Where have all the gamers gone?

Bored with existing games, the post-technology generation will ultimately develop the games of tomorrow. Good for the kids but bad for today's game makers and publishers.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 30, 2013 4:59PM

thestreet logoBoys playing video games © Image Source/Getty ImagesBy Dana Blankenhorn, TheStreet


One of the biggest mysteries in technology today is what happened to all the gamers?


Nintendo's (NTDOY) Wii U console did so badly the company won't be holding a press conference at the E3 game convention this year. Publisher 2K won't even have a booth.


Sony's (SNE) own launch of the PlayStation 4 may do poorly, and Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 720 may not be a hit, either. (Microsoft publishes MSN Money,)


Meanwhile, social gaming pioneer Zynga (ZNGA) is trying to get a gambling license, the chatter on Facebook's (FB) earnings sounds anemic, and Apple's (AAPL) iOS games have been marked down, in some cases, by 90%, notes Cult of Mac.


What's going on?


It might help at this point to look at this fall's college freshman class. Assuming they're 18, they will have been born in 1995. The Web was spun before they were. They take Wi-Fi and broadband for granted. Facebook was created when they were in fourth grade.


My son, who's all of 21, finds this generation mysterious, but I don't. My class had the same relationship with the 1960s.


By the time I hit college in 1973, the 1960s were done. Rock was something you saw in arenas, rebellion was all symbolic and the totems of the previous decade were so mainstream as to look old-fashioned. Even Dick Cheney had long hair and sideburns. 

How we connect

Technology trends turn out to be a lot like musical tastes in that they change quickly and constantly. Each incoming class wants to see the world anew and make its own trends. What their older brothers and sisters think is as obsolete as what their parents think. Mark Zuckerberg is almost old enough to be their dad.


Today's kids have grown up after technology. The iPhone appeared when they were in middle school, the iPad when they were just entering high school. At the same time, the nature of how we connect with computers is changing. We've gone from sitting at desks to tapping at screens, but even that looks old-fashioned, even quaint. We don't know what comes next.


I don't know how you view the 1970s, but what I remember was a deep sense of ennui. We had a sense of having missed something, and even as culture grew bigger and brighter its cost rising with each new supergroup concert tour or club opening, my classmates and I seemed to grow quieter and more serious.


My guess is the same thing is happening between today's kids and technology. It's not as exciting as it was. It's better but more expensive and thus more distant.

Making a meadow 

I spent time recently with some Coca-Cola (KOScholars, turning a plateau of construction aggregate into a meadow with wood chips, fertilizer and a light dusting of soil. The kids seemed, to me far more engaged with the outside world than anything inside, and far more into doing than being. 

That's good for the kids and good for the future. But it's not good for anyone trying to sell a video game today or sell a new social network today.


I think the leaders of technology understand this, which may be why there is so much interest in Google (GOOG) Glass among the digerati. Personally, I don't get it, but Robert Scoble of Rackspace (RAX), the digital reviewer of the moment, says he can't live without them and younger people are completely jazzed.


But everything depends on the price, he says. Offer them for $300 and they will fly off the shelves. So will applications based on them, and games would have to be among those applications. Social games based on instant communication would likely fly off the virtual shelves as well.


Until something truly different emerges from someone's lab -- Google's or someone else's -- I think the gaming industry, even the social gaming industry, will remain slow.


But the best news is this: My class held Steve Jobs and Bill Gates among our number. What will today's Coca-Cola Scholars create tomorrow?


More from TheStreet.com

Apr 30, 2013 8:01PM
As a 21 year old, I find myself often going back to older systems to find the uniqueness in games that have given me replay value and take up my time. Games now are so bent on online play, that they seemingly just regurgitate the same game over and over. Until games come back that promote creativity, and stories that you can be absorbed in, then this trend will continue. Until then, I will be drowning myself in the NES to a few PS2 games. 
Apr 30, 2013 6:23PM
I do have to say though, even the 360 was already overpriced, and the game prices are ****ing retarded too these days. I mean really 50-70$ a game? GET BENT. So if Microsoft is wise the system will sell for mid 200's right from the start, they will have 5 million of them already built and packaged and the games will cost no more than $30 per game.
Apr 30, 2013 7:16PM

As a veteran of EverQuest (1999) and World of Warcraft (2004), we were laughed at while the plebeians slowly learned to text and play Angry Birds. We played a game, communicated, and made online friends long before the present, cell-phone generation knew what was going on.


