stop making single-player studios make looter shooters, Destiny 2 and Borderlands are already better, mistakes include BioWare and Anthem and Arkane Studios and Redfall

Stop Making Looter Shooters

In 2012, Borderlands 2 solidified the looter shooter as a subgenre, vastly outselling the original. In interviews, the game’s developers described their vision of the game as a hobby — something you could essentially play forever.

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Two years later, Destiny was released, and all of a sudden everyone thought they could make their own Destiny and rake in millions of dollars.

BioWare, a studio known for making single-player story-focused RPGs, somehow ended up making a co-op looter shooter heavily inspired by Destiny, and it was a notorious flop. Anthem had severe development issues, but it also just wasn’t the developer’s specialty. BioWare never should have been chasing the market of looter shooters because it isn’t that kind of studio.

It’s hard to tell whether BioWare organically decided to make a game with almost no story and gameplay that wasn’t its forte, or there was pressure from EA to make something profitable over the long term — a game that could be played forever and monetized forever.

stop making single-player studios make looter shooters, Destiny 2 and Borderlands are already better, mistakes include BioWare and Anthem and Arkane Studios and Redfall

It’s hard not to draw parallels between Anthem and Redfall, given that you can swap out the nouns in my previous paragraphs and it would all still be accurate.

Arkane Studios, like BioWare, is known for making single-player games that most players won’t replay or even complete. There’s no way to heavily monetize that. On the other hand, if it were to make a looter shooter, its earning potential could be higher, which Bethesda and Microsoft might want.

On the surface, Arkane Studios seems to be a better fit for a looter shooter than BioWare. It makes first-person games with guns, and that’s closer than making RPGs. But endlessly replayable games are different from the carefully crafted single-player experiences Arkane is known for. Since Dishonored began development around 2009, Arkane has made immersive sims, games where each system is carefully designed to interact with the others. Each system on its own might not be the best, but combined, they’re a mix you can’t find anywhere else.

Looter shooters focus on making a narrow set of mechanics very satisfying and setting up loops that keep players invested. It has to be fun to shoot, be fun to pick up new guns, provide reasons to always want new guns, and offer missions in which you want to use those guns. This just isn’t that similar to an immersive sim, and the game’s reviews would seem to indicate that the end result isn’t what you’d hope for.

stop making single-player studios make looter shooters, Destiny 2 and Borderlands are already better, mistakes include BioWare and Anthem and Arkane Studios and Redfall

When you’re designing a game for a tight, enjoyable experience, you can just try to make it fun. But when you’re designing a game to be played forever, you can’t maintain the same level of polish and quality. This is part of why games like Anthem feel so thin. They couldn’t give you all the fun stuff at once, because then there’d be nothing to drip-feed out to keep you playing. Games like Mass Effect and Dishonored don’t have this problem because they’re just trying to give you a good feeling of progression, rather than dragging out the amount of time you spend playing.

Even leaving aside this difference, there’s a bigger question here: Why make this kind of game at all?

If players want to play first-person shooters, there are dozens of options, and if they want to play looter shooters in particular, they’re probably already playing Destiny 2. This is a crowded subgenre now. You now have to compete for people’s time with Destiny and Borderlands, which means making a game at least that good and offering something unique that players of the genre actually want.

After World of Warcraft got popular, dozens of MMOs wanted its success and tried to recreate its formula. Almost all of them were massive failures because people already had WoW. Nobody needs another Destiny; Destiny already exists.

stop making single-player studios make looter shooters, Destiny 2 and Borderlands are already better, mistakes include BioWare and Anthem and Arkane Studios and Redfall

A lot of love and care went into both Anthem and Redfall. Designers and artists and programmers all tried to make good games. But their efforts were fundamentally pointed in the wrong direction.

Studios that are good at making single-player games should be allowed to make them. It’s a huge shame to see studios like BioWare and Arkane not making their unique flavor of games, because there aren’t a lot of other studios like them. If you want looter shooters, you can play any number of games, but if you want a AAA immersive sim, Arkane is your best bet.

Publishers need to learn that chasing the looter shooter market is a losing game. Studios should be allowed to make things that are weird and different, because those things don’t already exist and aren’t competing for players that are busy playing something very similar.

If anyone is going to make a looter shooter, they have to try a fundamentally different take on the genre, but even then, I’m skeptical that a big-budget AAA contender can succeed. We have enough looter shooters, and we need to stop making them.


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Author
Elise Avery
Elise Avery is a freelance video editor and writer who has written for The Escapist for the last year and a half. She has written for PCGamesN and regularly reviews games for The Escapist's YouTube channel. Her writing focuses on indie games and game design, as well as coverage of Nintendo titles.