Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
The pork cycle and a return to AoW4

The pork cycle describes an economic phenomenon of cyclical fluctuations in supply in markets where production takes some time, e.g. livestock. When prices are high, more pigs are being bred, leading to oversupply and falling prices, which then leads to fewer pigs being bred, and so on. I would argue that we are in a pork cycle like supply high for video games right now. The pandemic led to higher demand for home entertainment, leading to an overproduction of video games. And while this is a market in which prices rarely fall if supply is high, the oversupply sure has led to games not being as well received this year. And in response a lack of sales has led to projects being abandoned, layoffs, and studio closures. I'm not really afraid that there will be a lack of videogames in 2025, but I sure think that there will be fewer major releases that year.

While there were many great games in 2023 that I bought and played, the list of games I am waiting for is empty, except for Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader. There is a good chance that I will succumb to the hype and buy that one on release (December 7); which probably is a bad idea, because it is a game from Owlcat Games. Owlcat games patches their games *a lot*. Wrath of the Righteous had over 150 patches since release. And while that level of support is commendable, I made the error of playing Wrath of the Righteous on release, and then regretted not having waited let's say a year for patch 2.0, when this was a much more rounded experience with fewer bugs.

Between patches and DLCs, a lot of games do get better over time. So the game that I am currently playing is one I bought earlier this year: Age of Wonders 4. I finally bought the expansion pass for 40 €, although one might argue that the DLCs don't really contain all that much content. But even if you don't pay, each DLC comes with a free patch. And the patches have not only been fixing bugs, but also much improved on some game systems. Especially features that felt unfinished and half-baked on release, like naval combat, have been much improved. The new content in the DLCs is more of the "nice to have" category, but I did enjoy a game playing as a dragon lord.

My video game spending is about the equivalent of one triple-A game per month, and I am fortunate that I can easily afford that. The problem with a pork cycle oversupply of video games is time. I finished neither Hogwart's Legacy nor Baldur's Gate 3 nor Lamplighter's League. And me coming back to AoW4 is in part because I felt I hadn't played that one "enough" either, whatever "enough" is. Still, there were several games which I played through to the end: Tears of the Kingdom, Return to Moria, Jagged Alliance 3, Fae Farm, and a few smaller games, like Pentiment. I also played several games which I plan to get back to, as they are good to play occasionally, like Against the Storm or Hexarchy. Still, it feels as if I never have enough time for all the games, in spite of being retired and having more time than most. So, if I am right and the flood of new game releases will slow down over the next year, I'm okay with that.

I always find it weird when it seems obvious from the outside that a market is saturated. If you're first or third fine, but when you're the tenth to announce XYZ it seems like a recipe for failure. Google with video games and then Amazon are prime examples. They thought they could bring something new and personally I just think they didn't understand the market and to your point it was pretty saturated.

That said, I really like Hogwart's Legacy and Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty, which I believe are the only new games (if you consider an expansion a new game) that I played this year. I'm hoping that CIG releases Squadron 42 next year.
Tobin said: "...the oversupply sure has led to games not being as well received this year."

I don't understand the connection between oversupply and games not being as well received. Even if the majority of games will only be mediocre, shouldn't a higher supply increase the supply of quality games? Or are gamers being drowned in so many games now that they aren't enjoying them as much?

Personally I thought games being less received was more to do with games not meeting gamer's exceptions. Starfield probably being a good example of this.
I think Starfield would have been better received if it hadn't been sandwiched between Baldur's Gate 3 and Phantom Liberty.

The games probably most hurt by oversupply are the live service games. Those require a lot of time from players, and player fidelity, to make the business model work. I think this year Diablo IV was hit badly by that, a few problems in season 1 and everybody was already gone before season 2 hit.
@Tobold That does make more sense to me now. Since gamers only have finite time and money for gaming, it isn't good enough just to release a good game, it has to be better than the other options. And when supply is particularly high, games that may have been very well received one year, are received less well when stacked up against other high quality options.
Hey I sent the last post without updating my info.... regardless, classic economics doesn't work with digital goods
I recently wanted to jump back into Destiny 2. Then after doing some research I realized to start playing again I'd have to buy a bunch of expansions which include content that isn't even in the game anymore. I'd have to spend over $100 just to see if I like the current endgame.

I instead opted to start playing Overwatch 2 again and have put in about 100 hours in the past few weeks and have spent $0. I'm actually got to spend $10 this weekend to purchase the Battlepass I've already completed.

When eventually I get bored of Overwatch I can simply hop to another F2P live service game. With so many options that legitimately cost $0 to have hundreds of hours of fun in I'm not surprised "premium" live service games like Destiny 2 are losing tons of players.

I also recently started playing WoW again because the $50 War Within pre order also included Dragonflight and I was curious to see how that expansion was. Also just evaluating what a WoW sub gets you these days the amount of content is staggering. You get Classic Era, Wrath Classic, Season of Discovery, Hardcore and Retail. Premium live services have to offer a ton of content to make themselves relevant these days and that's not a sustainable model for most game studios.
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