Now, it's a world community of online communication. Gamers learned it years before the mundane non-gamers started their mindless texting. We burned out and the movement has shifted to texting in cars and classrooms. They represent the Jerry Springer of communication skills. Gamers far exceeded the silly texting and Youtube boobs. 


My video card costs more than the average person pays for a laptop, ipad, or reader. The public is so satisfied with mediocrity that I want to throw up thinking about it.

Apr 30, 2013 8:27PM
I stopped buying new games for my PC.  Too much DRM.  Too many cut features replaced by paid DLC.  Products that get shipped with lots of bugs.  Lack of innovation.  Lots of flash with dumbed down gameplay.  It's all quite repetitive and stale, and in some cases, a bit insulting to a paying customer.
May 1, 2013 8:39AM

I read this article (having actually come of age in the 70's) and thought WTF?


End of the war.  The remaining moon shots.  Onset of disco.  The TRUE drug era.  We could drink, gamble, smoke, vote, enlist, etc. all at 18.  Supersized afros.  Personal computers.  The best rock.  Onset of punk and the New Wave.  You sound younger than you state or you lived in a hole.


The new kids are outdoorsy?  I live rurally and I don't see busloads of kids heading for the hills.


What I do see are hundreds of young faces illuminated by the soft glow of their cellphones, busily wasting time as they twiddle away their distraction from reality.  Never looking up or engaging the world around them.  Actually looking like they are going through withdrawal when asked to set aside their habits for even the shortest of spells.


Look again.


Apr 30, 2013 10:43PM
For those complaining that there aren't PC games anymore, as a PC gamer myself, I can tell you there are plenty out there.  Things have changed a little over the years though, let me introduce you to Steam...
Apr 30, 2013 10:01PM
Perhaps its all been said and done. Hack and slash, magical/fantasy based, robots, both ground and space based shooters, build and manage a city, etc...

I recently (re)bought C&C Zero hour for my PC which I still find engaging. I still play EQ with a bud but its been so dumbed down at this point I see see that ending before too long.
On my PS3 I pretty much play Skyrim, toss in a shooter every once in awhile and play Portal2 once a year because it makes me think.

The crap put out now is basically old stuff vomited up and tries to appeal to "everyone" instead of solidly grabbing a nitch audience...and then they attempt to drown you in eye candy and hope you dont realize too quickly how vacuous the content is.

Apr 30, 2013 11:01PM
Technology may change, but what makes a game great, doesn't. Story, music, and gameplay, make the game, not graphics.

We have lost our way. For shame.
Apr 30, 2013 10:03PM
Where are the gamers going? No where. Where is our money going? Out the window. Its all about money, which is something most people don't have a whole lot of these days. I used to go and buy games every other month or so and now I only buy one if I REALLY want it which is like a few times a year. I do highly doubt that the launches of either console will do very well because it just seems like a bad time to release a new one. They still try to sell PS3's and Xbox360's for hundreds of dollars even though the systems are several years old. Unless these new ones are decently priced, and I have some convincing that its worth buying, I'll be staying away for quite a while.
Apr 30, 2013 8:04PM

I quit playing because I can't find any games,

Why did they quit making pc games. I have at least 30 old pc games,now I can't find any

Apr 30, 2013 6:15PM
The game consoles are too expensive. The PS3 is way too expensive and out of all the games they have, only 2 I am interested in. I'm not going to spend a lot of money for a console just for 2 games. Wii-U doesn't have a lot of games on it yet, either. I just got an X-Box360 for Christmas as a gift and that was from my boyfriend who knew I wanted one, but due to a family emergency, I couldn't afford it. When I got the PS2 and Gamecube, I waited until they were under $200.00.

Apr 30, 2013 8:49PM



Technology is ever changing, what was fun and entertaining 10-15 years ago is old and archaic.  I started online back in the 90's when Prodigy had Chat Rooms and Competed with AOL, our anemic dial up modems were great for chat rooms, almost instantaneous chatter versus blog and post (FB), the Big excitement was when they would release a new Modem 28K, 56K, 128K etc.  Now Prodigy like AOL are mere shells of themselves and Dial UP, I can assure you most of today's Generation never heard of it.

