It is not very uncommon to find a game that might be very similar to another. It has become even more common actually to see games that are “tributes” to others and time and again we see titles that are inspired heavily by other famous ones that came before them. Metroidvania titles, Dark Souls wannabes and all other sorts of genres that developers look at for inspiration have basically led us to the point where we have a very not-so-saturated games market. What exactly is a saturated market though?
“It’s the situation where practically every prospect already has the product (or its substitute) and, thus, it is a replacement market with only a little chance of new sales.”
You would say that the picture the games market gives is more the saturated one rather than the “not-so-saturated” one that I mentioned earlier. Well, I beg to differ in this discussion and I will try to give you some arguments as to why I have that opinion.
Creativity is a thing that we all look to improve and very much rely upon when taking a risk in creative business fields such as the gaming industry. Knowing that there is no sort of “new birth” in those fields, we come to the understanding that we need to use already known resources and values in order to achieve in making something that will get us in the market. Sounds very obscure, but think about it in a very simple way. Take the example of you being a game developer. First thing you think about is that you want to make a game. What is the next step? You think what kind of game you want to make, what you can actually make and there comes a point where you realize that you will need to check if there has been someone else that has done this before. This is for many people a step of disappointment since most of the time there is indeed someone out there who might have practiced the same or a similar idea. This is the point though where a professional doesn’t get disheartened and tries to find ways around such similarities.
Differentiating yourself has become ever so difficult in all creative business fields and even more in the games industry. Being a creative person myself (having worked in both music and games business fields) I can tell you that this is a huge struggle and that it is by far one of the biggest barriers between an artist and his success in the field. Recognition is not what we are looking at here, since that is yet another aspect that comes into play in different ways and affects other things. Even though it is hard, making the “different” though that will let you stand out in a sea full of titles that look alike, it is still a very important step in the game making process and is thus given a lot of attention by development studios. You will hear stories of how some studios spent a year just remaking the concept of a title again and again, month after month, week after week.
Let’s look at the indies industry though. Let’s take a deep, hard, look. What do you see? Well, I’ll tell you what I see.
I see an abundance of platformer titles, an abundance of JRPGs and even worse an abundance of visual novel titles. Those are all great and if anything, the vast plethora of titles in those genres only makes it a bigger challenge for new developers to create something awesome in those genres in order to stand out from the rest. However, that rarely happens anymore. The gaming business is thriving and it is as if people are kind of relying on that and resting their backs on the fact that all those gamers out there will eventually buy their game just because it is yet another “addictive” action game. There is not even a plan for keeping the player interested in the game for longer periods since some developers just know that their game will fall into the category of “collector’s games”. Game collectors are basically the new disease of our era, people that buy games only to have them in their online libraries. They might never play them and they might never even realize what the games they have are about but they most definitely will spend more money on bundles in order to have the number of games in their library rise more and more. That way they can brag around about how “awesome of a gamer” they are.
But let’s drop the collector’s disease, these people are brainless, and for all I care, victims of very successful marketing. What I want to focus on, is the abundance of the games that I mentioned earlier. It might be great to have a bunch of those at your disposal, allowing you to choose what you like every time and what appeals to you the most. For example, if you like sci-fi themes, then there will surely be something for you, most definitely more than one as well. But that is not the point here. The point is, that creativity is getting lost. There used to be a time where we said that indie was the product that was made by someone who was taking a risk. A person who decided to make his creative dream something real and then try to market it to the general public. The risk-takers, are generally gone. They are hard to find and thus hard to support. Surely the best ones stand out, but it is definitely hard to find that one title that has this entirely new kind of gameplay when all you see is platformer titles thrown in your face.
“ROGUELIKE, OPEN-WORLD ADVENTURE IN AN EPIC FANTASY LAND WITH A PLOT TWIST!”
That is basically the tagline of most games nowdays. It is as if the difference comes through the fact that a game becomes open-world or roguelike. Well first it was rogue-like and now it is open-world. Those are the words at least that studios use in order to market their game in an ever growing market full of other games that might be like theirs. Even freakin’ Zelda is open world now.
It is somewhat like the Dark Souls experience. The whole thing that came right after Dark Souls became a success. “This game is like the Dark Souls of strategy games!” and “This game is the Dark Souls of indies!” If I had a penny for every time I heard that, well…I would have a lot of pennies now. Thankfully this glorious twitter account has put everything together for us and our amusement. I don’t think I have to explain why I despise this whole “dark souls” movement yet again, do I? People like following trends because trends feed their need for recognition among their social circles. If I am playing some kind of weird game called “Space Food Truck” it is definitely not going to fire up the same kind of amazing discussion that a DarkSouls-like game would among most gaming community groups. That is because gamers are uneducated shits in most cases. I am using the word “shit” because they are basically spoiled kids who, just because some form of art was thrown in their face, they suddenly think they have the expertise and knowledge to judge and criticize any other relevant game. It’s like listening to a kid that only listens to metal talk about music in general. Get my point now?
Let’s talk about “gamers” in the next article in a couple of days though ok? I give you my promise that we shall expand on that in a different article soon…
Anyway, not to drag too long, I merely wanted to share with you my view on the whole games market situation and try to make you realize as well how the things that we think are “awesome” because the market is growing and all that shit that follows it, is just all one big marketing lie. What we have in our hands is basically a time where developers do have a chance of standing out but are instead forced to be working on the same old things just because they are either taught to do so or are made used to doing so.
What’s your opinion on the matter? Have you ever thought about the amount of games you buy? Do you see a difference in how much you indulge in games you buy now compared to the ones you bought in the past? I personally do see a difference and I try to avoid buying too many games actually so that I can make the ones that I already have and haven’t played yet, more “special”.
-Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis