Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

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Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Megamixer » Fri May 20, 2016 4:13 pm

I keep hearing this sort of thing mentioned in the gaming media and on forums and I've come to mostly agree with it. By 'middle tier' I mean full-on releases sold for the same price as AAA games but with no chance of attaining the same sort of mass-market appeal due to their content. I'm talking about games like Bloodrayne, Bullet Witch, Gun, F-Zero, Otogi, Silent Hill etc. All of these games/series' probably sold steadily and weren't failures as such but they occupied a sort of middle ground between the budget/casual market and the top-end 'big name' releases where the likes of GTA, CoD, FIFA, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Uncharted, Zelda, Mario etc. sit.

It seems that the cheaper end of the market is thriving on mobile platforms, indies and digital platforms while the AAA market is as buoyant as ever. A middle tier certainly still exists but I don't see it as being so expansive as it once was. Maybe it's purely down to publishers not taking as many risks or possibly because gamers simply don't want to pay £40 to take a risk on something that could at best merely be average (I'll admit to this myself)

Or maybe I'm talking out of my arse - I don't know! All I know is that there are a hell of a lot of games that fit into that 'middle tier' that always crop up in the "why don't they do another of these?" discussions.

So...discuss?
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by killbot » Fri May 20, 2016 4:52 pm

My first question would be 'is AAA gaming buoyant?' Where once £40 bought you a full game it now often buys you a shell of a game onto which you have to bolt the rest of it piecemeal; through purchasing overpriced £30 'season passes' and sundry other DLC until you feel you've got the game as complete as you want it. Why is this necessary? Because the cost of making a AAA game is spiralling out of control - titles have to sell millions of copies to even break even and the gradual breaking up and gating-off of content is a way to try and wring more money out of the consumer to make up for the fact that the majority of games lose money. It's a system that's ultimately unsustainable, and is symptomatic of what Jim Sterling refers to as publishers wanting 'all of the money, not some of the money' (i.e. chasing the CoD dollar, usually with disastrous consequences, rather than being satisfied making a steady profit from more mean-and-potatoes games).

This is why you'll quite possibly never see another mainline Castlevania or Rayman - because while everyone loves them, they will never sell in CoD-sized numbers that is the only thing the AAA industry cares about any more. What you will get, gradually, is the creators of those games moving into the indie space to continue experimenting with ideas without the bean-counters hanging over their shoulders. And that's where the key is - 'indie' is the new 'middle-tier'. AAA games do their own thing, casual mobile phone games theirs though both have similar drawbacks (an overreliance on pay-to-play mechanics and gated content, principally). Indie exists between them, slowly growing and becoming more and more of a player in the industry. And that could save the future of a lot of forgotten 'middle-tier' IPs. Square Enix have already handed the Fear Effect IP to indie devs to let them play around with it. Nintendo has been cosying up to the indies at the same time as talking about potentially farming out its b-list franchises (imagine Metroid by the guy who made Cave Story, or F-Zero by the FAST Racing team?). We have a whole new language in games, one that we had in the 80s but lost along the way, of small teams making fun games with reasonable budgets. That's what's going to save the videogame industry when the shaky foundations of the AAA market - as they must surely do - come crashing down in a pile of hubris and greed.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by outdated_gamer » Fri May 20, 2016 5:00 pm

Not on the PC. :wink:

There's a lot of lower budget projects going on currently, largly thanks to crowd funding and easily accessible and capable game engines like Unreal Engine or Unity Engine. Some of them were even so backed they made it to "AAA" budget status (read: Star Citizen).

If you mean the big or console focused publishers then yeah, I'd say they're less willing to fund projects with potentially lower mass appeal.

I do agree some games would sell better if they were cheaper though. For a full price people today expect lots of content and/or re-playability and rightly so.

