Follow football? Then you’ll know how boring the Scottish Premier League is, with only Celtic and Rangers realistically contesting the title every year. The same two-horse race happened this year in Spain with only Barcelona and Real Madrid in the running. Remember how dull and predictable the Premier League used to be with only Manchester United and Arsenal challenging at the top?
Well, after an uninspiring E3 and a look at release dates for the rest of the gaming year, I can only conclude that the same is happening to the games industry. Instead of United and Arsenal, substitute that for Sony and Microsoft. EA and Activision. With the casual market now tapped and higher sources of revenue floating about publishing houses, the best are only getting better, which is creating a ‘two-tier league’ and alienating the gaming public.
The proof is in the pudding
Want some examples to back this up? OK, let’s look at some of the lazily announced first party announcements. From Nintendo, more of the same-old. Zelda, Mario Kart, a rehash of Star Fox 64, another new Kirby. Microsoft – more Gears of War and, wow, another Halo. Sony – more Resistance, Uncharted and God of War remakes. While all strong, well-known titles that will undoubtedly sell well, we’ve been here so many times before. While Nintendo showed off new hardware and claimed they “had been listening”, mature gamers around the world where sighing at being spoon fed yet another Mario title. We love Mario, by the way. The beef we have was with the predictability of the whole presentation…
The money’s there, so where were the surprises to really shock gamers and lift them out of their seats? Where was the experimentation? We usually look towards the likes of Konami and Capcom, but the troubles in the Far East seem to be affecting developers and turning them into the Stokes and Wigans of the gaming Premier League. Konami’s showing was pretty standard, with the annual Pro Evo still effectively playing catch up to Fifa. And while a Silent Hill HD package is nothing to be sniffed at, it’s still a remake. It’s interesting to see the fans clamouring for that though instead of the latest in the entry, Downpour.
Capcom announced another Devil May Cry and more Resident Evil – we were beginning to see a theme here… The biggest crowds were drawn to more sequels in Modern Warfare and Battlefield which are real money-spinners and can afford to have a lot of time spent on their development (despite the behind-the-scenes problems at Activision). So, while those developers concentrate on their core titles, the gap grows ever larger between quality and imagination.
With titles like Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops breaking records and amassing Hollywood-sized revenue figures, developers are more inclined to keep it going and turn a massive profit. Hey, it’s a business at the end of the day. So while they – understandably – concentrate on these titles then innovation will have to take a back seat. Sorry gamers, but hey, you can always look forward to next year’s update in the ‘franchise’.
Which is where the problem lies. Franchise is such an ugly word. This E3 has shown very little in the way of innovation and that the trend will only continue while the public are willing to buy into it. But with the likes of Call of Duty earning record numbers, why would developers want to deviate course? It’s up to the likes of indie developers and games such as Minecraft to now lead the way in terms of innovation and creativity, until they get snapped up by a big name. Mojang and Microsoft, anyone? Manchester United and Wayne Rooney, anyone?…