Going Gold: Reboots and Rip-offs

Going Gold: Reboots and Rip-offs

When games can recreate just about anything, why do we still end up with too many games in too few genres?

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Wow. I read this...and it was an extermely intelligent analysis of the problem in games today. I have been feeling the same damn frustration. Thank you for writing this!

(However, I think adding more tits is a *good* thing.)

"Sadly, I see no easy way out of this. "

well one extreme way is another gaming collapse where more, smaller developers replace the publishing giants' monopoly, and games are made with more competition, originality and creativity with less risk because they wouldn't have budgets going into the millions. It'd be like the 90's developer boom before publishers and developers started buying everything up and making games for shareholders instead of gamers

Makes me wonder why the various video game publishers aren't busy sueing each other.

Darksiders is so much more, mate. Try: God of War gameplay, Devil May Cry environment, Zelda Dungeon crawls, WoW Death Knight looking main character and overall been there, done that. But for the rest, mighty fine article.

canadamus_prime:
Makes me wonder why the various video game publishers aren't busy sueing each other.

Oh, thats already started with the Fallout 3 creators...

Its just going to escalate...

Developers (at least the best ones) want to make the next Big Awesome Game, but publishers want what'll sell the most. And gamers have proven that they overwhelmingly prefer Familiar Sequel 4: More Bigger Guns, or Derivative Genre-Clone.

Why, may I ask, do you want a Jet Force Gemini sequel? It really wasn't that great of a game. It had the makings of a good game (it's controls were excellent (excellent!!!), it had good music and some interesting gameplay mechanics), but it was horribly thrashed by the tribal fetch quest, the stupid must-kill-every-bad-guy-to-open doors, a story that was a badly written rip-off of Star Trek and being just plain way too easy (stupid tribal fetch-quest notwithstanding).

That said, I think your right about most of your points, at least enough that I don't feel anything good will come out of arguing with them.
Saying that feels really weird. I think I'm going to go see a doctor just to make sure I'm not coming down with something.

I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I eventually see the independent developers instating a "Gaming Renaissance" that will change the industry and purge us of the glut of FPS games. Only to fall under the curse of thousands of independent titles.

And yes, I, too would like a JFG sequel, but with Rare now a division of Microsoft (and mostly just the skeletal remains of its glorious past self), I don't think one will ever see the light of day. Unless it's purchased by another developer, but even then, it'll be a risk.

Nurb:
"Sadly, I see no easy way out of this. "

well one extreme way is another gaming collapse where more, smaller developers replace the publishing giants' monopoly, and games are made with more competition, originality and creativity with less risk because they wouldn't have budgets going into the millions. It'd be like the 90's developer boom before publishers and developers started buying everything up and making games for shareholders instead of gamers

I kind of feel like there's potential for a less extreme version of that to happen, at least on the PC. If major publishers keep shooting themselves in the foot (I'm not specifically talking about the concept of DRM in general, which is a different debate, but more about the clusterfuck of different bizarre services required that make it frustrating to play the game or even get it running: http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/01/27/0625244 (see also: games that you buy with one account on Steam, then need to be linked to one from the publisher's service, plus GfWL, plus who knows what else)), it makes the indie stuff more appealing when it's cheaper and less of a hassle, and it's a lot easier for smaller games to get noticed these days than it used to be. Some of them do quite well, as long as they're good games, even competing with fairly major games on Steam at times. I'm kind of curious to see where that all ends up going in the next few years.

The problem is that these games are selling huge amounts. Why would Visceral take a risk when people want God of War. Why would big companies take risks when the next Final Fantasy or Modern Warfare will sell more than any new ideas, not that there are many released around here. Everything is like ________ but... Even the newer, interesting ideas are, Mirror's Edge - Like Sands of Time but in first person and with guns. Even Okami for all it's originality was described as like Zelda but... it's inescapable if you want to make money and the original ideas either don't sell well, Katamari/Okami? Or do sell well and get a slew of sequels that aren't needed and are very similar to the last game, Metal Gear/Devil May Cry?

As much as it pains me though, as high up on my list of games I must get Heavy Rain and Last Guardian are, I'll be buying Final Fantasy XIII or Metroid Other M with much more excitement and I won't be the only one.
The only way I can see of fixing this is to ban sequels for a while and force publishers and developers to do something new and then we'll see what games are the best, get into different genres and best of all fanboyism will be gone

Nalgas D. Lemur:
[snip] it makes the indie stuff more appealing when it's cheaper and less of a hassle, and it's a lot easier for smaller games to get noticed these days than it used to be. Some of them do quite well, as long as they're good games, even competing with fairly major games on Steam at times. I'm kind of curious to see where that all ends up going in the next few years.

