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

Trials Evolution

Mortal Kombat

Diablo III

Sound Shapes

Darksiders II

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Mark of the Ninja


WWE 13

Need for Speed Most Wanted


Jak and Daxter Collection

Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai


Max Payne 3

Orcs Must Die 2

Ratchet & Clank Collection

Torchlight II

Halo 4


Xenoblade Chronicles

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Enhanced Edition

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Assassin's Creed III


Borderlands 2

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 video game.

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.

Minecraft 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

Borderlands 2

Halo: Reach

Battlefield 3

Modern Warfare 2

Madden NFL 13

NBA 2K13

Happy Wars


Gears of War 3

Resident Evil 6



Forza Motorsport 4


EA Sports NHL13

Halo 3

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 too hard?

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 about it?

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 backlog.

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 else.

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 the Year?

Could an independent title get it?

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.