So, I expect Facebook and the like to have their day and likely follow the same path as AOL as well the games of today will fade into something far more entertaining, Virtual Games and the like and the days of plugging a game pad will be forgotten much like dialup Modems.

Apr 30, 2013 8:24PM
It's interesting how little strategy is involved in the modern games.  It's shoot-shoot-shoot, find a weapon, shoot-shoot-shoot, find ammo, etc.  The game Doom 3 requires finding various PDA's, reading the emails and listening to the voice messages on them for clues as to where to go next or what the key-code is to open a safe.  My nephew was bored with it in about 15 minutes - and I started him at the point where the monsters you can shoot appear.
Apr 30, 2013 7:06PM
Well done. Game companies are trying to figure out where the next big thing will be. They want the hardcore and the casual, the netprimes and the amazonflix, the tweeters and fb'ers. And Apple and M$ can't stopped complaining about how heavy the the trucks are on the way to the bank. The game is a-changin', but the the game is fine. Get off my wi-fi, you damn kids.
May 1, 2013 7:49AM
For one thing ,games and hardware are too expensive.Games are not worht $60 .I am an older gamer and have income ,but still don't want to spend $60 on a game.I wait several months until the price goes down...Also,originally pricing hardware at $600 was insane. The big thing ,though, is games have too many glitches. Companies throw games on the market without getting rid of the glitches and a person is stuck with an expensive game that gives you problems as you play it .I was recently playing a popular game that had so many gliches i finally quit playing it. For $60 compaies need to care more about the quality of the games they introduce.All they seem to care about is getting it on the market and making money.Also, it would be nice if they came out with special games at times other than Christmas. The really good games only come out once a year..As I said I also buy fewer games based on the current quality and price.Fix the qlitches and lower prices.
May 1, 2013 3:15AM

In my opinion there are tons of reasons why the gaming industry is drying up. Many of them are listed here already.   Some of the main reasons I am not hooked on the games of today? Like most people the first thing is cost for content. For example, I have wondered over the years, How many Madden football games can they really make. Every few years they upgrade the graphics and add a few pixels but for the most part the game content has not changed in over a decade. The same is true for the other sports games as well. Like many of the commenters here, I like a game that is gonna make me think, that has progressions, upgrades, things you earn, and I don't wanna just cheat my way there. Which is why I avoid a lot of on-line gaming, because there are too many cheaters. I hate movie plot games and games that are uni-directional. Give me some choices. Another thing I hate, you pay for the system, you pay for the game, after that they want you to pay for every single piece of DLC they create. How about you just give me the upgrades since I paid for the game. So yeah, based on the games I like RPG's and Strategy based games, A PC game is actually a much better choice for me. As someone else commented, the PS3 I own, I only have 2 games for it because I never see anything new that really interests me.

Apr 30, 2013 11:07PM

I think it's just a different market now. I haven'/t bought a PC game in a year or 2 at this point because why would I pay $60 for something that I can probably get for free in any one the the dozens of "AAA" free-to-play title. Tribes: Acend, Planetside 2, Smite, League of Legends just to name a few.


Also, mobile games and micro-transaction stuff is really gaining a lot of popularity. There are also mobile games that are just so vastly different than anything else out there. Lately I've been playing Ingress. It's an Android game that's basicly GPS-based capture the flag. You have to be withing 30m os said "flag" and you then interact with it via your mobile device. It's gotten me out a lot more, getting a lot more excersise, and shown me some really cool places in my area that I've never been to. They are classifying it as an AR (augmented reality) game, and it's pretty awsome!

Apr 30, 2013 10:45PM
Also bad for todays gamers. If this is even close to true it sounds like VR Farmville is the future of gaming and the days of cinematic games with powerful storylines, high-end graphics, and beautiful settings are a thing of the past. To bad, I really had hoped games would progress to the level that movies had... 
Apr 30, 2013 6:26PM

A game is something to challange you that you get better at with practice.  Video games don't work this way.  They all have cheats so you can play forever if you want to.  Wouldn't that make them more like a movie than a game?  If so, then they shouldn't cost more than any DVD movie at Walmart. 

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