Well the question has been posed on a number of forums and emails following the Play Value “The Death of Arcades” shambolic video, “Why do consumer game journalists hate arcade so much?”
I have had to write a number of rebuttals to inaccurate or plain wrong features about the amusement industry and have noticed a growing pattern.
The plain fact is that consumer media, especially the magazine business, is in serious trouble. The success of the internet in covering consumer games has capture the players (readers) loyalty with a up to date 24/7 coverage; while the magazine sector has been caught in a number of review fixing scandals and just poor and late reporting is eroding readers respect. In the UK a growing exodus of journalists and publishers has been marked by internal battles.
One leading consumer game magazine has had four new editors over the last few months, with the average publication having a staff of writers that have under two years experience in the market, let alone professional writing, moving from magazine to magazine; the days of a journalist that grew up playing games and then starts to write are far and few.
Also add the fact that covering the amusement sector is incredibly difficult, especially for naïve staff. Many writers claim knowledge of the sector, every time arcade is mentioned the writer will try and build their image by claiming “…oh yeah I played arcades when I was younger”, some claiming great prowess, though the reality is if all these guys knew arcade gaming in their youth the market would have been huge and better reported now. Most publishes hire any warm body, and it is surprising how many media staff in the magazines don’t actually play games, or do so only when joining their new magazine.
In reality the Japanese centric sector is incredibly closed to outsiders and extremely difficult to follow. The amusement manufacturing industry dose not market greatly to the players (one of the few industries to not do this), and compared to the spoon feeding that consumer journalist get from the console sector – amusement is totally different. And obviously the advertisers are supporting a magazine that big’s-up their products, not draws players’ interest to another revenue stream. It is easier just to write off amusement than do any real work.
I receive a lot of resentment from consumer games sites and magazines for running The Stinger Report. They are resentful that we get exclusive amusement news on releases, and that we also get coverage on the market. It is far easier for a consumer writer to claim “…Arcade is Dead…” as they can not get any news on what’s going on. Then when the forums and readers go “…hey how come you did not cover the new Tekken 6 news”, or “… hey how come the Stinger has news on Time Crisis 4, why did you guys not tell us?”, these magazines writers get really steamed. No matter how much they airbrush their forums of criticism they still feel the pressure. Too many times they have been caught saying “… nothing is happening in arcade!” only to see a new big launch that players want to hear about.
The pressure is on consumer media, I personally am concerned that once it gets harder on the journalists and the criticism of their appalling arcade coverage gets too much then we will go from no coverage and falsehoods too naïve and badly compiled features from individuals claiming some knowledge. We will also see increased pressure on those that do cover the industry as their work gets “borrowed” as consumer games media’s own. A few consumer web sites have already started to steal news just to make up their short fall.
Will coverage get better? Well yes, I know of at least two magazines that have reversed their arcade coverage and started to write appreciative reviews on new releases. I personally have been asked to write a special feature for one prominent consumer games magazine on the reality of the new amusement industry. For the rest, we will see more “Arcade is Dead” stories as it is in their best interest (and their advertisers) that amusement dose not impact the consumer games sales at this very trying period in the markets history. Consumer sales are down (even with the launch of new platforms), the players are complaining of formulaic game design – and more importantly game publishers are suffering from internal difficulties with immanent closure and redundancies (just look at Atari/Infogrames possible delisting).
I have noticed that some sites have dropped running the Play Value video – the video makers, ON Networks, has decided has been working overtime to try and ‘censor’ their forum of criticism, though recently they have given-up holding back the tide. I think the reaction to the video has stung the producers, and the consumer games media – how much this will change coverage is unknown, though as more and more ex-arcade content appears on consoles (Konami arcade classic being the top selling Xbox LIVE Arcade release so far) attitudes will have to change, though if the media is capable is another matter!