The last couple of years games seem to get more commercial. The charts are filled with sequels of big hits and all the big companies seem to be playing it safe. Truly original games are still there, it’s not all that bad but they’re getting more and more scarce. A trend I really dislike but I see why it’s becoming this way. Why create a new franchise that MIGHT sell big when you can just make another FIFA or another expansion for The Sims that are guaranteed to sell millions? I think that about 75% of the gamers nowadays don’t care anyway and will just run to the store when another version of their favourite racegame hits the shelves. But for the other 25% it’s getting worse and worse. And I like to think I’m among that 25%. Just take a look at the releaseschedules, they’re filled with sequels to big games, rereleased and ports. Where are the new franchise? When was the last time a new and successful franchise was launched? I can’t remember the last time a new franchise shocked everyone and sold big…
This whole trend is a lot like the one in the music industry but they’ve had the problem a lot longer. I myself can’t stand most of the ‘music’ you’ll see in the charts or on MTV. Every now and then something good pops up (Arctic Monkeys recently) but I’m mostly forced to get my tunes from the underground. It all works out pretty neatly; if you’re into pop music you can just walk into a record store and buy the latest Black Eyed Peas album, if you’re into punk then there are a lot of ways of getting your punk etc. But all that seems to be different for games, there aren’t that much ‘punk’ games, it’s mostly ‘Blacked-Eyed-Peas games’. Sure there are a lot of indie games and freeware games on the net but most of them aren’t that great and really don’t satisfy your gaming needs.
However the first signs of non-commercial games seem to pop up. Good examples are the Katamari games and Geometry Wars. Both sold enough to make it profitable with a small marketing budget. It seems as though the true (warning, ugly term ahead) ‘hardcore’ gamer knows where to get the goods without being overwhelmed with TV ads every other minute. The Xbox Live Arcade seems to be a great instrument for this and Microsoft knows this.
The Xbox Live Arcade enables small games developers like Garage Games to develop their games with a small budget and the dev’s don’t need to worry about distribution and marketing and all that. I really hope Microsoft keeps investing in these not-so-commercial games because I love them and I know you do too.
But where’s all this headed? I can only hope these are the first signs of a ‘gaming underground’ if you will. I really don’t care how much money has been spent on a game (The Godfather) or how urban it is, I just want great gameplay and I believe that can be done if big fishes like Microsoft keep giving small developers a chance instead of buying them up or ignoring them like other big publishers do.
Better internet connections, more bandwidth and more storage room are already at our hands so why not use them for this cause? It can be done and I really hope it will be done more and more in the years to come.