I commented just now on another article something to that effect. But even if my predictions don't turn out to be true, a series of bad decision will eventually cause some kind of renewal on the industry, which will of course be replaced by another set of false beliefs eventually.

Still, I want more 3D platformers.

This article should be carved into stone and preserved for all time.

Also, where the hell IS the Jet Force Gemini sequel? That game was amazing.

I have to agree with everything you say. I also have to agree with Nalgas, though I'm far from convinced we will be happy with were it leads.

As far as the indie scene goes, I suspect that we will see it more or less drown in the thousands of titles on consoles; well more accurately, thousands of titles with no marketing or visibility, theres just no real business reason for anyone to support indie more than Microsoft already does as long as the major publishers keep supporting the platforms.

PC will be a different story, and I suspect mainstream publishers will withdraw from the platform almost completely. Frankly we've reached the point of major releases on PC being in a vicious circle of buggy ports, deep distrust of the customer, unusable DRM and declining sales because of all three. Whether the excuse will be piracy or just plain sales I can't say, but in either case the real reason is that the market has shifted away from PC, and niche titles don't please shareholders. I don't see many publishers sticking around all that much longer actually. Retail PC sales seem pretty much dead already; here in Toronto (hardly a secondary market, even by global, let alone Canadian, standards) no one really has more than a single rack of PC games, mostly older and nearly all discounted.

Hell, mainstream RTS' (already one of, if not THE, last great bastion of mainstream PC gaming) are trying the consoles again, and with HDTV the only thing holding them back is the controller. Most consoles already support keyboards, it not be that much of a leap to an RTS, maybe even an FPS (though, as in other areas, the mainstream market doesn't seem to mind console limitations here) marketing itself as mouse based. Something like Phantom's lapboard could be done by a major company easily enough, Logitech could have a design ready in seconds I'm sure.

In any case, this does open up Indie even more, the question being how the PC industry as a whole keeps people's attention when it is a heavily fragmented market dependent on digital sales and up against the wall of mega marketing and retail sales of consoles. Certainly good news for small devs trying to do rather simple and experimental titles, but is there going to be room for anything with more complexity than 3 or 4 people can produce?

All that said, I wonder if perhaps the long term future of the PC as a whole is the bigger question. Gaming does seems to have mostly switched to consoles for good, and with the growing acceptance of cloud computing I wonder if open (non locked down iPhone/Chrome OS/consoleesque platforms) have much time left in the mainstream? Most people really don't seem to care if the reception to console gaming, the iPhone and iPad hype are any gauge...

Surely desktop computing won't die of completely, but I do sometimes wonder if it's future may lie only in the hobbyist, graphics and HEAVILY security conscious markets that will never, under any circumstance, be happy with cloud based services? Perhaps there will be an age of Linux on the desktop, but brought on by the abandonment of commercial consumer desktop computing. In my more frustrated moments I can almost see it, Windows aimed squarely at software and graphics development with a price to match, consumer grade graphics tools in the cloud and security conscious work going towards various Unix derivatives...

I think the closest counterpart to this particular mental illness in game dev is the Hollywood foreign movie pipeline that takes first-class foreign films and makes uniformly crappy copies whose only driving purpose is substitution of actors of the "wrong" race with ones of the "right" race. (Real classy!)

In games we have 1942, Rocket Knight, etc. Incidentally, most of the games getting "the treatment" are Japanese, and the studios fucking them up are Western. Whenever the "reimagined" game is not terrible, the team has been on a tight leash and/or has actually incorporated Japanese developers. Coincidence?

On the Western front the most obnoxious "reimaginings" are consolizations of PC games and game series. Deus Ex, Aliens vs Predator (WTF is up with not calling it "3"? Would it confuse the peabrains of the new target market?), you name it.

Okay
A)developers do NOT produce games. CEO's and Corporate boards produce games. The fact of the matter is that people with an MBA in general business and no more experience in games than the average member of Congress give the thumb up or down gesture via the budget. The developers may know better but the heads of the company sign the checks and no one is going to put millions of dollars into a project unless its a sure deal.

B)no 2D games? Have you been to a site called Newgrounds?! 2D games are not hard to find nor hard to create with a few software programs.

C)Saying that any new 2D game can repeat similar performance to something as iconic as the Mario Brothers is pure BS. Can these sales not be attributed to loyalty? Can the super mario brothers not be the 'Metalica' of video games? The ones who put out that great material before we were born and maybe, just maybe they'll do it again?

Also, if memory serves St. Anger was Metallica's best selling album proving without a doubt that large sales =/= high quality.

