PA Report Shutting Down

I was shocked.

I read Penny Arcade for a laugh every other day, and I truly enjoy the side comic The Trenches as well. But on occasion, I would check out the PA Report. For those of you who don’t know, PAR was a news outlet for gaming, run by Ben Kuchera.

When it comes to gaming news, I am very picky. I read IGN just to stay up to date with current events, but when they start to overdo things (like the finale of Breaking Bad) it tires me out rapidly. Other sites like Kotaku have tended to let politics in far too often. I play games because I want to turn off my brain, not fret about the state of the country. Church and state may not longer be as strongly united as they were during the dark ages, but politics and fanaticism are still very much in lust with one another. I doubt that will ever change…

But PAR, I respected. On occasion, I would read over their thoughts not only on games but the gaming industry as a whole. I feel I owe Kuchera and his team a debt for opening my eyes and killing the romanticism of game development. They made me aware of the abuses and the hard times that people underwent just to produce a single title. While I don’t ‘recoil in horror’ of what I’ve learned, it has given me a desire to change certain aspects of the business if I ever rise to such a position myself someday.

This is beyond a shame. Normally, I roll my eyes when I hear over pretentious journalists remind the world that they are responsible for the first draft of history (and the damage first impressions can inflict). Or shake my head sadly when I hear about some media source cooking up or making drama just to feed the 24/7/365 appetite for around the clock news. But PAR lightened me up. They made me believe in the importance of journalism again.

So good luck out there, Kuchera. The world needs journalists it can trust. And you’re the right man for the job.

Watching THQ

Gaming companies are definitely losing steam. In particular, Radical Entertainment has lost out on what it once was. And Kaos Studios closed its doors. Ben Kuchera over at The PA Report covered this with more detail. While I’m not about to make claims about doom and gloom, the fact is that something is wrong when companies are folding.

In my mind, I can see a good half a dozen reasons why games are suffering.

First, there’s the ongoing economic situation. There seems to be some remaining back-and-forthery about whether or not it’s still a recession. But while people can drown their sorrows in games for a while (better than booze), they cannot continue to shell out $50 to $60 for every great title that comes along.

The second aspect that is changing this is the available of SmartPhone and indieĀ games. Most of these games are free or very cheap, and although aren’t as hardcore as console/PC games, are still quite fun especially among friends.

A third thing to consider is the ease of DRM software like Steam, which allows players to purchase old, classic titles for extremely low prices. Why play new games when you have a catalogue of older classics you need to catch up on? I know this very well as I have been downloading games I never got around to trying, like Bioshock.

Then there are the usual factors. A dash of piracy, people can’t afford to be shelling out money, so on. Perhaps the thing to consider here is that the gaming industry isn’t as immune to the recession as we were first led to believe. It certainly lasted far longer than most industries in the midst of rough economic times, but sooner or later you have to pay the piper. The field is shrinking.

Which brings us to the central focus of this blog. THQ.

THQ Inc. has actually been around since 1989. When I was a kid, I played their interesting Home Alone games back on the old 8-bit NES. Today, they’re responsible for the Red Faction series, Saints Row and especially the Warhammer 40,000 line up of games. Recently, THQ made news twice over, first by turning their UFC series to EA. And then a strange, reverse split restructuring of their stocks, consolidating shares at a rate of 10 to 1.

As an owner of some of THQ’s stock, I take considerable interest in this turn of events.

And as a guy who someday would like to make games, I find the whole set of news troubling. It is not an immediate dream I’d like to realize, but something I’d like to do in a few years. And I am working in that direction, bit by bit. But right now the industry is changing, adapting to a combination of new markets, fighting the effects of the recession and taking on riskier projections.

Times a changin’. Keep watching the future, folks.