Nope, still not FFXIV… but the next one is!
#52: “It’s Not On My Side”
Published in 2016/02/04 issue
Happy New Year. At the time of writing, it’s just turned 2016, and I hope you will continue to play FFXIV this year as well. Now that the New Year’s formalities are out of the way, let’s get back to the usual column.
There’s been unusually little snowfall this year; apparently because a strong El Niño event threw off the climate cycle. It’s the second week of January now, and the temperatures are gradually falling to what they normally should be, so hopefully we’ll get that snow in the latter half of the season.
I grew up in Hokkaido so I’m accustomed to snow, but I know that many people who live in flatter regions get fed up with it. However, when there’s this little snow, it really hurts those who rely on it for business. Without their tourist attractions, snowy regions lose revenue, which in turn affects the livelihoods of everyone who lives there. For those regions, it’s problematic if they don’t get at least the yearly average amount of snow.
A simple example would be ski resorts, although these days snowboarding is so popular that I wonder if it’s about time for them to change their names. In Japan, the skiing and snowboarding places that open the soonest and close the latest are the ones in Hokkaido’s Niseko area and Kagura Ski Resort in Niigata. However, all of them had to give up on their planned opening date. Even though ski resorts usually open at the end of November, this year, many of them still only had limited courses available in mid-December.
This is obviously a problem for the ski resorts, but there’s also a huge impact on the nearby lodging facilities, followed by winter recreational shops, foreign visitors who planned on earning their room and board by working as a guide, restaurants, gas stations, and so on. For most people who live there, even if they aren’t personally affected by the lack of snow, someone in their family probably is, so it still impacts them at a household-level. Another example would be snow plowing services. In snowy regions, municipal governments annually set aside funds for snow removal expenses. They want to make use of those funds as much as they can, so they hire local businesses to handle snow removal. However, if it doesn’t snow, the snow plows obviously aren’t going to be dispatched, which means they aren’t going to get paid (although a certain amount is guaranteed by contract).
Manufacturers of winter sports gear and the shops that sell them are also impacted, as well as automobile tire manufacturers who don’t sell as many winter tires as expected. Clothing stores see poor sales on their winter lineup. With all of these examples, we can see that the economical impact is huge when something that normally comes every year doesn’t show up.
Now, I work in the game industry, which is under the “digital entertainment” umbrella. Our products are ultimately just for entertainment, not living necessities, so we’re hit hard by economic slumps. When the economy is bad, households make less money while prices inflate, so they have to sacrifice something in order to maintain their standards of living. In other words, they need to cut costs. Entertainment-related products are the first to go; someone who normally buys 2-3 games per quarter will now only buy 1-2, resulting in unbought games.
The same can also be said for manga serializations and the music and film industries, but I actually think the situation has changed a bit between now and the past. What matters now is whether each form of entertainment has been elevated to hobby status for an individual—even if someone’s cutting back on entertainment, psychologically they’d be inclined to keep their hobby spending. Basically, a hobby is closer to a daily necessity, so it’s less likely to be a victim of cost cutting.
Back in the 1990s, video games were squarely a “new form of entertainment.” But in today’s culture, many people are enjoying games as a hobby—and by this I’m referring to a change in values, not just a gaming population increase. We have the pioneers of the gaming industry to thank for working so hard to introduce the world to video games—economy troubles have notably less impact on games today than they did in the past.
Thanks to China’s economic growth and the American market’s influence, Japan’s stock market has continued its downward spiral through the start of 2016. However, I don’t think people are making a big fuss over it like they would’ve in the past. Even though it doesn’t really feel like it, Japan as a whole is currently in an extremely “happy” state. We’ve gone a long time without war, and although people complain about politics, very few are inclined to take action right away. It’s also unusual enough that our country is still managing to get by despite saddling way too much debt.
There are people in the gaming industry who claim we’re in a crisis because the industry isn’t growing as much as it did before, but they should realize that the idea of never-ending growth is nothing more than a fantasy. Similarly, while Japan’s economic growth has slowed, the only reason it was climbing in the first place was because of the strong focus on it in the post-war chaos (as well as the fact that there was room for growth in the first place). There’s no way it could continue to expand forever. Likewise, I want to believe that snow-less winters won’t continue forever either.
I still haven’t hit the slopes a single time this season. To me, this is a much bigger problem than economic trends. I already bought brand new sportswear, changed over to snow tires on my car, did my snowboard maintenance, and I am eager to contribute to the economy, but the snow just isn’t on my side.