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Creativity, a Problem for the Gaming Industry? 522

Posted by michael
from the play-it-again-sam dept.
Steeda95GT writes "A Reuters story reprinted at Forbes.com is an interesting read, saying that 'The gaming industry will shrink unless we start to see new games'. It talks about how the ratio of original titles to sequels is dropping dramatically, but it also goes on to say that upcoming sequels (Doom 3, Halo 2, Half-Life 2, GTA: San Andreas) will be successful only because their predecessors were."
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Creativity, a Problem for the Gaming Industry?

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  • Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by panxerox (575545) * on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:01AM (#8693340)
    No, its guts. Guts to try new things to break away from what is known in games, to produce the kind of games that new customers really want. The market is what you make it.
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BlueCodeWarrior (638065) <steevk@gmail.com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:10AM (#8693404) Homepage
      Not just guts to try new things.

      Guts to throw your cash into funding for trying new things.
      • by bonch (38532) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @03:08AM (#8694177)
        Sequels are chosen because they're safer and more prone to make money. PC game publishers are worried because piracy is eating into sales so badly. Consoles are a little safer, particularly the Gamecube.

        It's the great unspoken truth that Slashdot won't admit. Rampant game piracy is a problem. Look at all the stupid copy protection we have to go through. It is still insane to expect people to have to put in a game CD every time they play, but publishers make the development teams put them in.
        • by Afrosheen (42464) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:36AM (#8694498)
          The entertainment industry as a whole is hitting a brick wall. Hollywood keeps making 'safe' movies and rehashing old ones for guaranteed hits. The game industry is doing the same thing.

          The problem started as the cost of entry went up for developers and filmmakers. When it was cheaper to make movies, studios were (and smaller independents still are) more apt to make risky movies that don't fit into a rehashed, well trodden category. Same goes for game makers. You'll keep seeing Doom and Quake as long as Doom and Quake are easy to evolve and guaranteed to sell 15 million copies worldwide. The last thing any developer wants at this point is to throw an ungodly amount of money at a project and end up with another Daikatana.

          Also at fault are the publishers. Some publishers just won't take on specific games because they feel they won't sell. What you end up with is what we all have today. People wanting something new or different but when they're given it, they don't buy into it heavily enough to send the message to publishers that 'we want something new, and we really mean it'.

          If you're a smaller movie studio or smaller game shop, you can take bigger risks as long as you keep costs down. There have been some great indy films and smaller publisher games over the years.
          • by bonch (38532) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:43AM (#8694516)
            The entertainment industry as a whole is hitting a brick wall. Hollywood keeps making 'safe' movies and rehashing old ones for guaranteed hits. The game industry is doing the same thing.

            You're kidding, right? Have you seen:

            * Any of the decidedly non-safe LOTR movies?
            * American Beauty?
            * Lost In Translation?
            * The Matrix films (whether or not it's your thing)
            * And tons more I can't list off the top of my head right now because it's 1:42AM and I'm tired...
            • by moongha (179616) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @09:06AM (#8695084)
              You're missing the point. LOTR & the Matrix films are excellent examples of 'safe' movies. They're low risk investment since the studios know a big budget VFX heavy film with enough promotion is likely to at least make a profit.

              Just because some of them make more than others doesn't mean that even the relative flops weren't 'safe'.

              American Beauty & Lost in Translation were character driven films, which wouldn't have cost a great deal (in relative terms) to make. Hence the risk wasn't great.

              And Lost in Translation wasn't particularly original or challenging anyway, although obviously that's just IMHO.
          • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday March 29, 2004 @04:50AM (#8701300) Journal
            Well, I see one problem with that theory: people _are_ voting with their wallets for non-standard games. At least if those games are also quality stuff, and not some buggy unusable piece of crap.

            Let's think of some games which sold spectacularly well, or are played the most.

