I have just come across the hilariously titled How Not to Run a Game Business; What's wrong with the industry in just thousands and thousands of words. It's a rant-ey sort of place run by a man called Gau who screams what are actually quite well-thought out criticisms at the gaming industry.
Gau's Stop. Making. Games. piece got me thinking (and that's a complement - any blog which can really make me think about something is, in my view, head-and-shoulders over most others out there). In the post he decries the sheer volume of products on the market and argues that this is actually bad for the customer (specifically the new customer). He also finds the glut of games irritating because, he argues, e-publishing has lowered the bar on quality.
I disagree with Gau on both counts. I think people these days are used to having a myriad of choice in any market for any product. This is a simple fact of the digital age where an internet connection lets you see the world and everything in it. Folk are now used to typing "[insert product here] review" into google to get a steer on what's out there. Newbie games are no exception and I think there being more choice for customers and not less is inherently better. A commentator on the post astutely notes that rather than ranting, we'd better serve the newbie community by posting constructively critical reviews of products.
As to Gau's second point about reduction in quality, I think this is a red herring. If we address the first point this one dissolves. A good bit of googling and a few constructive reviews will quickly alert the world to a poor product and it'll die a natural death. Also, junior game designers have to start somewhere and it would be wrong to stifle emerging talent (Mike Wolf's excellent Warrior, Rogue & Mage game springs to mind). That said, as a game graphic designer I do have sympathy for Gau on this issue!
I think Gau does have an extremely valid criticism on version updates. It is crushing the way our industry has become wedded to a business model relying on forced obsolescence. This, I wholly agree, is annoying, depressing and very bad for newbies. Publishers should concentrate on ensuring their products aren't broken when they're first released and then support them for a reasonable amount of time rather than plotting the launch date of the next version.
I want to conclude this post with a hats-off to Gau. He's clearly an intelligent guy and, as I've said, his blog is extremely stimulating. I wholeheartedly suggest you delve into his posts as there's some excellent stuff there.