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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Megamixer » Fri May 20, 2016 5:10 pm

outdated_gamer wrote:.
If you mean the big or console focused publishers then yeah, I'd say they're less willing to fund projects with potentially lower mass appeal.
Yeah I mean, the kind of games that would have sat next to the big boys on the shop shelves for the same price but with far less hope of selling big numbers and mostly appealing to a certain audience. Imagine Bloodrayne next to GTA Vice City, both for £39.99 for example. This sort of thing used to be standard. Publishers were still cool with pumping out these games though, even though they would know that Bloodrayne would only appeal to a certain type of gamer whereas GTA would appeal to many millions more.

Konami and Namco used to be a prime example of Middle Tier development in the PS2/PS3 era with loads of lesser-known, average games for every MGS or Tekken they put out.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by outdated_gamer » Fri May 20, 2016 5:10 pm

killbot wrote:'indie' is the new 'middle-tier'
That's true, crowd co-funded indie projects are the new "middle tier" bringing the diversity and challenge back to games.

Meanwhile, big-budget "AAA" publishers are trying to figure out new ways how to scam the consumer and keep re-hashing the same thing over again whilst putting full emphasis on presentation over all the other things... :wink:

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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Sel Feena » Fri May 20, 2016 5:13 pm

Doom made me think about this a little bit, I have zero interest in the multi, so why shell out for it? I'm sure also there are probably lots of folks who don't care for any SP stuff. Dead Or Alive has a killer model that lets you pick up what you want, I think if more devs followed this model it would be a safer bet for them to make money.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by outdated_gamer » Fri May 20, 2016 5:27 pm

Megamixer wrote:
outdated_gamer wrote:.
If you mean the big or console focused publishers then yeah, I'd say they're less willing to fund projects with potentially lower mass appeal.
Yeah I mean, the kind of games that would have sat next to the big boys on the shop shelves for the same price but with far less hope of selling big numbers and mostly appealing to a certain audience. Imagine Bloodrayne next to GTA Vice City, both for £39.99 for example. This sort of thing used to be standard. Publishers were still cool with pumping out these games though, even though they would know that Bloodrayne would only appeal to a certain type of gamer whereas GTA would appeal to many millions more.

Konami and Namco used to be a prime example of Middle Tier development in the PS2/PS3 era with loads of lesser-known, average games for every MGS or Tekken they put out.
Well as a general rule, most publishers avoid things that would not have a bigger appeal or could even bring them a loss. It's rational from a business perspective but it does suffocate the more creative and interesting concepts or games aimed at a particular niche audience. But like it was said, it's the indie devs and crowd sourcing who keep that alive and well.

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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Flint » Fri May 20, 2016 5:53 pm

Although they're not exactly the same I think upcoming games like No Man's Sky and Yooky Laylee will fill the same sort of niche, if they do well maybe more will follow.

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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Matt_B » Fri May 20, 2016 6:26 pm

It's a bit like with movies. The costs of bringing a Hollywood film to market are so huge that it doesn't really make much commercial sense to spend less than the high tens of millions of dollars making one, so that's what they do. Meanwhile, most indie film makers are lucky to scrape together a few million. Some might grow their reputation enough to make mid-budget films, but for those that break through it's usually off to Hollywood and its megabucks for them.

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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by learnedrobb » Sat May 21, 2016 10:31 am

Matt_B wrote:It's a bit like with movies. The costs of bringing a Hollywood film to market are so huge that it doesn't really make much commercial sense to spend less than the high tens of millions of dollars making one, so that's what they do. Meanwhile, most indie film makers are lucky to scrape together a few million. Some might grow their reputation enough to make mid-budget films, but for those that break through it's usually off to Hollywood and its megabucks for them.
And then "Deadpool" happens and proves you don't need to spend $200m+ to make an effects filled, commercial blockbuster (Deadpool cost around $58m... pocket change by modern standards). There is room in the games industry for something similar to happen.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Rayne » Sat May 21, 2016 11:50 am

The saddest thing about the current (and, to an extent, last generation) is the loss of that beautiful 'Middle Tier'.

My PS2 library was absolutely stuffed with off-the-wall, random titles like Pink Pong and Mr Mosquito. Add to those the serviceable action adventure titles like Bujingai, Chaos Sword (I think?), Musashi, etc. Then you had SRPG's and RPG's galore...