            - The Sims. It's _the_ best selling game of all time, even taken by itself. If you add the seven full-price add-ons for it (and yes, some of us bought all seven:), it dwarfs any other game by ludicrious margins. In spite of being a 2D isometric game in an age of 3D bump-mapped pixel-shaded games.

            - Counterstrike. The most played online game. It's based on Half Life, which is how old? Right. The graphics were horrible, the hostage AI was piss-poor, but people were buying Half Life like crazy just to play Counter-Strike. Why? A new mode of play.

            But let's go even farther back in time:

            - Diablo. Strictly speaking not totally new, but it still was original enough for a PC game. It also was a quality title: rock stable, good game balance, a good interface, easy learning curve, and basically a self-adjusting difficulty curve to fit most gamers. It sold like hot cakes.

            - Dune II. A 2D 320x200 game, completely unimpressive as graphics go. Yet not only it sold great, it spawned a new genre. For a while everyone who wasn't making a FPS, was making a RTS instead.

            - Wolfenstein 3D. You may notice that Id never needed a publisher ever since. Again, it was so popular that it spawned a whole new genre.

            - Sim City. It practically invented the city building genre.

            - Civilization. Probably the game which actually did _more_ than spawn a new genre. You'd be surprised how many games are essentially derived from Civilization. From obvious stuff like "Two Thrones" to practically any space colonization/empire building game out there, there's one solid market segment playing Civilization derivatives.

            So, you see, my take is that people _did_ vote with their wallets for more original games, and did so again and again. Invariably truly new games sell _far_ better that titles whose only quality is "hey, look, we have even nicer textures. Look, we have 1324 screenshots too."

            You think that would send a message to publishers already. But no, instead they'll keep making retarded clones instead. (And by "retarded" I mean: by people who haven't even understood what made the original sell well. So they'll make something that looks like a clone, but misses all the fun parts.)

            No matter how many such truly original games appear and rake in a big pile of cash, the publisher still won't think "hey, let's try more original stuff." They'll just think "ooh, The Sims sold well. Let's include that in our next game."

            (Except see above what I've said about retarded clones. So far they invariably missed every single part that made The Sims fun. Even though Will Wright even spelled it out in dozens of interviews.)
        • by Makarakalax (658810) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:19PM (#8696197) Homepage
          It's not as much a problem as people say. I used to pirate a lot of games, but guess what, I was a kid. I couldn't afford any games! So me and my mates shared them around. Our group piracy led to us becoming obsessed with games as it happens, and I reckon we ended up buying more games between us because we pirated them around.

          Nowadays I can afford games and I buy them. However I do play less games than I used to, I have less time, and perhaps it is also because it is harder to pirate the games heh. But nowadays I have money and will pay if I like something.

          Software is an funny industry, you have to accept that some copying will go on because it is easy to do so. If the industry can't turn a profit with the traditional one person - one sale business model then perhaps they are looking at the economics of the industry incorrectly?
      • by zoney_ie (740061) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:50AM (#8694530)
        Hmmm... judging by some new titles, game developers too think that guts are the way to go. Lots of 'em, and as realistic as possible.

        Don't tell me our kids aren't going to be semi-deranged from the combination of video-games, TV, internet and school environment as they stand at present.
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ashot (599110) <ashot@@@molsoft...com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:13AM (#8693418) Homepage
      Altough I agree that there is a lack of creativity/guts in the industry in general, I disagree with the proposition that a sequel implies that a game necessarily lacks creativity.
      I particularly object to slapping HL2 with this label; if you've seen the previews and the screenshots you know that this game will be revolutionary in many respects (graphics/game-play/physics engine/characters), the fact that it is a sequel is not relevant.

      Also, what about the the massive multiplayer games? I think they are the future, and the sky is the limit there.
      • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Mikey-San (582838) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:44AM (#8693609) Homepage Journal
        I think you're confusing revolutionary with evolutionary.

