If you go on your PS4 or Xbox One right now, you are able to buy everything from the latest "Call of Duty" to an obscure indie platformer and even a game with a gameplay loop that consists solely of poking a jar of mayonnaise. The breadth of games available from expensive to cheap, complex to simple and quality to garbage is larger than it’s ever been. But is it growing too large for its own good?
In an episode of "Colin Was Right," former IGN writer Colin Moriarty’s new series at "Kinda Funny," Colin lays out his thoughts about this issue. In the video, Colin says that he believes the gaming marketplaces are growing more and more crowded with games that are clearly not worth anyone’s time, and the lack of quality control is going to make it increasingly more difficult for good games to be found. I tend to agree.
You don’t have to be familiar with console and PC gaming to see evidence of this problem — all you have to do is look at your smartphone. The iPhone App Store and Google Play are both filled with thousands upon thousands of games, many of which are blatant copies of other games and many others that are just objectively horrible. The same type of situation is becoming a reality on Steam’s rapidly expanding library. When "Funhaus," an internet comedy group, can actually have a video series where they spin a wheel and randomly select a bad Steam game to play for comedic effect and do this on a consistent basis, you know the platform has some quality issues.
This is an area where console gaming has historically had a different, more quality-driven approach. PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo have always had significantly smaller libraries than the mobile and PC marketplaces, but you could generally assume that everything you were getting was at least up to a certain bare minimum of quality. Some games might be better than others, but it was rare to find a game that was completely broken or so bad that you wondered who it could possibly be meant for.
This isn’t entirely the case anymore.
For example, earlier this month PlayStation released a game called “Life of Black Tiger,” an iOS port where you control an ugly-looking black tiger with some of the worst animation I’ve ever seen, running around an ugly map, “fighting” other animals and trying to decipher broken English text. Also, a look at the developer’s other iOS games show that they have also made “Life of Wolf” and “Life of Deer” in addition to numerous other games that seem cheaply made in an attempt to catch some quick money. Oh, and “Life of Black Tiger” is $9.99, in case you were wondering.
Then there’s the mayonnaise game I referred to earlier. Late last year, a game was released on PS4 called “My Name Is Mayo,” a game where you poke a jar of mayo. That’s it. The deeper you dive though, the story of “My Name is Mayo” actually gets worse. PlayStation has a system where players are rewarded for completing certain objectives in games with trophies and, in certain games that meet a criteria, you can earn a platinum trophy for getting all of the other trophies.
Or at least it was thought that there was some sort of criteria — seeing that even some full-fledged games such as Insomniac’s “Song of The Deep” don’t have platinums — but apparently this game about poking a mayonnaise jar was good enough to get one. For those who pay attention to this industry, it was clear that this game was simply trying to target trophy hunters with a ridiculously easy platinum for $0.99, with no regard for quality or preserving the level of commitment and determination that is supposed to be associated with earning a platinum.
These are just some of the examples of how it seems obvious that these companies are beginning to become very lax on their quality control, and it seems like they are trending in the direction of allowing nearly every game they receive to hit their stores, no matter how bad they are. I think this would be a horrible mistake.
I don’t want the console space to get to the point where we have to shovel through page after page of trash to get to something special. With that kind of market, it makes it immensely harder to find the smaller indie gems that are constantly surprising us. Of course, I understand that quality is subjective, and a game that one person hates, another could love. This is why I also support the solution that Colin lays out in his video.
Colin suggests that these companies should spend a few million dollars a year on a team of a dozen or so people, selected by their gaming knowledge, to sit down and actually analyze the games that come through their system. He suggests that there should be a set number of them that have to approve of any game that comes through in order for it to get put on the store. Like Colin, I don’t think this is too crazy of an idea. A simple investment into a quality control team that could do a common sense analysis on whether or not a game deserves to be on these massive platforms could make a world of difference in preserving the player’s ability to find worthwhile games.
“With better curation and an eye towards objective levels of quality, however we decide to measure those levels, the good and great developers will thrive even more,” Colin said.
While the problem will likely get worse before it gets better, I hope we start to see a shift towards preserving the quality of console gaming in the coming future. While they might lose some money at first, I truly believe this is the best way for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to separate themselves from everything else and maintain the trust they’ve been slowly losing with their consumers.