Just posted this on Kotaku, but it ended up a little longish, so I thought it might be worthwhile to repost it here. In response to an article about the shortcomings of Destiny, I wrote:
They could do a postmortem at GDC and title it “How Loot Ruined Halo.” Most players like the gameplay and hate the loot grind. They overdid it on extrinsic rewards, to the point that it’s hard for people to enjoy the fun parts of the game. External rewards destroying intrinsic motivation is a well-researched phenomenon (see Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn).
But it’s not really hard to see why a lot of AAA titles are falling into this trap lately (Assassin’s Creed is doing it, too). They haven’t really figured out how to leverage procedural content to compensate for the increased cost of higher fidelity games (and the player expectation that games will be or at least feel bigger), so they try to drag out the content by adding a bunch of treadmills. Then they try to extract more money from customers by marketing more and more expensive, relatively cheaply-produced special editions and DLC to offset the monumental initial production costs.
These are all obvious signs that the market for AAA games is shrinking. And these strategies only accelerate the process by alienating customers.
I enjoy a lot of AAA games, so I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing, but it’s obviously happening. It will be interesting to see what the game industry looks like at the end of this console generation.