        Half-Life 2, while great-looking from the gameplay that's been shown so far, isn't revolutionary. It isn't using inverse kinematics for the first time in its physics engine, it isn't the first graphics engine to pass pixels more than once, and it isn't the first game to use vehicles in game play.

        It might improve on these things, but it's not ushering in a new era of elements we've never seen before.
        • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Frymaster (171343) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:01AM (#8693692) Homepage Journal
          I think you're confusing revolutionary with evolutionary.

          exactly! currently, the overwhelming majority of games fall into the following categories:

          • first person shooter
          • real time strategy
          • simulation
          • puzzle/solitaire
          • arcade action

          everybody remembers when sim city first came out. it was revolutionary. why? because it developed a whole new category: simulations.

          now there's a billion sim-foo games out there and the whole genre is in evolution mode: the sims "homeland security" expansion pack for example.

          what the gaming industry needs is a genre-defining game. something that breaks open a whole new gaming motif like doom and sim city and warcraft did.

          of course there will be those who say this isn't possible - that all the gaming paradigms have already been defined and nothing is really new anymore. but that's okay: we can't all be geniuses.

          • Re:Creativity? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Sparr0 (451780)
            Revolution doesnt have to come in the form of a new genre. Old genres can see revolutionary ideas. I consider Starcraft to have been a revolutionary game. It was the first RTS to use a 'trigger' system for the maps, making it even MORE infinitely replayable. It also had the first well balanced non-cookie-cutter races (the 3 SC races have different mechanics/rules governing their expansion).

            The worst thing to see in modern games is not just a lack of revolution, but even a lack of evolution. HL2 might
          • Re:Creativity? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Brandybuck (704397)
            Maybe that's why I consider the game industry so boring. That's because most of the games I like/liked don't fit into your list of categories. The one exception is "simulation", to hold the likes of Simcity.

            Where do you put Civilization? It's not real time strategy. It's a turn based strategy. But that term usually applies to the now vanishing wargame, which Civilization is not in the strict sense. And where do you put the classic roleplaying games like Ultima, Bard's Tale, etc?
          • by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:48AM (#8694084)
            Why does the gaming industry need a new revolution?

            Warcraft III was evolutionary enough to be entertaining. It developed the notion of 'heros gaining experience' for realtime strategy games and all the aspects that went with that. It improved upon the AI. It introduced multi-angle 3d to realtime strategy as far as I know.

            Besides, how often has the publishing industry put out 'a new type of book.' Npt too often.

            But unless there's some benefit or call for a 'revolutionary' type of game, 'evolutionary' improvements can keep things entertaining for a decade.

            Besides, the advantage of 'sequel' games is that people can pick them up quickly and play them with their friends without a huge learning curve. They just need to learn the particulars of the current game. Too much 'revolution' kills the market because it takes too long for many people to learn to play the new game. This means fewer multi-player games, removing a big incentive for folks to buy and a particular game.

            I used to test games for Turbo Graphix. I kept telling them they should focus their efforts of making one or two good multi-player games.
            With the possible exception of bomber man, and dungeon explorer, they never did.
      • by iswm (727826) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:30AM (#8693816) Homepage
        Also, what about the the massive multiplayer games? I think they are the future, and the sky is the limit there.
        Totally. MMOL lumberjacking is where it's at.
      • Re:Creativity? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nfotxn (519715) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:38AM (#8693843) Journal
        But you're looking at it from the perspective of a gamer. One of the biggest problems facing the industry is lapsed gamers like myself. I haven't cared about graphics or physics engines since Quake came out! I don't think I ever will again because after a decade or so you figure out that technology is pretty certain to get better.

        One big problem I see as a bit of an outsider these days is just how inward gaming has become. It has it's own website, cartoons, language and television stations. Massively multiplayer games are exactly the wrong thing because they only encourage more niche culture and make gaming even moreso inward and exclusive. Interacting online is neat but I don't think most people want to become some Everquest playing vegetable who hasn't been exposed to sunlight in 96hrs.

