousands of people should be meeting their console for the first time, it just gives me bad feelings for the future. The only way that games can protect themselves from attacks like this is more security, especially for online games, and that means more money, which will probably come out of the consumer’s pocket once again.

Or worse yet, with quality of games declining and networks eternally open to attack, consumers and developers alike will probably just cut their losses and play a board game, watch a movie, or read a book.

Triworlds Revolution: Homeworld Blues is available on Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords!

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