I just realized something, and I thought I´d share it with you, maybe get some opinions from the community on it and spark some discussion.
First a little preface:
Of my 9 friends who are into computer gaming, I made 7 get arma. Some I got into A2Free, some tried the demo, some immediately bought it without looking into it, taking my word on how awesome it is. Of those 7, 1 is willing to continue to play the game with me. All others, within a month of getting the game, ditched it again. This puts me into something of an awkward position, especially since it was hard for me to undestand why they didn´t like the game. I am aware of its shortcomings, and I think everyone is, which is why I won´t mention them again here except where necessary. What I want to focus on is the following:
I think Arma, excluding CWA, is not a game. It is a hobby.
Between a computer game and an oldfashioned hobby, there are some major differences. My perception of what each may or may not be might conflict with other people´s perceptions, so if you disagree, feel free to slap me later.
A computer game is a product which delivers a pointed, cohesive, well thought out and most of all focused gameplay, usually a narrative to drag the gameplay along with, and extra content such as DLC, adding more story and gameplay elements. As an example, I´ll use Battlezone. Battlezone is a 3D action/RTS hybrid from the late 90s, based on an arcade game from the 80s. You drive your tank around, build a base, harvest resources, build Units and attack the enemy base. Combat can either be fought in first person, or using an overhead map. You get a handful of units, a harvester, and a few specialised buildings, and a long, multi-mission campaign with an involving storyline.
Arma, on the other hand, delivers in the current iteration, four Campaigns, dozens of SP and MP scenarios which sometimes are a bungled, half-finished mess (I´m looking at you, harvest red). It delivers not a few units, but hundreds of them, along with hundreds of weapons, vehicles and a dozen maps. Gameplay wise, Arma tries to be an FPS, a tactical shooter, an RTS, an RPG, a wildlife simulator, a driving sim, a tank and air combat sim, and while it´s at it, giving any person with the will and time the option of turning it into pretty much everything short of simulating a whole universe. It tries to be everything: there is no focus...
In that way, Arma can safely be described not as a game, but as a toybox, supplied for participation in a kind of wargaming/programming hobby.
Hobbies are different from games. Gaming can be a hobby, but a hobby can´t be a game. Arma, like most hobbies, takes time to get into: There is so much to explore and learn that most attention spans of our time don´t last: they didn´t for my friends. They got frustrated with the game throwing so much stuff at them, while not really explaining any of it to them, that they gave up and went back to actual entertainment. What is entertaining in Arma is not playing it: the game fights you way too much for that (Clunky controls, cluttered command interface, counter-intuitive gameplay compared to most FPS which train gamers of today to die in Arma, basically. Too much stuff to use, and no tutorials on how to use it well, as well as a generally terribly steep learning curve. No feedback on wether you´re doing well, or wether you´re doing the correct thing at all, etc.), what is entertaining in Arma is watching the "game" do its thing: building things, and then watching them start moving on the battlefield. Like an extremely complex and hard to get into lego set.
Trouble is, when gamers buy a game, they don´t expect to get a toybox without instructions, focusing on a hobby with limited appeal in the long run, they expect to get an -entertainment product-. They´re working all day or are in school all day, (and especially the mature gamers Arma is targeted at) possibly have to deal with a family and friends, and don´t want to invest hours upon hours learning something before they can have fun. There are rare occasions, but as far as I can see, they are rare. Like I said, though this is by no means a definite cross section of the market, obviously, of 7 people I brought to Arma, 1 so far has stayed.
Hope I´m not threading on anybody´s toes with this, just thinking a little about why people are so put off by a game I do so love (even though it´s hard, sometimes. I have a strained relationship with Arma by now.)
And I really hope that Arma 3 will be enough of a game to be fun from the get go, and not a box set of virtual toy soldiers that don´t do anything, unless you put lots of work into it.