Abyssal Pixels: We Are To Blame For The Lack Of Innovation
Ah, good old gaming franchises. The cull, but also the bread and butter of the gaming industry. When I mention franchises, I mean games that have a succession of sequels that stretch past the 3-4 number. Some fare better than others, but some gather all kinds of hate from the general gaming populace. I don’t really mind franchises all that much. When I know what I’m getting into, I can have that small level of comfort in my purchase because I know what’s going to happen. But doesn’t that hold innovation back somewhat? Games just sticking with their traditions because “if it’s not broken, why fix it”. These games still make heaps of money so publishers just push for more of the same. Why do they still make heaps of money you ask? Because we’re afraid of change.
Gamers are a fickle lot with some weird opinions. One day the majority demand innovation and the next they are up in arms because a franchise has “changed too much”. It’s sort of a lose-lose scenario for everyone because nobody knows what the bloody hell they want or are supposed to do. This is an old example, and I know I’ve beaten this horse way too many times, but DmC Devil May Cry couldn’t win either way. I distinctly remember the time DMC4 came out and people said the series was “getting stale” and “we need new life in this franchise. DmC did exactly that and it got flogged for being “too different from the originals”. Do you see what I’m getting at here? We have no idea what we want.
I have a theory for why Call of Duty has remained such a juggernaut in our industry. Its greatest criticism is also its biggest strength. “It’s just more of the same every year”. Every single year we have this quandary. It looks too much like the previous one and the games are getting stale. The rising sales figures seem to contradict that sentiment. People like what they are comfortable with. That goes for almost everything in life. There’s a reason why people would rather go to a KFC in an exotic new country they have never been to and that’s because they are familiar with it.
And the gaming industry knows that all too well. They play into this psychological flaw that we have, giving us yearly franchises and doing the same thing over and over again and ignoring the cries for something new. That’s what’s making them the most money and we can’t really stop it. It’s ingrained into the landscape of gaming already and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. What can we do about it? Nothing. No opinion piece on the internet or some sort of revolution will help. It’s just going to happen.
There’s a reason for why Ubisoft planned Watch Dogs to be a franchise even before it was ever close to finished and that’s because they know how we gamers work. New IP, aggressively market it so that sales soar, hit us with sequels. It’s a surefire hit if the new IP is solid enough. I’m not saying it’s entirely our fault, but it’s mostly our fault. Don’t be too down about it because we can’t help it. It’s just how we humans work and money seeking entities will do anything to exploit it.
But at least we still get decent offerings. Sequels aren’t entirely bad and some developers put in some real effort to refine what made their original IP great. I’m not here to preach doom and gloom all the time, I’m actually quite satisfied with what we are getting. Innovation may suffer because it’s more refinement than reinventing, but that’s just the way of things. I leave the innovation to the indies that don’t really give a flying fisherman’s basket about sequels or how they are getting the most money out of their game. We have a balance and while it’s not the optimal balance or a balance that would make everyone happy, it’s one nonetheless.
Gaming is still great, ignoring the backroom bargaining and shifty business strategies. We get to play some good games year after year (if they aren’t delayed to the next year) and I’m satisfied with that. Not entirely satisfied, but still satisfied.