If there’s one thing I’ve heard consistently from successful game developers, it’s that the hardcore fans who complain the most loudly on the Internet are not representative of everyone, and listening to them is no substitute for observing how your customers actually behave.
I think a serious flaw in analyzing the game market is removing previous games from the equation. During the N64 and Gamecube Era, Nintendo acted like all the games that made them so popular during the NES, SNES, Gameboy, etc. no longer existed. 2d Mario no longer existed. Mario was Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine. I could say, “I liked Mario but not THAT Mario.” Nintendo never differentiated 2d Mario and 3d Mario until just a few years ago.
I look at the entire universe of games… as best I can. What I find very telling is when the Game Industry says, “This is the spiritual sequel to X…” yet people are still playing X and willing to spend money on X. Yet, they aren’t really that interested in the spiritual sequel. Did Super Mario 64 cause us to stop playing Super Mario World or 3? No. But did Super Mario World or 3 cause us to stop playing the original Super Mario Brothers. Pretty much, yes.
People still are playing System Shock 2 and want to buy the game. This tells me that Bioshock was no true successor to System Shock.
The best reason why certain old games keep being played is because they haven’t been bested. When a gamer wants the best game of that experience, he or she buys that old game instead of the ‘successors’.
As unhappy as I am to say this, the modern Mario Karts did make Super Mario Kart irrelevant. People buy the new Mario Kart and don’t really play the old one. Although, I think there is some movement currently with the older games for the battle mode which is lacking in Mario Kart Wii. That tells us what improvement the game needs.
If people keep playing an old game, keep getting excited about an old game, then there is something in it that keeps people coming back. And there is something missing in modern games which prevents these people from buying the new games.
I spent fifteen years not buying any consoles post-SNES because no one wanted to offer me a consistent quality of gaming experience which is why I played console games. They kept doing all this voodoo 3d stuff, and they did it poorly (as evident by how badly those 3d games age). So when the DS dropped trying to be a portable N64 and became a SNES renaissance, it attracted players like myself.
I believe the behavior of people playing old games gives hints as to future trends. This is also why I want old games to always be available to the market. This wasn’t possible before due to retail shelf space being limited. However, due to the infinite digital shelf, every game can remain on the shelf. I want every single game to compete against Super Mario Brothers 3 and Link to the Past.
I believe the standards of gaming quality are in serious decline (thanks largely due to the industrialization of the game market, i.e. the Game Industry). This declining game quality is what is reducing interest in gaming.
I demand gaming quality to remain constant or improve. I’m tired of the crap being sold to us for ridiculous prices.
Many people say, “Those old games really aren’t that good. Go and play them. Yech. Oh my goodness….” But those games they are pointing at were ancestors to our current Game Industry model. One example of the bad old games are games that tried to focus more on graphics than gameplay. Since graphics keep improving, those ‘good graphics’ are now bad graphics with nothing else in the game to make it interesting. So it is trash.
There is no such thing as genres. There are only great games. When a great game appears, others clone it and copy it trying to duplicate its sales success. All this copycatting is referred to as a ‘genre’. But if we remove ‘genre’ and just look at the games, we can see that the definition of gaming is defined by only 5% of games and everything else becomes trash. Probably around 50% of the trash was seen as ‘good’ when it was current but that is because of much money in it, big marketing campaigns, good production effects, yet it ages like milk.
The games that define what gaming is are getting fewer and fewer each year. Over the last ten years, there are only three games I could say added on to the definition of what a video game is. They would be Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Minecraft. What those games were doing I’ve never seen anything like them. Their existence made me redefine what gaming was and what it could do. If you go back ten years earlier, the number grows much larger such as Ultima Online (and the MMOs that followed), Grand Theft Auto, Street Fighter 2/ Mortal Kombat, maybe Ocarina of Time, maybe Mario 64, Animal Crossing, Dune 2, Ultima 7, Ultima Underworld, Descent, Doom and so many other games I cannot remember. Go back another ten years and the number is even larger. The number is getting smaller not because I am becoming older and bitter or anything like that. It is because the magic of gaming is fading. I believe the reason why is because of the Game Industry which is more about industry than about gaming and because of the collapse of quality game designers. (How do you know what a good game designer is? it’s not like measuring a programmer or artist. For some reason, game designers lately think they are novelists and want to tell ‘stories’ of ‘characters’.) So you keep seeing me attack the Game Industry and the ‘creative’/'loft’ attitudes of game developers. I love AMBITION for a new video game being made. But the ambition needs to be about the GAMING, not about the STORY, not about the ENGINE, not about all the stuff you THINK is important (referring to the game developer reading, not the emailer or reader).
Metroid: Other M is such a gift because it is so illustrative of the problem. How did we get to this point? Other M is an extreme example (which is why I like to reference it often since it is clear), but it is very common. With the new Starcraft 2 expansion coming out, I want the game to be about empires rising and falling. Instead, I bet I’ll get a character exploration of Kerrigan. But do we want that? I don’t want that.
I am hearing complaints that Resident Evil 6 has the same problems as Other M did and that the new Tomb Raider game is focusing on the ‘feelings’ and ‘characterizations’ of Lara Croft.
Why is there no passion, from game developers, about gaming? Why is all the passion in STORYTELLING? If you want to tell a story, go write a novel. But I know why they won’t do that. There is more competition in novels than there is in video games since it doesn’t require technical and computer skill to write a novel (as it does a video game which vastly limits the competitors). I accuse this generation of game developers of being unable to acknowledge their mediocrity in storytelling which is why they seem determined to ‘prove it’. With a video game, you have the advantage of visuals, music, and all that which a normal storyteller doesn’t. When I see video games being made to be about a ‘story’, I think that the story teller (the game designer or whoever) is so mediocre in his pursuit of his dream of writing novels (or whatever) that he is trying to cheat by using the video game medium for his ‘destiny to be a storyteller’.
Gaming is about games. And we have enough data out there that tells us making games that play like a Hollywood movie doesn’t work and isn’t accepted. Even the game that did introduce that style for gaming, Wing Commander, allowed for the ‘story’ to vary depending on your performance in missions.
For decades, we hear from game developers that ‘those business guys are ruining us. We developers need to be free and in charge to follow our passion.’ So now these game developers are in charge, and what are we getting? The passion we see isn’t for games or to explore what gaming can do, it is passion to make ‘stories’ and ‘characters’ like the video game medium is some creative writing/movie club.
One distinct change I remember is that game developers approached gaming more of seeing the computer as a wild bull and they as the cowboy to ride it and tame it. It was to get the computer to behave and do all these cool new things. Today, it seems like they view gaming only in the context of ‘creativity’. The great game developers of the past saw the process of taming the computer as the process of ingenuity behind the formation of the game. In other words, Mario wears overalls and a hat not because of ‘creativity’ but because the limitations of computer directed it so. The reason why I suspect we don’t see the limitations of the computer mold the games today is because no one is interested in pushing the boundaries of gaming. And as the Wii or Minecraft showed, the boundaries don’t always have to be graphics.
I feel like the Game Industry is being infested with Hollywood washouts. Gaming is better than movies. We don’t need their filth. We don’t need people in gaming who think movies (or books) are a superior medium to gaming. These people will never make the best video games because they are too worried about making the movie or novel they will never get to make.