The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
With the recent release of Halo 4 which earned a respectable
score of 9.25 from Game Informer, we're closing in on the last couple of big
name titles left before year's end and everybody starts making their Game of
the Year predictions. If my homework is accurate, there has only been one game
to earn a perfect score of 10 and that's Mass Effect 3.
Games that have scored
a 9.0 or better include the following:
Resident Evil: Revelations
Angry Birds Space
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Mark of the Ninja
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Jak and Daxter Collection
Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the
Max Payne 3
Orcs Must Die 2
Ratchet & Clank Collection
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
- Enhanced Edition
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Assassin's Creed III
You might notice that quite a few
of these high scorers are small and short games from independent developers that
many gamers don't even really consider "games" as much as they do "experiences"
- or they are non-traditional games developed and produced by smaller companies.
Looking at the list...hmm...let's see...
Journey, Angry Birds Space, Trials
Evolution, Sound Shapes, Mark of the Ninja, Gateways & Fez
All very popular...but not your traditional
So that's 26 games scoring a 9.0
or higher (27 if you include Mass Effect 3 and its score of 10) and 7 that are
the cute artsy fartsy independent titles OR small short non-traditional games not
produced by a big name developer. What is that, like ¼ or 25% of the games to
get a 9.0 are these sorts of games? Oh, and if you're wondering...The Unfinished
Swan was not included on the list because it only scored an 8.0...although it
definitely has quite a few gamers bragging about its unique and artistic
gameplay and look. I can't wait to see how well Star Wars Angry Birds sells. I
normally just download the various demo versions of Angry Birds, but I think I'll
have to buy it this time around. I mean, its Star Wars after all.
Okay, so hold that thought and
fast forward to the recent announcement that Minecraft did what no other game seemed
to be able to do and that's unseat Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 as the most
played title on Xbox Live.
Knocks Out Call Of Duty On Xbox Live
Let's think about that for a
minute. Minecraft. The most played game on Xbox Live. Here you have big name
games, some new and some old, and Minecraft is being played more than them.
According to the story above, here is how the activity breaks out.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Modern Warfare 2
Madden NFL 13
Gears of War 3
Resident Evil 6
Forza Motorsport 4
EA Sports NHL13
Minecraft? Over Borderlands 2,
Gears of War 3...DISHONORED? Admittedly, I have contributed to this statistic heh
heh. I love my Minecraft. But I am still surprised by it. Remind me again, isn't
this the game that some guy created and sold access to the alpha for dirt cheap
and it spread like wildfire and now he is a millionaire? Then he and a partner
created this company called Mojang, got the game cleared for Xbox Live Arcade,
and now he is a millionaire times two or three over?
(It will be interesting to see if
Halo 4 bumps it off the top or not)
Okay, so let me reel this back in
a bit...here we have about ¼ of the top rated games from Game Informer coming
from independent developers or are not your traditional big budgeted major
developer/publisher type games; and we have a game like Minecraft...taking the
lead on the Xbox Live Arcade charts...
I have to ask...
Is the video game industry trying
Let me clarify that a bit or at
least narrow it down a bit...are the big developers and publishers trying too
hard spending lots of time and energy creating games that by most accounts
should blow away the cheaper, shorter, smaller games but aren't.
Sure, the bulk of the games on
the list are big name titles...games like Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3 and
Assassin's Creed III and there is no denying their success. But for every one
of them, there are other big name games that bombed...like Medal of Honor
Warfighter (more on that in a future blog), Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Spec
Ops The Line, Madden NFL 13, The Old Republic (although it was released the
tail end of 2011), Sleeping Dogs and who could forget Kinect Star Wars. And by
bombed, I don't necessarily mean financially...I more referring to gamer interest
and game longevity - do gamers like it, are they still playing it and talking
Fez = 9.25 out of 10 versus Medal of Honor Warfighter = 5 out of 10.
Why do I say I think they are
trying too hard?
For one, this push for yearly
releases (or at least frequent releases) strains the industry and burns gamers
out at a higher and faster rate. I have no doubt Black Ops II will be highly
profitable and sell well, but I also know more and more gamers who are talking
about skipping this round of the series while others have mentioned boycotting
the franchise all together. Maybe it's just me, but it also seems like the
fanboyism hasn't been nearly as pervasive this go around. Not that I'm
complaining. Do publishers think they are giving us what we want with yearly
releases? I don't know about you but I could stand a year off to catch up on my
The other issue I don't think
helps is this attitude that more money means a game is going to be more fun.
Developers are spending more and more money creating video games but this doesn't
necessarily translate to a more successful game. It does mean a publisher has
to sell more and make more to break even and hopefully make a profit. It doesn't
always happen. Equally important, gamers aren't necessarily looking for a more
advanced, complex and longer game. Looking at the games on the above list and
how they were scored seems to support the opposite, at least in some instances.
I also think the longevity or
lifespan of most video games is shrinking. We're not playing these big fancy
(and lengthy) video games as long. We get them and we start them but some of us
never finish them. I don't know if the same can be said of the shorter games.