        To me the most interesting ideas have been those that encourage all sorts of people to play games like DDR and the Eye Toy. Gaming needs to involve more people and get out of the Penny Arcade mindset of in-jokes and niche vernacular. Creativity requires inspiration and when you live in that world of 16-21yo middle class males, well, of course things are gonna start getting as stale as your buddy's BO after a three day LAN party.

      • Agreed. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dimensio (311070) <darkstar AT iglou DOT com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:47AM (#8693885)
        Some sequels represent a rehashing of an old idea with newer technology, sometimes to disasterous effect (Deus Ex: Invisible War, anyone?). Other times, a sequel is a good way for the developer to further flesh out the story, improving upon the previous game and still telling a very compelling story (Max Payne 2).

        Still other times you have a "sequel" to something that is so old, that the developers can't help but reimagine it for the current technology, and you have what looks to be a very promising title, such as with the upcoming Sam & Max game... ...oh, wait. LucasArts cancelled that so that they could devote more time and energy to inane and purile Star Wars franchise rehashes.
      • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SillyNickName4me (760022) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:08AM (#8693953) Homepage
        I learned long ago to not judge a game, and esp. not call it revolutionary untill after having played it for a while.
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mistlefoot (636417) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:14AM (#8693429)
      The story starts out talking about Pacman but then finishes with discussing only modern "video intensive" games.

      I'd bet that "yahoo games" or popcap games are as popular as the traditional store bought games.

      Simulation type games (Monoploy Tycoon - SimCity) aren't touched neither, nor are Sports type games.

      This article doesn't really seen to a variety of games at all. Yet it implies that "new" games aren't coming out. They are.

      • Re:Creativity? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MilenCent (219397) * <{johnwh} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:50AM (#8693643) Homepage
        A lot of people may play the Yahoo! games, they aren't a large segment of the market, because not a lot of money changes hands over them. And Yahoo! games, from my own perspective, seem fairly light-weight. (PopCap is probably a bit better though.)

        SimCity, while a great design for its time, has had four sequels of various types (I include the SNES version). I think the last version that Will Wright had direct input on was SimCity 2000. (I could be wrong on that.) And Sports games are arguably the least creative genre -- even the first sports video game was a copy, and there isn't really that much to distinguish each Madden (X) from its corresponding Madden (X-1).
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JPriest (547211) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:18AM (#8693462) Homepage
      I think the problem is the current focus on stunning graphics rather than fun gameplay. The 10 best games I have ever played are all on old systems. Could just be becasue I was younger back then, but that seems to be the case. The future of the current gaming industry is online gaming and LAN parties. No AI is more fun than playing a human.
      • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cbreaker (561297) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:54AM (#8693664) Journal
        Current focus? It's ALWAYS been the focus of video games! From the first video arcade games, to the ataris, nintendos, segas.. It's always been about graphics as much as anything else. It sells, people like cool graphics, they always will.

        Nope, good graphics don't make a game any more then special effects make the new Star Wars movies. There's always been bad games and there's always been good ones. Cutting-edge graphics are a constant, they will always be of major importance.
      • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tri0de (182282) <dpreynld@pacbell.net> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:07AM (#8693719) Journal
        perhaps true, but many of us have real lives and find it truly impracticle to play oneline; I have maybe two hours a week, in ten minute increments, to play games (and no problem or compunction about plunking down $50, $100 or more to buy one). I am not interested in keeping up my skillz to match a bunch of teenagers with no job or family who are online for two or ten hours a day, so for me (and a lot of my 40+ ex hacker buddies) 'massivly multiplayer' just does not matter; just like I love MTGathering but hell if I'm going to spend $3K on cards, my friends and I all play with proxies (copies of cards) so it's a matter of skill, not having no life outside of the game. (no disrespect meant to someone whose entire life is gaming, I was there once and games are a very valuable tool of intellectual development, IMHO)
        At 43 I'm one of the original video game generation, starting with \spacewar and various Apple1 sims. I still love gaming as much as I did 20 or 25 years ago but if I have a choice between jumping my wife's bones or hanging with a bunch of 15 year olds in some 'clan' the kids can go on without me. Sorry, I've got the doctorate to work on and other stuff to do to bother with a LAN party, so I won't pay one cent more for that functionality; good AI (defined as something that can suprise me 9 times out of 10 and approach each situation differently even in replays) is worth an extra $30 or $40.
      • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mriker (571666) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:17AM (#8693751)
        The future of the current gaming industry is online gaming and LAN parties. No AI is more fun than playing a human.

