Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another facebook comment that got way too long

Accidentally ended up writing a mini-essay as my share text on a facebook link. Decided to put it here for posterity as I trust google to archive my thoughts very slightly more than Facebook. Also, the wayback machine works on blogs.
The original article (here) calls out some interesting trends in sales of small, independent, digital download games (a.k.a. indie games), citing it as the indie bubble bursting.

I wouldn't call it exactly an indie bubble but this article does a fair job of outlining how the market is changing. In my experience, markets -- especially consumer directed markets -- go in waves.

The metaphor that fits most in my mind is land. Whenever a new place is accessible, whether by new technology or changing circumstances or what have you, it's the wild west. Fill up your wagon, go out west, grab some land, do what you want. It might be hard to get there, or might require a specialized skill set, or the area might not be hospitable for everyone. Heck, maybe there were already some people there who had been living there basically forever but had less of a profit motive.*

Then somebody finds some gold, and maybe some folks back east take notice. Folks who have been camping once or twice and want to get rich quick saddle up. A lot of these greenhorn settlers die on the way out, but those who teach themselves how to survive have plenty of room to settle. Bigger enterprises who already own well mined ... well, mines ... see completely untapped resources. They train and hire their own people to go out and claim the abundant territory. If they have to push other people who have been there longer of the territory well, that's unfortunate but they were sitting on giant gold mines and just sifting a few flakes out of the river so, really, isn't it their own fault for not capitalizing on it? Also, how do you get blood off of suede shoes? 

And now the big mining concerns buy up everything that was sustaining an entire culture, and what they can't buy up they force others out of. At least, if the profit motive is there.

All of this means that, as time goes on, the skills needed to succeed shift from the ability to successfully work the land to the ability to bring resources to bear -- economics and politics.

The good part of all this is that the intellectual property world isn't a static, finite world like our own. A new business model is enough to open a new wave and, after that happens, it takes a while for the larger concerns and the greenhorns to even start caring. Kingdom of Loathing was out there doing it's thing long before Zynga and King camped out in Freemium. FTL kickstarted itself long before larger companies started seeing it as a way to offset project risk. Rolling Alpha is STILL a wild west marketplace with Minecraft, Day Z, and the great grandaddy of them all Dwarf Fortress continuing to work a crazy stretch of wild canyon river that none of the big fish have quite tackled how to work yet. As barriers to entry rise in one place, new frontiers are opening in another.
I guess what I'm really saying is that I need to finish watching Deadwood someday.

*Does this make board games indigenous peoples?