The way we digest content is changing and there has been a noticeable shift towards YouTube in recent years. What was once a medium for cat videos and Star Wars kids has grown to a bastion of free media.
That shift has had a seismic effect on the gaming industry. Not just in the way we share and enjoy games but also in the way they are developed and critiqued. These days anybody can be a Vlogger and everybody is a critic.
So is the flood of free opinions a good thing or a bad thing for the future of game development? Does the consumer get a better idea of a game with a wider range of opinions? Or does it just overshadow the informed opinions?
Developer Con: Misrepresentation
Whether or not a game is good is an objective question. It’s a matter of opinion at the end of the day. Certain things like strong core mechanics, an enticing story and quality graphics are universally accepted as positives.
But very few people enjoy every genre of gaming and that leads to misrepresentation. The best gaming channels on YouTube make an effort to remain unbiased. But controversy equals clicks and a strong opinion can make a more interesting video. Particularly when it’s laced with humour.
A hardcore RPG fan might not like the latest Call of Duty no matter how good it is. Likewise, an FPS gamer probably wouldn’t care for a quality platformer. This can lead to a game being poorly reviewed out of context. The biggest losers are unconventional, difficult or indie games that enjoy a more niche appeal.
Developer Pro: Free Exposure and Brand Awareness
The exact opposite can be said for niche indie titles though if they are picked up by popular channels. Being featured on a channel like The Completionist can be a huge boost to sales for a small project.
It can also help dramatically cut the costs of publicity for AAA titles by making use of sponsored content. Releasing early beta copies of a game to trusted reviewers spreading positive word about the game prior to release.
It’s a great way to showcase select gameplay footage that developers are particularly proud of. Certain flagship franchises won’t need this kind of publicity but it’s an excellent cheap resource for all other developers.
Consumer Con: Misinformation
Tieing back in with misrepresentation, this can also produce bad advice for consumers. For a long time, Nintendo filed injunctions to have their content taken down from unlicensed channels. As a company, they decided there were too many unjust representations of their family-friendly titles.
Lots of negative press can create an idea a game is bad even if the core game underneath is solid. Professional reviewers like IGN always try to remain objective when reviewing different genres. Successful independent channels don’t always afford the same privilege, however.
If only the worst parts of a game are represented, consumers could be turned off of a unique and enjoyable experience. The same also works in reverse where a party with monetary motivation could promote the best parts of a bad game. These are usually flagged as sponsored content, but it’s important to be mindful if an opinion is coming at you loaded.
Consumer Pro: YouTube Exposes Sloppy Developers
Similar to how developers can showcase good gameplay, it’s also much harder to hide bad gameplay. Developers can hold off on advanced copies or restrict established publications from posting bad reviews ahead of release.
This can be done as damage management to help mask a bad game so it’s initial sales don’t suffer. On the internet though, there is nowhere to hide and whilst backlash can be postponed until post-launch, bad games are quickly exposed.
The aforementioned plentiful critics are all too ready to tear into new games, especially Steam disasters and AAA flops. Take the now infamous Jim Sterling, Slaughtering Grounds as a perfect example of this.
What this means is it exposes sloppy, poor games like that one or last year’s Fallout 76. Hopefully, this will help lead to the gradual fazing out of developers having the audacity to release shoddy and unfinished games under hefty list prices.