        I think it depends on what type of game experience you're looking for. If you're looking to shoot at things in a crosshair in a first-person view without a pesky story to get in the way, I might agree with you. Otherwise, I think your view is perhaps the most ridiculous and over-used sentiments in the gaming community.

        Maybe I'm wrong, but looking back at amazing gaming experiences such as Fallout, Deus Ex, Half-Life, Splinter Cell, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (to name a few), I can't imagine how any these games could've been made better with human characters, rather than AI characters. Heck, I can't imagine how these games wouldn't be total shit if the characters were human-controlled. And where are you going to find all of these humans to play these characters for you in a manner which is the slightest bit as interesting as the AI characters?

        In environments where games are designed to focus on the hero of the story, AI characters offer the best available experience. In a human-only gaming environment, you're just another name, and with only a few exceptions (ie. the most talented players), no one else in the game world could give a rat's ass who you are. That works great for some games, like Unreal Tournament and Counter-Strike, but games in that vain will never, ever replace great single-player experiences. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy both types of games. But I predict that the future of gaming to be much like it is now, as far as the relative number of single-player games vs. multi-player games on the market is concerned.

      • by blincoln (592401)
        I think the problem is the current focus on stunning graphics rather than fun gameplay.

        I keep hearing people say this (and the ever-popular "gameplay was better in the 80s"), but when a game *does* come out that has a more basic arcade-style feel (like P.N.03 on the Gamecube) it does terribly. P.N.03 even has good graphics in addition to the old-school gameplay mechanics, and it still sold pretty poorly.

        The future of the current gaming industry is online gaming and LAN parties.

        I certainly hope not. I
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spy Hunter (317220) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:48AM (#8693630) Journal
      You know what? As a consumer, what I really want is Half-Life 2. I want Doom 3. I want Grand Theft Auto 5. I'm not afraid to admit it. I don't think there's anything wrong with producing game sequels. I think incremental improvments are still improvements. I like an original, completely different game just as much as anyone else, but all these people bitching about the number of sequels/clones are missing the point. The game industry is huge now, and still growing. There's more than enough room for sequels, clones, *and* original games. If you can't find any original games out there, you're just not looking hard enough (hint: there's more to the game industry than what you'll find at your local Wal-Mart).
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BTWR (540147) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [3robignacirema]> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:50AM (#8693646) Homepage Journal
      I know this will be tagged as a typical "Nintendo Fanboy Rant," but Nintendo is nothing if not gutsy. They pumps tens of millions into games like Pikmin and Animal Crossing which have absolutely no basis to weigh sucess on. What I mean by this is that while Vavle made a great game like Half-Life back in '98, they were basically saying "Let's pump money into a proven money-making genre and fill it with awesome ideas no one ever did before!"

