Sometimes game developers decisions leave me scratching my head and wondering what in the world are these people thinking? I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but lately I’ve come to realize that most developers aren’t listening to what gamer’s actually want in a game, or even what types of games we want to play. I also realize that its hard to actually gauge what the majority wants or even who they are, the average gamer doesn’t visit gaming forums or gaming websites, and they probably don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. The flip side to that is the vocal minority that does visit those types of places and speaks their mind very clearly, but what they say seems to go unheard by the developers as a whole.
Some of the more recent issues I’ve had with developers is the Mass Effect 3 fiasco, and more recently the way they’ve toned down and changed things in the upcoming Dead Space 3 release. Dead Space is a game franchise that was built upon creating a certain atmosphere, the games sold well and were really well received, so what do we hear about Dead Space 3? We hear it needs to sell around five million units to even turn a profit, the developers are really starting to price themselves right out of the industry. So, in order to reach the five million mark, they are making the game more accessible to a wider range of gamer’s, basically they are going to dumb down the game enough to appeal to casual gamer’s.
The biggest joke of this current generation in my opinion is how fans of the Star Wars Battlefront series have been treated, I find it hard to believe that in the seven years since Battlefront 2 launched, that LucasArts can’t get a new game made. I don’t really care how much bad luck some of the studios have had, you’ve had more than enough time to produce the game. Instead of a Star Wars game that would give us lasting appeal with both an online and offline mode, we’ve gotten The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed 2. The first game was pretty good, I enjoyed it very much, but the second game should never have been made. People weren’t asking for it at all. When I hear fans talk about Star Wars games, I hear Battlefront 3, Knights Of The Old Republic 3, Republic Commando 2 and a Jedi Academy sequel. The games I listed all saw their original games sell really well, so why haven’t we seen or even heard a word on the possibility of these games? Your guess is as good as mine.
It’s admirable that some of these developers and publishers want to appeal to bigger audiences, but it should be for the right reasons, changing a franchise to attract more casual players should never be in anyone’s thought process. If you look at a game like Dragon Age 2, you’ll see a franchise that started off great, but now I’m not sure it’ll ever recover from a rushed and more casual sequel. Bioware did the same thing with Mass Effect 3, they turned what was a stellar RPG into a third person action shooter, they took away choices and actions and a lot of the choices you made in previous games had no impact whatsoever. Sure, Mass Effect 3 sold better, but the fan base was in an uproar over the latest installment, and we don’t know if that same fan base will follow the series into another game. Only time will tell.
One of the worst cases of a developer totally jumping the shark is Team Ninja and Ninja Gaiden 3, they decided to add in an unnecessary and boring online mode, they took out the ability to upgrade weapons and they added regenerating health, all in a bid to dumb down the game and attract a different set of fans. In the end, the attempt failed and the true Ninja Gaiden fans totally ignored the game and not even the more casual gamer’s were drawn into the game. You would think that a bomb like this would tech developers a lesson, but the lure of making money is sometimes too big to pull away from.
Another game that suffered and might have paid the ultimate price for trying to appeal to a more casual crowd is Resistance 2, which so obviously departed from what made the first game so amazing. Its pretty clear they went after a bit of the Call Of Duty gamer and it didn’t really pay off for them, in fact it got so bad that when Resistance 3 released, it was ignored completely. I have to say that Resistance 3 actually fixed a lot of the problems of the second game and it was a solid game, but it seems that the fans decided to jump ship. Sometimes fans are fickle and it doesn’t take much for them to feel betrayed by a developer. Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be, and just because you had a hit once, doesn’t mean people will continue to buy your product, especially if you slap the original fans in the face.
Gaming is in a state of flux right now as it is, Smartphones and tablets are taking a piece of the gaming pie, even if true and hardcore gamer’s refuse to acknowledge it as truth. It doesn’t help that some of these AAA blockbuster titles are becoming more expensive to produce than a Summer blockbuster movie. These developers are always trying to outdo each other, but there are other ways to make a great game. We are going to see more and more small developers go out of business, not because people aren’t buying their games, but because they are pricing themselves right out of the industry altogether. When you look at games like L.A. Noire or Homefront, these games sold very well, millions of copies apiece, but because they were so costly to produce, they literally made no profit. Bulletstorm is another example of a quality and original idea that sold well enough, but made Epic zero profit, so we wont be seeing a sequel anytime soon. Instead of Bulletstorm 2, People Can Fly are working on Gears Of War Judgment.
I would urge the hardcore gamer’s out there to be as vocal as possible, I often write in the Activision forums and beg for dedicated servers on the next Call Of Duty game, this is something I’ve done the last few years, and so far it has not worked, but you never know what the future holds. One day developers and publishers might actually care about the gamer’s that buy their product. That will be a beautiful day indeed.