This is the same BS you hear about music so let me simplify it

Video Gamming is much different than the Video Gamming Industry

Video Gamming wants new and interesting games...
the Video Gamming Industry wants $$$$$$...
The Video Gamming Industry actually pays a salary...

If you want a "new" videogame then send a few million dollars to the company of your choice to do so. Otherwise accept that the sky is blue the grass is green and companies want *gasp* profit.

Bureaucromancer:
I have to agree with everything you say. I also have to agree with Nalgas, though I'm far from convinced we will be happy with were it leads.

As far as the indie scene goes, I suspect that we will see it more or less drown in the thousands of titles on consoles; well more accurately, thousands of titles with no marketing or visibility, theres just no real business reason for anyone to support indie more than Microsoft already does as long as the major publishers keep supporting the platforms.

PC will be a different story, and I suspect mainstream publishers will withdraw from the platform almost completely. Frankly we've reached the point of major releases on PC being in a vicious circle of buggy ports, deep distrust of the customer, unusable DRM and declining sales because of all three. Whether the excuse will be piracy or just plain sales I can't say, but in either case the real reason is that the market has shifted away from PC, and niche titles don't please shareholders. I don't see many publishers sticking around all that much longer actually. Retail PC sales seem pretty much dead already; here in Toronto (hardly a secondary market, even by global, let alone Canadian, standards) no one really has more than a single rack of PC games, mostly older and nearly all discounted.

Hell, mainstream RTS' (already one of, if not THE, last great bastion of mainstream PC gaming) are trying the consoles again, and with HDTV the only thing holding them back is the controller. Most consoles already support keyboards, it not be that much of a leap to an RTS, maybe even an FPS (though, as in other areas, the mainstream market doesn't seem to mind console limitations here) marketing itself as mouse based. Something like Phantom's lapboard could be done by a major company easily enough, Logitech could have a design ready in seconds I'm sure.

In any case, this does open up Indie even more, the question being how the PC industry as a whole keeps people's attention when it is a heavily fragmented market dependent on digital sales and up against the wall of mega marketing and retail sales of consoles. Certainly good news for small devs trying to do rather simple and experimental titles, but is there going to be room for anything with more complexity than 3 or 4 people can produce?

All that said, I wonder if perhaps the long term future of the PC as a whole is the bigger question. Gaming does seems to have mostly switched to consoles for good, and with the growing acceptance of cloud computing I wonder if open (non locked down iPhone/Chrome OS/consoleesque platforms) have much time left in the mainstream? Most people really don't seem to care if the reception to console gaming, the iPhone and iPad hype are any gauge...

Surely desktop computing won't die of completely, but I do sometimes wonder if it's future may lie only in the hobbyist, graphics and HEAVILY security conscious markets that will never, under any circumstance, be happy with cloud based services? Perhaps there will be an age of Linux on the desktop, but brought on by the abandonment of commercial consumer desktop computing. In my more frustrated moments I can almost see it, Windows aimed squarely at software and graphics development with a price to match, consumer grade graphics tools in the cloud and security conscious work going towards various Unix derivatives...

Fellow Canadian here as well, and I can confirm that brick and mortar stores are carrying less and less PC games. But digital sales are actually through the damn roof. In fact, it's estimated that 47% of PC games are now digitally distributed ( http://kotaku.com/5142538/survey-47-of-pc-game-purchases-are-digital ). I've seen several statistics which show how the PC is declining in sales, but all of these go off NPD datasets which don't include digital sales, nor do they include subscription based games like WoW. Sales haven't dropped, they've migrated.

Actually, Wow is a great example of how lots of statistics like this( http://ppmartin.wordpress.com/2008/05/14/pc-gaming-loosing-ground-to-console-gaming/ ) are just wrong. Remember, ten million subscribers, 15 dollars a month = $1,800,000,000 (1.8 billion) dollars a year. However, they have a 25% operating cost, so the estimated REVENUE from WoW alone is 1,350,000,000. If these are to be believed, Blizzard is making almost as much as the entire PC gaming industry did in 1998 each year.

For some reason, Valve hasn't released fiscal details to steam, and I wish they would because they are probably making a ludicrous amount of money. I'm relatively sure the "death of the pc" is as much as a myth as it's always been. It's not dead, it's just living life differently.

An especially good one, Mr. Ward.

Jaredin:

canadamus_prime:
Makes me wonder why the various video game publishers aren't busy sueing each other.

Oh, thats already started with the Fallout 3 creators...

Its just going to escalate...

