Are Games Becoming Less Mainstream? Where The Hell Is My Next-Gen 'Buzz!'?

"Remember Buzz!?"

Someone said that to me on Friday night. My extended family came to my house to visit, we were eating dinner. Seven years ago, I have no doubt, we would have finished that dinner, busted out those wired Buzz! controllers and buzzed the night away.

Six years ago it would have been Singstar. Four years ago? I would have set up Rock Band. Definitely. Two years ago? Dance Central I guess. But on on that Friday night we finished dinner and we didn't play video games at all.

I wonder: what could we possibly have played? I can't even think of a game that would have worked on that particular occasion for all those different people.

The humble party game. It's not exactly a lost art, but it's plainly in the process of dying. This week Just Dance 2015 comes out on the Wii and Xbox 360; next week Sony is releasing Singstar: Ultimate Party — but really, is anyone still buying and playing these video games with the same fervour we once did? Is anyone hosting a Rock Band party next weekend? When was the last time you were at a house party and everyone decided to spontaneously play Wii Sports?

Because five or six years ago, that seemed to happen all the good goddamn time.

After the Buzz! comment, everyone at the dinner table wanted to play something. "What can we play? What should we play?" I was seriously struggling. For a number of reasons. Firstly, the lack of games. Sportsfriends? I love it, but it requires — at a very basic level — some form of controller literacy. Rock Band? I don't even know where half the controllers are, and I've disconnected all my last generation consoles. My Buzz! buzzers? Jesus Christ, I wouldn't even know where to start looking. I suspect I threw them out... maybe three years ago? Nintendo Land? It was a possibility I suppose, but once again — the controller literacy thing. Collectively we just sort of gave up.

Secondly, I don't have enough actual controllers. In my cupboard at home, currently gathering dust, is about five PS3 controllers, four Xbox 360 controllers and — for some reason — and seven nunchucks and five Wii Remotes.

At last count I have one DualShock 4 and one Xbox One controller.

Part of me thinks this is a direct consequence of the 'newness' of both consoles. I had the better part of a decade to collect a stupid number of controllers for all three major consoles, 10 months is a small period of time compared to ten years. But another part of me laments the fact that I have yet to find a compelling reason to buy a second controller for either the PS4 or the Xbox One. I should have bought second, third or even fourth controllers by now. Why haven't I? It's the multiplayer games, man. There are none.

Why is that?

Are video games less mainstream now than they were six or so years ago? Have we gone backwards?

I suspect that, on some level, video games are less popular now than they were at the tail end of the PlayStation 2's reign/launch of the Wii. That was a magical time. For a while it felt as though games were on the verge of truly pushing through towards some sort of mainstream audience. My Mum bought a Wii. Your mate who didn't really play video games had a PlayStation 2 because everyone had a PlayStation 2. I suspect that ubiquity had some sort of impact.

And, weirdly, all three current gen consoles have all but ignored that broader audience — that's also had an impact. After the PlayStation 2's success, after the Wii successful targeted non-gamers, it's been surprising to see the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the Wii U ignoring that broader audience. Once again it seems like we have three platform holders battling it out for the niche. Neither has made a significant play at the mainstream.

I suspect that the rise of mobile gaming has a lot to do with that. Those mainstream expendable dollars are no doubt being sunk into cheaper — often free — games on the App Store. That genie is out of the bottle in a sense. Perhaps publishers will never be able to convince non-gamers to shell out for a console. Perhaps that ship has sailed.

Perhaps all those gamers who once Buzzed, Sang and Sportsed have graduated the way Nintendo predicted they would? Perhaps they're the ones playing Shadow of Mordor, Alien: Isolation, Destiny. Perhaps they're now the ones anticipating Metal Gear Solid 5, Assassin's Creed: Unity and Bloodborne. It's possible I suppose.

But unlikely.

Mostly likely it's just a sign of a shifting landscape. A landscape in which a handful of AAA games dominate at retail, indie games work as cheaper, innovative alternative and the rest have migrated to Facebook and mobile games.

Looks like I might be waiting a while for my next-gen Buzz!.


    I'd love a new buzz, pity all our friends stopped wanting to play because me and my wife used to beat the pants off of everyone

      The next 'Buzz' (great game BTW) has already come and gone - it was called Songpop!

    Videogame crash in our lifetimes!

      That already happened, why wouldn't we believe it?

      Oh you mean your lifetime =P

        Don't worry, kiddo. That crash certainly happened in my lifetime.

        Right back at ya.

