Yup, and this would be most studios who don’t have a very recent huge hit.
For all the people that think this shakeup could be a good thing, you might want to start saying goodbye to games like Brutal Legend, which is likely funded by lines of credit (or maybe “lines of Jack Black”). If a developer doesn’t have a deal, it’s toast. If a publisher withholds a milestone payment for any reason, it’s toast.
Developers will be forced to sign terrible deals for terrible games they don’t want to do just to keep the doors open. Yay to this wonderful future!
While I wouldn’t want to get in the way of any “things were better in the good old days” kinds of ranting, what you may be seeing is something I’ve talked about a lot specifically with sports games: visual improvements and breakthroughs come at a much more rapid pace then gameplay ones. But the visuals also create higher expectations in players, so when you see everything look awesome, you expect a corresponding increase in awesome gameplay. The gameplay has improved, but it’s just not keeping up.
It’s also easy to forget that our brains just made the gameplay seem more awesome “back in the day” because we weren’t give all the visual stimulus we’re given today. It was easier to make all of those open-ended games when people’s expectations were 320x200 visuals and text screens. Now, they expect super duper 3D worlds filled with the amazing character designs, and to have everything with high-quality VO and professional writing and blah blah blah. You can’t cut corners, you can’t have low production values. If you do, you will get roasted, often by the same people who talk about how games were better “in the good old days.”
And there’s also the message board culture, which rewards us all for being the most jaded or hype-resistant. You’re no longer allowed to really love games anymore, because if you dare mention it, you will be jumped all over, you will be mocked, and your words will continuously be used against you as you become a forum meme.
To use one example in another subforum here, think Rob Merritt, who dared to admit he liked Daredevil. And now, whenever Rob posts anything about a movie, someone inevitably brings up Daredevil. Don’t think that doesn’t have some chilling impact on people writing positively about the cool new games they’re playing. Why bother, when it’ll have a chance of ending up a punchline or you’ll be forced to defend something for days or weeks?