Yes I know about that one, but that's not what I meant. I was making reference to frivolous plagiarism lawsuits like the one made against Dan Brown over the DaVinci Code.

tux789:
B)no 2D games? Have you been to a site called Newgrounds?! 2D games are not hard to find nor hard to create with a few software programs.

The amateur crap that NG is filled to the brim with has nothing to do with serious titles. Not in quality. Not in scope.

C)Saying that any new 2D game can repeat similar performance to something as iconic as the Mario Brothers is pure BS. Can these sales not be attributed to loyalty? Can the super mario brothers not be the 'Metalica' of video games? The ones who put out that great material before we were born and maybe, just maybe they'll do it again?

Can the Flying Spaghetti Monster be the reason for Metallica's success? Sure it can! What does this have to do with anything? Nothing!

There are practically no platformers (sans shooting) which compare to 2D Marios in design fundamentals, control, polish, art direction. They have earned loyalty, like every good product.

And yes, a franchise to match Mario can definitely be created. It "just" needs games that are as good as Marios, and then a decade or so of additional releases without once releasing a real lemon.

Video Gamming is much different than the Video Gamming Industry

Video Gamming wants new and interesting games...
the Video Gamming Industry wants $$$$$$...
The Video Gamming Industry actually pays a salary...

If you want a "new" videogame then send a few million dollars to the company of your choice to do so. Otherwise accept that the sky is blue the grass is green and companies want *gasp* profit.

What is "Video Gamming" and how does it "want" things?

What you say is quite true, and i must ask - Double Yoo Tee Ef, mate? I mean, it's surely easier to make what's popular than to take chances, but everything has it's reasonable limits! Why not try some new art-direction or use not-too-popular genre for once? Or maybe, if you are intent on creating a game loaded with various cliches, at least refine the formulas and polish them for a bit?

The Random One:
Still, I want more 3D platformers.

Don't get me started on this one.

Jet Force Gemini!

NSMB:W sold 10 million because of the name. If it were called something else it would have sold about 3 copies. To make anything on a 2d platformer these days you need to go back in time and rescue the videogame industry with one, or build up a fan base over a period of decades back in the day they were still popular.

Rack:
NSMB:W sold 10 million because of the name. If it were called something else it would have sold about 3 copies. To make anything on a 2d platformer these days you need to go back in time and rescue the videogame industry with one, or build up a fan base over a period of decades back in the day they were still popular.

People still had to know the game existed, and Nintendo games are still the only Wii titles I ever see commercials for on any channel possible. I was surprised to see The Conduit advertised, and some of my cousins even got the game and liked it. I wasn't a fan, but that's not the point. I've never heard my cousins talk about MadWorld because it didn't have the same level of advertising, nor did a game like No More Heroes.

Christian Ward:
Of course, even if you have manage to overcome your own constraints to create your brilliant game concept, and somehow are lucky enough to have a brilliant team of talented individuals behind you that understand and love that concept, you still have to pry those millions from a publisher's wallet.

Add in the aforementioned marketing issue. I think you brought it up yourself in a past column when EA complained about Dead Space: Extraction not selling (let's also note that it continues to sell on the Wii, as does MadWorld, just not a huge amount of day one sales). Yes the game is released, and yeah it was good, but how many people knew it even existed? Where was the advertising for it? I've seen Bayonetta advertised on TNT, a channel viewed by nothing but old people (and my family for Bones reruns) but have never seen Dead Space: Extraction even on a channel like SyFy.

I think an interesting analysis can be made between the success of Modern Warfare 2 and Avatar, where people were seeing the film and buying the game based on hype alone. Of course, was Avatar really that great a film? I honestly feel Watchmen and District 9 both artistically and even in trying to convey a serious message, but that doesn't matter. Both Watchmen and District 9 were hyped like any other film, but they then had maybe an added week's worth of commercials before being forgotten for the next box office release. Avatar, on the other hand, was not only hyped before hand, but STILL sees commercials and other postings in the news, just as Modern Warfare was seeing ads and plenty of editorials and news postings long after it's launch.

The only time you can get that sort of publicity without paying for it in the games industry is if you release at a relatively empty period of time like Dead Rising had or inFamous and Batman did. Otherwise you get what I witnessed on my Xbox Live friends list. One week everyone's playing Halo 3: ODST, the next everyone's playing Borderlands (and the week after that everyone is trading Borderlands in).

there is only one way to end the mass of reboots and ripoffs, people stop buying them. I dont see that happining

This is precisely why I am sticking with publishers that put out unique experiences. If I want to play something that is "like this" or "like that" then I will just play the game it was ripping off, because chances are, the original is better anyway. Great read.

 

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