Friday, April 20, 2007

Don't Get All Analytical On Me Now.

What exactly is our fascination with analysts? Do they ever really say anything that's worth the attention that we seem to give them? It seems for every new "trend" that comes along in the video game world and beyond, there's a whole team of "experts" more than willing to spout a whole lot of nothing and fill our deaf ears with what amounts to foam sealant. Much like their day to day brethren, the local meteorologist and the infamous traveling palm reading gypsy, it seems that these guys can pretty much say anything, and still manage to keep their jobs.

I don't know about you, but perhaps the vast majority of us are simply in the wrong profession. When was the last time you or anybody you know were able to consistently pull bad guesses (and let's face it, that's pretty much what they get paid a lot of money to do) out of your asses at your job, and still manage to keep them? Unless your one of the above mentioned, I'd hedge my bet that you have never been so darn lucky.

This of course, means absolutely nothing to one who is skilled in the voodoo art of smoke and mirror statistics. All a practitioner need do is wave around a couple spreadsheets worth of numbers, attach a few carefully placed buzzwords for good measure, and voila! Hook, line, and sinker…. Your target audience is wriggling at the end of your verbal hook. If you somehow manage to state the obvious while making your case, then oh boy, your really going to reel in the whopper! By now, you may be wondering just what exactly this has to do with video games.

There isn't a day that goes by, that I don't see articles on the internet, or on TV where at least 2-3 analysts are trying to predict which console is going to be the "King of the Hill" at any given moment, or what game is the "must have" commodity that I should sell all my personal belongings for, and purchase. If that isn't enough, you'll even occasionally see them try and predict things years in advance. If these guys were really that good, don't you think they'd use some of that numerical, trend crunching power of theirs, to say, forecast some lotto numbers with a high probability of making them rich enough to quit the BS game they are playing with us now? You darn right they would.

Take for instance the current state of the whole Nintendo vs. Sony vs. Microsoft thing. Did any analyst really expect the Wii to have taken over the world with their underpowered (but fun) hardware? Even more, did anyone think for an instant that Sony would be in the position of scrounging around for developer's scraps (or ports as we gamers call them) in last place, while praying to their arrogant God that another hit game series of theirs doesn't end up on a competitor's box of joy? The dedicated video game fan who scoured the internet every day for the latest news might have seen this one coming for quite a while, but the average consumer has to be surprised by it all. How much would you want to bet there's quite a few analysts with egg on their face over this whole thing?

I guess the point I'm trying to make with all of this, is that the truth of the matter is nobody knows what's going to happen ten minutes down the road, let alone a few months or years. A lot of money and manpower is spent trying to do so, and sometimes we're even right at the end of it all. However, we really need to start taking all this stuff with a "let's wait and see" approach, instead of taking this stuff as the gospel. As much as we'd all love to glaze over and go all starry eyed over the numbers and predictions these guys give us, we should see them more as what they really are… educated guesses. And all of the polls, charts, and statistics aren't going to change that.

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