Going Gold

Going Gold: Reboots and Rip-offs

Christian Ward | 27 Jan 2010 21:00
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The reason for this is that the games industry is infected with a nasty case of groupthink. It's this groupthink that lead to an over-surplus of platformers back in the Mario and Sonic days and a starvation of them today, a litany of awful third-person shooter-exploration games that rode on the back of Tomb Raider and to the brown 'n' burly FPSs of the current generation.

It's this same wisdom that still sees games sold for a month before being consigned to the bargain bins (when NSMB DS sold consistently at the same price for years), the same wisdom that says you have to announce a title 18 months before release and then never shut up about it (NSMBW was announced just under 6 months before it was on store shelves).

The world of games publishing is a small and inbred one, with the same people floating back and forth between the same companies. While this enables a very rapid spread of good ideas, it also enables the kind of "conventional wisdom" groupthink which sometimes appears totally alienated from the actual market.

For example, until quite recently the perceived wisdom was that the only time to launch your AAA title was in the run-up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not until some games started to slip into the late Winter/early Spring window, and actually shift units, did publishers develop the radical thinking that has led to a vast amount of AAA titles being released between now and March. The correct lesson to learn would have been that high-quality, well-marketed games sell units any time you care to launch them.

To be fair, gaming is far from the only industry afflicted with this curse. In 1997, after Batman and Robin, the last movie in the world you could get greenlit was a superhero flick. Just as any publisher in the world would have laughed you out of their office if you proposed bringing Konami's then-in-development Guitar Freaks to the West with a better set-list.

Just over a decade later, the superhero movie and game music genres are so overburdened they are bubbles waiting to burst once again. Rinse and repeat.

It's this cycle of binge and purge that leads to us rebooting things like Medal of Honor, the 3D Prince of Persia, and other series barely old enough to shave. Because there's nothing more risk-free, more safe, than an idea that has already worked, just "re-imagined" (and yes, thanks Hollywood, I really needed a reboot of Spiderman. When's the Avatar reboot happening?)

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