Seems like the shorter the game the more people tend to finish them and the
more memorable the experience. I've blogged about this before but it has to be
so frustrating for developers to exhaust as much money and manpower as they do
only to have gamers blow through the game in a course of a weekend, or worse...play
it for the course of a weekend, never finish it and then move on to something
Finally, the bigger the team, the
harder they fall. A part of me thinks it would be awesome to work for a
developer and/or publisher. And it probably is, but when you look at the turnover
rate you have to wonder if job security ever becomes an issue. Look at the
names just this year that have left their companies and ventured out pursuing
other interests. I think the latest is Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War fame.
No telling what he's working on now, heh heh... Robert Bowling left Infinity Ward
to create a small independent video game developer. Both worked for big name
and highly successful companies and both left to pursue other interests. We know
what Robert Bowling is working on. And the thing is these smaller developers producing
smaller games seem to be successful at what they're doing.
Well, I've only scratched the
surface of an intricate topic, but this is long enough and I want to leave you
with a few points to ponder.
Could Mass Effect 3, a game that
caused so much hate and dissension with its controversial ending win Game of
Could an independent title get
I don't know about you, but some
of my favorite games of the year (and even previous years) aren't the big name
blockbuster hits like you might think, and honestly...that kind of surprises me.
Having an attraction to smaller lightweight independent titles that are
offering a far more enjoyable gaming experience seem to have captured my attention
for the year. And they're so good, I'm okay with that.
This is because big name developers can't risk anything when developing games, while an indie developer can try to do something different and not lose much. Also when there's a big team they all can't make the game what they want, and end up not caring about the game, and just focusing in money.
I think that its an extremely vicious cycle. Developer X spends Y amount of money to make a game, and makes Z amounts of money. Well, Developer A wants to create a game that makes more than Z amounts, so they assume they have to spend greater than Y in order to do it. The question is, when will Y become so large that a developer or producer can no longer make enough profit to cover overhead? Some games (*cough*Warfighter*cough*) have already reached that threshold on what consumers will spend on them. Who knows when CoD or Battlefield will get there.
Also, I'm still hoping FTL gets honorable mention.
ME3 isn't my GOTY pick, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did manage to nab that title off of the controversy alone.
I dunno, I'm really liking my time with Borderlands 2, but I am also liking the Walking Dead.
It's not a matter of trying too hard, the big name publishers are just looking to capitalize on brand recognition and loyalty.
so you have your two basic audiences; the gamer population and the general population (in which people don't play as much or as wide of an array of titles).
so now that we are getting closer to next gen there is only so much variation out there, thus the only big name publishers making money are those who have been at it for years and their brand gets all the recognition (reason why COD still tops sales charts but not play time...even if a lot of their games made that list and games that no longer have such recognition - warfighter, etc don't get great sales).
now with brand recognition, and yearly titles the burnout will come...however, this burnout only affects the gamer population, not the general population that games every so often.
but this lets indies shine thru with the gaming population...and allows games like Bastion some time in the limelight...and it also allows Minecraft (along with some ingenious approaches to advertising) to become mainstream.
as a last note, Minecraft perhaps is the best example. Mojang's game tops the time played list when compared to COD is because by majority COD is played in spurs...only so many people can play COD with no end whereas Minecraft players (myself included) can play this game for days and days and days....and days and days.
Even though I do enjoy many big name games, my game of the year was not even mentioned by Game Informer since it's a very niche JRPG. I love Mass Effect 3, The Witcher 2, Assassin's creed III, and Resident Evil 6, to name just a few that came out this year.
But my absolute favorite game that came out this year and is my game of the year is Atelier Meruru: Apprentice of Arland. I love this game. I love using alchemy to better develop Meruru's tiny kingdom. The art style is great. And of course, dual audio!
Ok, I don't think developers are trying too hard, I just think they see one game succeeding, so they try to copy that one game.
In my opinion trying too hard is a result of a lack of creativity.
To directly answer your query, no, the video game industry isn't trying too hard in my opinion. There is a place for big-budget games, just like the movie industry has their summer 3D action blockbusters.
If anything, I think that the recent surge of successful indie titles is a testament to the wide and varied interests of gamers, and that there is still a market for new ideas. I personally think that Indie developers are going to be the ones who end up saving the industry from certain death. Video games have been needing a breath of fresh air, and now we're getting it.
I do tend to pick the big budget games when it comes to GOTY selection, but I have been very impressed with several downloadable titles, some of which I'd easily give a 10, even in retrospect. Especially since I recently watched Indie Game: The Movie, I've been thinking about indie games a lot lately & how much I enjoy them.
My GOTY so far would have to be BL2 so far, but I'm not even a quarter of the way though AC3 yet.
I tend to love both indie and big budget games, and it is interesting seeing how the scoring system and purchases are towards indie and AAA titles.
My question for you. Do you think a game could win game of the year two years in a row? Think about it, if a game releases 2 awesome expansions or dlc and updates the game with several new features and bug fixes while the rest of the games that come out lack any game of the year material, the. A previous winner should be considered. Just a thought.