      I cannot wait for it. It will be amazing. Nintendo will rise out from the ashes and be the glorious gaming savior once again.

        Sega has secretly been hoarding funds since its demise and will create the Dreamcast 2, a video game console decades ahead of its time. It will relegate Nintendo into a 3rd party game developer, selling Mario and his kin to the highest bidder in shovelware after shovelware.

    Split screen Destiny...Bungie, get on that.

      "Two people get to play one copy of the game at the same time? I think not" - Corporate Asshole

        I was actually thinking three, so you and two mates could fill a fireteam on a single screen surrounded by cold beer and warm pizza. :)

        Last edited 20/10/14 3:38 pm

        Multiplayer without a paid subscription - not in this day and age.

          PC says hi?

            I for one love having 3 friends sit around my PC for some 3-player split screen.

              Plug pc into TV with xbox/ps/wii/other controllers? Also your point isn't really relevant to my point which was countering the claim there is no Multiplayer without a paid subscription, I was just pointing out it does exist on pc . Unless you weren't being sarcastic in which case Yay!

              Last edited 21/10/14 12:19 pm

                The original comment that was being replied to was in regards to split screen.... but what I was saying was rather in jest, it's true. I'm not a console fanboi. I'm a 'PC and console are both great' kinda guy.

    Buzz TV on ps3 was/is absolutely fantastic! The user created Quizzes you could download also added some great niche fun to it.

    A shame that a newer version hasn't been released. We still play our PS3 version, but would be good to see a PS4 version some time, my PS3 will be retired as soon as they add DLNA playback to PS4...

    Definitely interesting to see the complete 'hardcore' focus this generation of consoles. Not having the large range of games and applications available on the PS4 certainly makes it hard to justify a purchase for those with non-gamer SO's.

    Last edited 20/10/14 2:16 pm

      Yeah, when I have a party, we usually hit up the PS3 Buzz although it's a bitch to get those wireless buzzers to work initially, sometimes. A release on PS4 would be pretty neat.

        i actually got annoyed with the wireless controllers, mainly because we would always lose one of them. so we only had 3. It made me miss the wired ones

    Pretty interesting point! I think the mobile thing is a good take on it. I also think Nintendo have never really wanted to lose that idea of a mainstream audience, since Miyamoto's demos at e3 were about family engaging in games together, and then new 3ds almost seems to be pushed as a kind of fashion accessory for those in Japan with the faceplate advertisements. It seems like they are just banking on their franchises being adopted by the mainstream instead though at this point...

    Maybe the fight is for the "hardcore" so they can convince their "non-hardcore" friends to adopt their platform of choice
    It wouldn't surprise me to see that after the dust had settled we'll see a broader approach from Sony and Microsoft, with Nintendo doing their own thing, likely, with mixed results.

    Good article Mark.

    As for current party games - I impulsively purchased Nidhogg on Steam last weekend when a friend of mine came to visit. We played for 7 consecutive hours. That's something I've not done for YEARS! It does require some familiarity with a controller, but it's not too complicated (there's only a lunge and jump button, but you need to hold your sword at different heights which mixes it up considerably).

    I highly recommend Nidhogg as a party game. I haven't laughed as hard as I did on the weekend for many years.

    Pimping out a few Sale of the century/family feud/wheel of fortune type games would be pretty awesome for family nights.

    It was a no brainer when friends came round to bring out Buzz so bit sad nothing happened with it recently. Friend even purchased a PS2 purely so they can invite friends around to play Buzz.

    Last edited 20/10/14 1:42 pm

    Great article...

    I had two mates around on the weekend and I had to ask them to bring controllers for Xbox 360 so we could hit up some Multi-player Arcade games. Which we didn't end up doing because it was easier just to take it in turns on Forza Horizon 2 trying to do the bucket list challenges. They didn't last long either.

    It seems as though the current gen games are intent on keeping you at home by yourself playing on-line. It's too much hassle to cart a TV over to some ones place to sit in the same room as them but sitting in the same room is still more fun than just being in on-line chat. Also given that big TV's are cheaper than they ever been now, splitting the screen would be no problem but where are the games that allow this?

    Last point - given that both the major consoles are pushing the mobile app aspect with their games could we see a Buzz where the controllers are your mobile phone? And you can have as many people as your can fit on your Wifi?

      You sir are on the same page as I -

      Online is made pretty much easier then offline co-op these days its a blessing and a curse
      *Pro-Tip the curse is that you never see real life friends anymore*

      I have been waiting my lifetime for Consoles to split screen across individual outputs - wouldn't it be nice...