      While it did fail (miserably), Nintendo also took a chance and developed the Virtual Boy. Sony and MS, on the other hand (while respectable companies) have decided to make systems and games which are already proven winners (violence, RPGs, FPSs). And I think we can all assume that the Nintendo DS is a really creative idea (which can very well sink the company or put it back to #1). Just my $0.02...
    • Re:Creativity? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mixtape5 (762922)
      It really doesn't have much to do with a lack of creativity. We can look at original games as base games and sequals as secondary games. as there are more and more base games there will be more and more sequals, there are still original games being made, but because many of the original games were so good there is a demand for a sequal.

      if there are ten original games a year the next year there will be ten base games and ten more orignal games. the next year there will be 20 base games and still only te
  • Garage Games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:03AM (#8693350)
    The big companies aren't willing to take any risks. That's why there is GarageGames [garagegames.com].
  • Who needs... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jwthompson2 (749521) * <jamesNO@SPAMplainprograms.com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:03AM (#8693351) Homepage
    originality and creativity when repackaging the same game and slapping a subtitle on it will rake in millions? The Sims comes to my mind...GTA is in a similar boat in my mind...
    • Re:Who needs... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SoLO (91992) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:23AM (#8693499)
      I guess shift from GTA1&2 to GTA3 wasn't very "creative".
      • It was creative, just not as revolutionary as you might think. In fact, if you're talking about features, they dropped the overhead perspective in GTA3, so creative != more features. I'd call GTA3:VC the pinnacle of GTA evolution, in the way it took good concepts developed in previous incarnations and pushed the positive effect they have on gameplay. The effect of the radio stations on atmosphere is a good example. excellent improvement, but hardly a revolution...

    • Re:Who needs... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by _Sharp'r_ (649297) <sharper AT booksunderreview DOT com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:24AM (#8693506) Homepage Journal

      Industries that turned into re-dos of old ideas with only a small number of new ideas long ago, but don't seem to have hurt very much financially from it:

      Books
      Movies
      Music
      Magazines

      I'm sure you can think of even more if you take a few minutes. I think the article is a little premature to say the gaming industry will shrink if we don't see more creativity. They don't seem to have any evidence of that beyond one developer's opinion. If you look at the hard numbers, I'd suspect that the overall industry continues to grow as more PCs and game consoles are sold to new households around the world.
      • Re:Who needs... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MilenCent (219397) * <{johnwh} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:16AM (#8693749) Homepage
        Well....

        BOOKS: There's still new literature being published. If you have something really new and interesting, there are still places that think this is an asset instead of a liability. And even in relatively traditional genres like mysteries, there is some degree of innovation.

        MOVIES: Again, studios still sometimes make thoughtful, enlightened work. The success of such films as Clerks and The Blair Witch Project make it clear that it's possible to make successful original cinema with little cash, a great inspiration to all those guys with a camera and a dream. Computers have really lowered the entry barrier on this one.

        MUSIC: Well, you can believe the RIAA's story that piracy is hurting sales, or you can look at their preponderance of girl stars and boy bands, and Clear Channel's locking up of mainstream radio. Even so, there are plenty of independent bands out there that may not be famous or get rich, but are doing what they want, and having fun doing it.

        MAGAZINES: Kind of a weird thing to bring up. Magazines tend to be driven more from utilitarian principles than out of a need to entertain and create. Even so, the field is constantly expanding and changing.

        It's a basic human trait to seek novelty. The possible audience may go up, but people *will not* play the same game over and over again, forever. Even Tetris got old after the thousandth game. The question is, are new games different enough from old ones that people will keep buying them?

        I'm also not so sure the audience is increasing. As more people get computers the market is becoming saturated. Most people don't need more than one, and the perceived benefit to upgrading is diminishing.
        • Re:Who needs... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RobertFisher (21116) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:08AM (#8694420) Homepage Journal
          You have some good points, but there is one key distinction you are missing.

          There IS certainly innovation among all those categories (books, films, music, etc.), but the VAST MAJORITY of the innovation is usually being made on a very small scale, with just a handful of talented individuals working on the edge. Movies are a great example. Blair Witch was not produced by a Hollywood theatre, nor are the dozens of indie films snatched up by Hollywood distributors at Sundance and other film festivals. They are made by a few people, almost always on a shoestring budget (often funded on someone's credit cards!). A number of these films are made with astonishingly low budgets... El Mariachi was done on $10K, and many not much more than that. The same goes for books (where just a single person working in their spare hours can produce the next classic), music, and zines.

