In which Red warns you that games companies are playing you for fun and profit.
Bwwwwwammmmm *twinkly jangly noise*
This sound opened Sony’s conference last week; the startup noise from the original PlayStation. It’s a nice touch, and if you’re like me it probably triggered memories of playing games when you were younger, on the spare TV. It’s nice, I thought at the time. The more I think about it though, the more I think it’s actually a little manipulative.
I’ll point out that Sony is neither the sole or most egregious offender here, but the fact is this: the big game companies do trade on nostalgia to try and get your hard-earned, and in many cases it’s a nostalgia that doesn’t reflect the company’s current state.
A good example is the Crash Bandicoot music that played during the PS4 conference. Sure, it’s harmless enough, but it’s still very much associating the PS4 with a game that came out 15 years ago, and Sony is not the same company that released Crash. Sony today is the company that will file patents that block used games (even if they won’t use them) and will have large security breaches in the PlayStation network.
Similarly, despite Nintendo still being the company that releases the Mario and Zelda games, they’re also the company that locks your content to single devices and makes it difficult to find friends online, stuff we’d find unforgivable in a new player in the market- can you imagine the uproar if the OUYA launches with locked purchases? The question I ask is, do Nintendo still deserve the goodwill of consumers? What have they done for us lately?
The simple truth is this: game companies are big corporations, and their main goal is turning a profit. Don’t forget this. Sure Nintendo and Microsoft and Activision and Valve do foster communities and provide support and when they screw up try to publicly make amends, but don’t think they do any of this because they’re nice. They do these things for the same reason they trade in nostalgia: it’s good PR. Don’t think for one second that they’d keep doing this if there wasn’t a marketing and therefore profit motive behind it.
Playing on nostalgia is another way that these companies build their brands. They associate themselves with your childhood to slip under your guard, to use your positive memories to cloud your objectivity. It’s a canny marketing strategy.
I’ll tell you what these guys love: they love franchise wars or console wars, because they get people marketing for them. Every time you take to a forum and defend Final Fantasy or Battlefield 3 you are helping corporations with their marketing. One of the most effective ways of marketing something is getting people to tell their friends, and if Nintendo can grab the people who loved Kirby as a kid to sell the new Kirby game they will.
I’m not saying don’t be nostalgic about games, nor am I saying don’t participate in officially sanctioned competitions, communities or initiatives. By all means be passionate about things you like, just maintain some objectivity. Remember: these are corporations, they’re in it for the money, and they are not your friends. Don’t be blinded by the fact that the company made great games in the nineties, always ask: what are they up to at the moment? And how are they making money on this?