      Way more games should now either have their own app and I would love more interactivity between smartphones and consoles - especially your point about using them to play quizshows!

      I believe there is a quiz show on the PS4 but its got nothing on Buzz :)

        I've always found online multiplayer to be more effort than local multiplayer.

        In that to jump online with friends I have to pull myself away from whatever else I'm doing to join them, which I usually can't be bothered to do. Whereas if a gathering has been organised, then I'm already not doing anything so games are played.

        Can't even remember the last time I jumped online to play something, other than getting a few more rounds of Conduit 2 in before the WFC servers shut down.

      "It seems as though the current gen games are intent on keeping you at home by yourself playing on-line."

      Which is why a Pokemon MMO would be the worst thing ever. Running into people on the train/bus and battling them in Pokemon is still great.

        There is room in my life for both. I personally would prefer the console version, as I don't use public transport or handhelds.

    Why not the family wrecking, friend losing Mario Party / Mario Kart?

      Mario party is a war crime. Not because it's a leading cause of divorce, simply because it's just... so awful.

    There's an Xbox One game available in the States called Fibbage. It looks fantastic and uses your smartphone as a controller, so nobody has to learn a controller. Unfortunately it's not available in Australia at the moment, but hopefully it comes here soon. Well worth a look up

      I heard about this a little while back probably when it launched in the states. Sounded really interesting.

    You should have played Nintendo Land!

    I was playing it at a party just the other day and while I went into it with doubts that anybody could really play (the last time some of these people played games was on the Gamecube), it turned out really well.

    Mario Chase and Luigi's Ghost Mansion are incredibly easy and fun, while we even managed to play Animal Crossing Sweet Day properly in the end.

    Also on the Wii U are Mario Kart and Game & Wario as well as Mario and Sonic (as much as I hate those games...)

      NintendoLand is amazing as a party game. The single player stuff is a bit meh, but get some friends around and it's great. All you really need to be able to do is use a joystick and press a button. Bonus for 5 people playing.
      Having someone as the 'game master' with the pad was always fun.

      We've since moved on to Mario Kart 8 for the go to game. I think SSB would be a bit beyond everyone but me though :(
      Will have to invite the brothers around for that one.

        In my opinion, Nintendo Land just isn't fun with less than 4 people, but luckily I usually have 5 or more people willing to play. Nintendo Land has also got to the stage where we play it more than Mario Kart :O

          Yeah, you need enough people for it to work well. Luigi's Castle is amazing.

    I always find Cards Against Humanity to be the best for family gatherings these days.

    Best party game would be Kung Fu High Impact on the 360 with Kinect. No experience necessary, no controller, just flail and laugh at each other.

    It would help immensely if Sony hadn't switched off the Buzz servers a while back. Many features of the PS3 releases don't work properly now. This is also a pretty good indicator that, unlike SingStar, Buzz has been buried. RIP Buzz.

    Singstar was a system seller in our house - I literally bought a PS2 in order to play Singstar!!

    It didn't hurt that it cost me only about $200 all up - the current genvus still priced too high for the casual consumer when it lowers you'll probably see decent stuff come through.

    Best party game at my place in recent years was Fruit Ninja Kinect!

    i had this exact experience and we ended up playing mario kart.
    i cant think of anything else.
    i think i downloaded the new dance central, i dont know as i havent tried it yet, was interested in how the new kinect goes in my room, as the old would require furniture shuffling.

    have been trying to organise rock band for a while but hasnt happened since my birthday last year.

    If they released a revamped Buzz or equivolent today, I'd absolutely buy it in a heartbeat.

    I think the main thing that everyone seems to be missing is that these mass-appeal games served as a "gateway drug" for people who were traditionally non-gamers to get in to the gaming world. They haven't gone anywhere, they've just transitioned to the (for lack of a better word) "real" games we were playing all along. We don't need the Buzz's and Singstar's as much any more because everyone and your Grandma is playing the Skyrim's and the Destiny's.

    (Not that I'd object to a current-gen Buzz - I used to kick ass at it!)

    I should have bought second, third or even fourth controllers by now. Why haven’t I? It’s the multiplayer games, man. There are none.

    Why is that?

    It started when they removed link play from Forza to push everyone onto xbox live to be able to play multiplayer.

    That is the real reason, removing split-screen and link play means your only option is to sign up to a paid subscription for multiplayer.

    This happened after a BBQ the other day - and we all played a bit of Fifa 14 (on the PS4) and some mortal Kombat on the PS3. Pretty good party games I reckon!

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