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The industry needs to stop following trends

by Johnathon Swift on 04/04/12 05:54:00 pm

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutras community.
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"Trends" are something humans naturally follow by our very psychology. Something, anything new is automatically more interesting, or at least more noticeable, than the things we've grown used to.

Or rather, to quote the Joker "You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan." But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!"

The exact same thing can be translated to the video games industry, and it happens, has happened, and will happen again and again and again. In the mid 90's, after the hit games Command and Conquer and Warcraft 2 came out EVERYONE wanted to make realtime strategy games. They were a hit, just look at those sales numbers! We need to get on this right away.

And then it happened with console shooters, and then with massively multiplayer online games, and then with console shooters again with Call of Duty, and now its happening with iOS games and "Social" games and Dota clones.

And the results are, once again, the companies with the excellent employees, and the experience, and the plan, and the money, and even the ideas make the money that is to be made, and everyone else fails, and wonders why. Why, why did my game go wrong? I "followed the trend", these games were supposed to be a hit!

But here is the truth, types of games don't go out of, or into, style. "Realtime strategy games are a dead genre" except for Starcraft 2, which sold millions of copies. And yet few to no studios are making them anymore. Traditional adventure games are a dead genre, except Telltale games has been a huge success, and fans have recently given game design legend Tim Schafer over four million dollars, sight unseen, just to make a new one.

And yet, somehow, so many studios, and executives, and surveys conintue to insist that trends exist, and as an industry we should follow them. A recent headline on this very website has declared a new study indicated "teenagers are less interested in traditional games and are more interested in casual ones."

Which is as perfect an example of my point as I could ever hope for. What have been the big sellers in "traditional" gaming last year? Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, Just Dance 3, etc. In fact the only non shooter/casual title/sports game in the top 20 console titles of all of last year was Skyrim. Obviosuly the trend is confirmed!

But wait, looking ahead, what traditional games are even announced besides sport titles, casual games, and shooters? The answer is as close to zero as you can get. So, perhaps, in fact altogether probably the trend is a self fulfilling prophecy. Teenagers are only playing "casual" titles, or Call of Duty, or sports titles, because that's all the major games industry is selling.

Maybe, just perhaps, if other titles were produced again, they just might sell. Maybe if they were actually good titles, if tycoon games, and realtime strategy games, and traditional rpgs, and difficult platformers were made again, they would sell a few million copies, they might make a good amount of money, they might be a good business.

Oh certainly, they might not be the next Call of Duty or Farmville. But as the previous titans of the world like World of Warcraft, or Sony, or titles too numerous to count Titans can, and nigh inevitably do, begin to fall.

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