Jim Sterling Gives Cliffy B a Taste of Reality


Jim Sterling. He’s one of the editors and reviewers on Destructoid. He is harsh and gets downright dirty with his reviews and thoughts on games and the industry. He angers me when I read some of his reviews and articles, and causes me to come very close to nerd raging on the webbernets. He is one of the most honest guys in gaming journalism I know of, right next to Jeff Gertsman. And I love him for it.

Cliffy B. He’s a super popular game developer, responsible for creating amazing series such as Unreal Tournament, Gears of War, and of course, helping to create the ever amazing Unreal Engine that the majority of game developers license to create their games with. He’s opinionated and honest. I’ve met him in person, seems like a real nice guy, definitely loves what he does. He’s a champion for wanting to take down used games sales, citing that they kill new games sales. I admire this guy, but I cannot get behind his ideals.

On Wednesday, he started up again, defending new games and its current budget structure.

Mr. Sterling will have non of that, and comes out with this rebuttal on Destructoid. I agree with him very, very much.

Rather than ask the question, “Do games need to be this expensive to make?” the question instead becomes, “How can we squeeze more money to keep making very expensive games?”

He goes in deep, and asks the question that should be getting asked. In a time where we’re seeing indie developed games like Bastion and Journey not only come out with amazing sales and winning awards and low budget games like TellTale’s The Walking Dead making money hand over fist and winning Game of the Year awards across many publications, why are we seeing AAA games like Tomb Raider, who sell over 5 million games in two weeks time with crazy budgets and spending on marketing and are considered failures? What is the game industry doing wrong?

Every game is trying to be a Call of Duty when they’re not. Because it works for one company, it won’t work for everybody. One of the main answers is success. The industry has gotten so far to the point that it’s plateauing, and at this point it’s thanks to the investors and shareholders who need to see profits soaring over the previous year’s numbers. Yet you see these smaller companies being triumphant.

Yes graphics matter, but only to a point and only if you want to create a game of that caliber, yet not every game needs it. Is the market asking for it and you want a piece of the pie? Okay, go for it, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Work for it. Call of Duty didn’t get to where it’s at overnight, and as it grew with success, they turned it up, kept costs low, and made enough profits to afford insane levels of marketing material. Of course, it gets dangerous. Even though CoD trumps sells year after year, playing it safe will eventually push you to innovation, and this could be the year Activision gets the message.

Why do games keep trying to chase after that, though? The Division looks gorgeous, and it’s a game that Ubisoft wants to create to that caliber. It asks for it, and that’s fine. Did they have to? No. Will it sell for a profit? In my honest opinion, no. Nothing Ubisoft has created under the Tom Clancy name has sold in the numbers it wants, mostly due to lack of complete quality and finesse in game design. News of this spreads, and inevitably sales stagnate, eventually flat lining. In my line of work, I see it all of the time. I saw it with Splinter Cell: Conviction, and I saw it with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

“In fact, from our perspective you want to create a game that people will want to keep and keep playing for a long time. That’s the approach that we always take and that’s the best way to avoid used games.”

Does that mean I don’t want super awesome games like The Division? Of course not, I appreciate those games. But developers and publishers should not turn around and blame gamers – their customers – for looking for a way to buy their games at the cheap when they find out that their buggy, glitchy, clunky, or ho-hum game ends up not being worth the entry price of $60 – ore more, if you’re outside of the US!

Shigeru Miyamoto, the legendary creator of Mario and other major Nintendo titles, on Wednesday said that while piracy is a bigger concern for Nintendo’s sales, used games is not. In an interview with CVG, Miyamoto stated that, “In fact, from our perspective you want to create a game that people will want to keep and keep playing for a long time. That’s the approach that we always take and that’s the best way to avoid used games.” This is truth. If your game is truly quality, and news spreads of it, gamers will flock to it. That’s how Bioshock: Infinite did so well. It’s also how Tomb Raider did so well, despite the fact that their parent company disagrees with their unrealistic expectations.

The games industry should not be held to any sort of special regards. The film industry adjusted and even the music industry has adjusted to change for the better after consumer outcry. Maybe now is the time for the games industry. Maybe we’re already seeing it with all the backlash towards Microsoft, and it’s a damn shame, really. Everyone should be able to enjoy these works of art, without being told how we should enjoy them.