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The Death of Turn-Based Strategy Games Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
by Mark Sheppard on 07/06/12 10:02:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Back in 2009, Membraine Studios started working on the design for a turn-based strategy wargame called Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire that is now finally nearing its Alpha release.

Being a turn-based strategy wargame, Fractured Empire is already what you might call “a niche product.” Fractured Empire is even more niche though since our game attempts to capture the essence of tabletop (miniatures) wargaming.

You don’t get much more niche than tabletop wargaming.

Now and then, when I’m talking to people about our game, someone will tell me that “Turn-based gaming is dead!” And they usually follow up by saying “You should have made Fractured Empire a real-time strategy game instead!”

It is in response to this “Do Not Resuscitate” line of thinking that I am writing this article. Because not only is turn-based strategy not dead—the genre’s future is a bright and shiny thing. Oh yes. It’s shiny.

Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire screenshot

It’s not news that gamers are increasingly getting their fix on the go using mobile devices like iPad or Android tablets. But whereas action-centric games can really struggle with the touch-based interfaces of these platforms, by contrast, turn-based strategy games really come into their own. This is because turn-based strategy games typically don’t require quick reflexes and speedy interactions, so games like Fractured Empire lend themselves readily to touch interfaces in a way that action-centric games...don’t. In addition, most turn-based strategy games can achieve comparable performance on both high-end and low-end devices (desktops and tablets) due to demanding less of the GPU.

With Fractured Empire, for example, we’ve focused on actively promoted this portability through our PlayOnTheGo™ framework, which allows gamers to play their games of Fractured Empire on multiple platforms, from PC, Mac and Linux desktops to Android tablets and iPads. But we’re not just talking about playing Fractured Empire across multiple platforms; we’re talking about playing the same game across all those platforms.

Imagine starting a game in the morning on your Mac at home, continuing that same game on your iPad as you travel to work on the train, and then finishing the game at lunch on your office PC.

Now...imagine trying to do that with StarCraft 2 or Company of Heroes?

I rest my case.

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Justin Neustadter
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I couldn't agree more with this. Your statement "turn-based strategy games typically don’t require quick reflexes and speedy interactions" is at the core of it. Not only do turn-based strategy games lend themselves much better to tablet gaming, but they're also much more easily picked up by people who are new to video games.

In order to be proficient at a game like Starcraft, you generally have to have a bit of a gaming background, whereas with turn-based strategy games, you don't need to have gaming experience to be good.

Great article Mark, I'm excited to see how these sort of games progress.

Mark Sheppard
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Glad you liked it. Thanks for the feedback. :)

Ferdinand Joseph Fernandez
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What I think people more closely mean is turn-based is not popular anymore with the hardcore market these days.

Whether turn-based is still entertaining, that's to personal taste. Is it popular? Evidently FPS and 3d action games are more popular, much like how sidescrolling platformers were the norm back in the 16-bit days.

Even RTS is considered a niche genre now. Those RTS and turn-based games that still manage to come up in people's heads owe it to the fact that they have a strong track record: Starcraft, Magic: The Gathering, Civilization, Final Fantasy, to name a few.

Admittedly, out of the 30 or so games in my library, only 4 are of the traditional turn-based style. But its only because the selection of turn-based games are so limited now for players like me.