These days on PS4 it's a bloody struggle to find anything like that. In some respects it makes it easier to actually play the games I want but, walking in to a highstreet store, it's rare I ever find anything I'd want to purchase.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Megamixer » Sat May 21, 2016 12:12 pm

Rayne wrote:The saddest thing about the current (and, to an extent, last generation) is the loss of that beautiful 'Middle Tier'.

My PS2 library was absolutely stuffed with off-the-wall, random titles like Pink Pong and Mr Mosquito. Add to those the serviceable action adventure titles like Bujingai, Chaos Sword (I think?), Musashi, etc. Then you had SRPG's and RPG's galore...

These days on PS4 it's a bloody struggle to find anything like that. In some respects it makes it easier to actually play the games I want but, walking in to a highstreet store, it's rare I ever find anything I'd want to purchase.
I think you might mean Chaos Legion. I had that at one point and the others you mentioned and still have the likes of Shadow of Memories, Haunting Ground, Beatdown: Fists of Vengeance and so on - quieter games than the big guns put out by the same publishers (Capcom, Konami).

I find with the PS4 that Middle Tier gaming is now the domain of imports.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by The Beans » Sat May 21, 2016 12:34 pm

Rayne wrote:The saddest thing about the current (and, to an extent, last generation) is the loss of that beautiful 'Middle Tier'.

My PS2 library was absolutely stuffed with off-the-wall, random titles like Pink Pong and Mr Mosquito. Add to those the serviceable action adventure titles like Bujingai, Chaos Sword (I think?), Musashi, etc. Then you had SRPG's and RPG's galore...

These days on PS4 it's a bloody struggle to find anything like that. In some respects it makes it easier to actually play the games I want but, walking in to a highstreet store, it's rare I ever find anything I'd want to purchase.
You only got that sort of variety because games were cheaper back then in all regards. It was us who created the risk averse AAA and AA market we see today. None of us wanted to pay more for games as the cost of production went up. In fact, all we ever do is keep demanding that game prices come down. And we absolutely screwed things up with the pre-owned thing.

Middle tier games have mostly moved into the digital space. There's far less crap on the shop shelves. It's not exactly a nightmare scenario imo but like you I miss the variety sometimes. It's a pity that publishers and customers couldn't meet each other halfway. For every publisher "chasing the COD dollar" there's a thousand gamers wanting everything for £20 and calling massive games like Fallout 4 a cynical cash grab the minute a Season Pass is mentioned. Loads of middle tier games might haved earned a sequel if they'd been more modestly priced and we'd bought new and we all weren't just so sodding greedy but there you go, it is what it is.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by merman » Sat May 21, 2016 12:41 pm

There are middle tier games out there, but they tend to be on the download services rather than given physical release.

For example, Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions.
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Re: Is 'Middle Tier' gaming on the way out?

Post by Megamixer » Sat May 21, 2016 12:43 pm

The Beans wrote:You only got that sort of variety because games were cheaper back then in all regards. It was us who created the risk averse AAA and AA market we see today. None of us wanted to pay more for games as the cost of production went up. In fact, all we ever do is keep demanding that game prices come down. And we absolutely screwed things up with the pre-owned thing.

Middle tier games have mostly moved into the digital space. There's far less crap on the shop shelves. It's not exactly a nightmare scenario imo but like you I miss the variety sometimes. It's a pity that publishers and customers couldn't meet each other halfway. For every publisher "chasing the COD dollar" there's a thousand gamers wanting everything for £20 and calling massive games like Fallout 4 a cynical cash grab the minute a Season Pass is mentioned. Loads of middle tier games might haved earned a sequel if they'd been more modestly priced and we'd bought new and we all weren't just so sodding greedy but there you go, it is what it is.
Bang on, I reckon.

I can recall going into GAME and buying the likes of Black, Destroy All Humans and Gun for £20 when they were brand-new releases because the store had slashed 50% off for the first week. Fantastic games for little money but then we expected it all the time.
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