A Lack of Innovation: A Call to Gamers
It seems like each and every year now, the video game industry is insistent on releasing essentially the same games over and over. Every year we get a new Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, new entries in the Madden, NBA, and Fifa franchises, as well as a plethora of other games trying their best to simply imitate these games. Why is it that there is such a lack of innovation within our industry which is based on innovation itself? This is a major problem in the video game industry today and it desperately needs to be addressed.
The first thing that needs to be addressed here is what makes a game sell? Certainly there are clear answers such as graphics, game play, or how well it is marketed but I think that it is deeper than that. Many gamers that are not considered “core” gamers today don’t think twice about how the next Call of Duty will play or look. What it really comes down to is how well consumers know the brand and what experiences they have had with the brand in the past.
The idea of brand importance is very evident in the game Call of Duty. The franchise is now nine years old and because of this almost all gamers know of its name. As it has gotten older the idea of the game has become ingrained in gamers’ minds and at the same time its sales have skyrocketed. Gamers are buying based on the experience that they know they will get for the price they pay. In a sense they are paying to pay it safe which is exactly what is harming our industry.
While gamers are busy playing it safe and paying for the same sort of experience year after year, video game studios are being forced out of business based on a lack of sales their games makes. In 2009 Pandemic Studios, the creators of the Mercenaries series, was closed down by Electronic Arts. This was a studio trying something different but their games didn’t receive the sales that EA wished for. Video game studios often times only have a single chance to create something different. If it doesn’t work out and consumers don’t purchase the game the studio possibly faces a fate like Pandemics.
Some believe that the lack of innovation in the industry today is attributed to how long this console generation has lasted. Normally after around four years into a console cycle we learn about the next generation of consoles and then get those in the next year. This generation has lasted over five years so far and only one of the three console manufacturers has announced the next one. In an interview with Game Informer, Ubisoft CEO, Yves Guillemot had this to say on the lack of innovation:
“New consoles help us be more creative because when customers buy a console, they are very interested in what’s new and they will accept a game that is not perfect as long as it’s different and better than what has been done before,” he said. “We very often adopt new consoles quickly because we know that most of the buyers are fans of video games. They are ready to take risks [on a new IP] so that’s why we are very early on consoles, often just to make sure we can try new things.”
This makes sense in that gamers are more likely to take risks at the beginning of a console cycle. There are fewer games available to play and many times gamers are eager to play anything on their new piece of hardware. This generation Assassins Creed is one franchise that took off early this console generation and has performed well enough to make it a top franchise in only a few short years. So what needs to happen is gamers need to stop being afraid of taking risks.
This is a resolution that more gamers need to make. We need to decide that we are going to try out some lesser known titles such as Deadly Premonition, Earth Defense Force 2047, or Enslaved: Odyssey To The West. You may find some games that aren’t so good now and again but you will also find the occasional gem that you wouldn’t have found otherwise. So gamers, let’s all make an effort to try out some games we wouldn’t have any other time. You never know, you just might find a game you like more than those games you get every year such as Call of Duty.