With E3 fading away behind us and all of the announcements out in the open, much of the hype is beginning to die down. Discussion, however, still rages on and for many, E3 2013 will remain a talking point for the year ahead. Two new consoles were put through their paces in the collective eyes of the gaming press, meaning public debate and scrutinization are sure to follow. We’ve seen this year, more than ever, how these announcements can ignite the wider gaming audience and spark discussion both online and off. Not only that, but games announced with release dates firmly entrenched in 2014 and even possibly beyond, ensuring that this year, there was plenty to talk about.
However, with the more widespread exposure to E3 comes something else entirely. I’ve taken to calling it ‘me-tooism’ because that sums it up well enough – while it doesn’t just permeate the post-E3 air, it is certainly a good time to bring it up. ‘Me-tooism’, as the name implies, is the practice becoming more and more common amongst consumers in going with the popular opinion. It’s nothing new, even outside of gaming, but it seems to strike harder in this industry than anywhere else as companies are living and dying by it. Many things fuel this – the most prominent of which is likely to be the proliferation of online multiplayer. Gamers are far less willing to buy a console they know will have the smaller number of players using and will instead opt for the popular console all of their friends are going for. We saw this with the Xbox 360 and it looks like we’re going to see it with the PS4. Though it can be argued it wasn’t anything Sony did in particular, more the mistakes of Microsoft with the Xbox One and it’s initial choice to employ restrictive, anti-consumer DRM.
I’ll assume that the majority of you reading this, if not all of you, are well-informed gamers who can formulate your own opinions on which system you will or will not buy. However, many of us will know people who don’t particularly pay attention to the industry and instead get their news through their friends and gaming compatriots. If friends A, B and C post on social media or bring up in conversation that they’re going to pre-order one system, the likelihood of our subject friend D ordering the opposing system is very slim. The number of early adopters is now making and breaking both software and hardware sales – look at the initial launch of the PS3 and how badly it underperformed. It failed to meet Sony’s sales forecasts and expectations, and it was arguably a blunder the company was recovering from for a long time. History, as they often say, has a way of repeating itself.
So is this ‘me-tooism’ damaging for the industry or can it be a good thing? It’s an extremely tough question to answer – on one hand, it’s extremely damaging as it risks removing the options presented to consumers and as I’m sure we’re all aware, competition is a great thing. It pushes each party to new heights and, as seen in the past few days, keeps mistakes in check – like Microsoft’s DRM on the Xbox One and their rapid back-pedalling in the face of the dominance spelled out by PS4. On the other hand however, it can be argued that one-sided consumerism is good for the industry as this is precisely what pushes innovation and technical advances. The importance of getting in the first hit and proving before the competition can that your system or title is the best – and their rapid counter-attack following the strong sales that greet it – presents us a nice back-and-forth market that is ever-evolving and almost always improving on itself.
It would be a mistake to stop at discussing how this affects console sales, though. Several titles and even genres have benefited greatly from this trend. For one example, World of Warcraft surely stands out immediately – sure, the initial adopters of the game were disenfranchised Everquest players and fans of the Warcraft RTS games, but with the blossoming popularity of the game, more and more players became attracted to it – so much so that many people in the game even know what Warcraft 3 is, or anything about the game’s story. It can be argued that is damaging for the game’s community but Blizzard wouldn’t be sitting as happily as they are now without that gargantuan ‘me-too’ playerbase. World of Warcraft is not the only title that has received such widespread attention through the power of “me too”. MOBA games have skyrocketed in popularity and even people who had no idea what DotA was are now some of the most devoted League of Legends players in the world. It’s a very strange turn of events; far be it from me to complain though. More people enjoying things I enjoy is always great. However, the player base of similar games in the genre has definitely suffered for it – which brings us back to the competition side of things. DotA 2 is putting up an incredibly brave fight against League of Legends and while it may have a way to go, Valve’s own MOBA behemoth is picking up steam (see what I did there?) and definitely building on it, much to their credit.
Historically there are many examples of ‘me-tooism’ in gaming and arguably, it has birthed some of the most prolific and best-selling franchises in gaming’s long and storied past. Though I would venture to say, it’s less about word of mouth and more about going where the majority currently are. Word of mouth is, in a sense, different – franchises like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy received critical acclaim and this spread through people slowly recommending each, until they built up massive fanbases all their own. I would say though that ‘me-tooism’ is a different thing entirely and more akin to the spread of games like Call of Duty, League of Legends and Battlefield 3. They’re two difficult concepts to differentiate between and perhaps the line is a bit more blurred than I initially thought. Does the difference rest entirely in single-player versus multi-player or is it something deeper, like herd mentality? Who can say? See this article as speculation and mull it over for yourself – I’m sure you’ll have a few things to think about and maybe it will distract you from all that post-E3 jittering.
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