New games and the line between innovation and repetition

Feature

Game developers can’t really win in the social media age. No matter what they announce, there is a contigent who see a new game as a direct attack on their identity.

Considering we’ve just experienced the joys of E3 2018, you don’t have to look far to find examples of innovation and repetition being equally destroyed by fans. I could embed some quality tweets and Facebook comments into this here article, but considering online privacy is in fashion at the moment, I’ll just include some tasty quotes with identities removed throughout.

The lowest piece of fruit to pick for examples of outrage is from Bethesda’s Fallout 76 tree. Taking the franchise in new directions as an online survival title, Todd Howard could have shot a puppy on stage and had less public outcry. Okay, maybe not. But the salt was palpable in the wake of the announcement.

Users of the internet fired off tasty biscuits, such as:

“Bethesda is straying away from the Fallout universe and bastardising it for profit.”

“You’re stressing some of us out.”

And my personal favourite for terrible creativity, “God Howard has fallen say hello to Tod Shitward.”

Cries like these echoed into the void of social media, slamming the developer for ruining the franchise with a spin-off title.

Bow down to the superiority of the internet user.

The thing is, the game industry needs innovation and to diversify franchises, otherwise we end up with the same Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty games until the heat death of the universe.

Now on the reverse side of this, another title that was heavily shown at E3 was the follow up the The Division, appropriately titled The Division 2. This title received some spice due to the fact it looked too similar to the first, which is valid criticism – but talk about giving developers little room to work with here.

“Looks like the same repetitive trash”

“Same game every year much?”

Taking franchises in new directions is considered blasphemy, and towing the line is boring. So where does this leave us? Clearly some gamers want more unique experiences, but that’s not where the money is. Amongst the highest grossing franchises of all time is the often repetitive Call of Duty series, which has made a revenue of US$16 billion as of 2017 – with the most recent, WW2, passing US$1 billion in sales as of December 2017.

Comparing this to a title that was critically successful and unique, The Witness pulled in gross revenue (before sellers take their cut) of US$5 million as of Feb 2016 with over 100,000 units sold. So you can see there is a massive difference in terms of financial success here – and big developers are always going to chase the sacks with dollar signs on them over critically successful but financially modest games.

For new things to get tried out and to make money for a publisher, we often have to rely on spin-off titles using existing and financially proven assets in new settings, such as with *drum roll* Fallout 76.

Putting that all aside, the obvious solution to all of this is turning every game into a battle royale and calling it a day.

Follow Charlie on Twitter @clbraith, and don’t forget to follow @load_screen and like us on Facebook.

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