          Now... back to the game industry. What can anyone do with $10K these days? That would hardly be enough money to purchase one high-end workstation with Maya and other requisite software tools. You see, people are EXPECTING highly polished graphics and gameplay out of each new video game. Long gone are the days where a single Russian program can whip out Tetris in a few weeks of effort, and create a sensation. I'm sure that thousands of slashdotters have tremendous ideas for awesome games, and many of them have the programming skills to pull it off. But if they are to to compete with the current big-name titles, they have to play by their rules. Who will do the artwork? The motion capturing and animation? The original music score? The voice-overs? The analogy to films would be like if the movie-going audience demanded to see Return of the King-quality battles and special effects in EVERY film they see. If that were the case, then the indie film industry would be dead as a doornail too.

          There is room for innovation here (think of games like Snood) but the game-going audience needs to lose their addiction to big-name licenses and fancy production values and focus on the one thing that gaming is about : fun.

          Bob
    • by securitas (411694) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:25AM (#8693518) Homepage Journal


      Enjoy some context (not intended as a criticism). Part of the reason is demographic trends and part of the reason is financial. The ideas in the article seem to support a shift to creativity as discussed in an article with some game industry experts last year.

      Reuters [reuters.com] reports on the crisis of creativity in games [forbes.com] 'as aging gamers' tastes increasingly shift toward sequels and games based on movies'. The supposed crisis was discussed by industry participants at the Game Developers Conference 2004 [gdconf.com]. 'The gaming industry will shrink unless we start to see new games,' warned Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani. Sony's Ryoichi Hasegawa said, 'Core gamers are advancing in age and they are becoming more conservative'.

      As the GDC panel sees it, the other big problem is the cost of producing games which encourages publishers and developers to 'take less risks on new, innovative titles.'

      The argument for creative new games and game types echoes an article we ran last year where experts say game industry trends favor a shift to creativity and creative talent [geartest.com]. Iwatani appears to agree, saying he had seen periods that lacked creativity in his 20-year career but 'new and revolutionary new games appear in a two- to three-year cycle.'

  • Moving on (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nidarion (654639) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:05AM (#8693363) Homepage
    The end of the internet and the descent of the gaming industry into an uncreative apocalyspe has been forseen at least 2-3 times every year for the last 20 years. It's time to accept the instability but long living state of both industries and move on with our lives.
  • by l810c (551591) * on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:05AM (#8693366)
    While I agree with most of the article, I don't know about this line:

    But it is not just EA chasing after proven material. Upcoming titles such as "Halo 2," "Half-Life 2," "Doom III" and "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" are all expected to top sales charts this year, in large part because the games that preceded them were so successful.

    Sure this will get them noticed more, but if the games don't have innovative graphics and gameplay, the popularity of the previous titles is not going to mean shit.

  • Hmm, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:05AM (#8693368)
    Does that mean that gaming industry for Macs is doubly threatened? (death of Apple first, then death of games)

    The movie industry seems to be doing just fine on sequels, I think the game industry will be fine though.

    And just for the record, no I didn't read the article.
  • by lemist (638625) <steven@buss.gmail@com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:06AM (#8693370) Homepage
    I don't think the sequels will be succussful because of the originals, i think they will be successful because the simple fact that they are entertaining! People may initially buy a game because its a sequel to a game they loved, but if the reaction to the sequel is negative, word spreads and the game doesn't sell. Its very simple economics, the sequels must be as good (and in many cases better than) the original or there's no profit to be had.
  • Successful only because their predecessors were? Thats certainly a backwards way of looking at it. They're successful because they kept doing (and by expanding upon) what made their predecessors good games.

    They may not be original, but that certainly doesn't mean they won't be fun, which is what gaming's supposed to be about. Why reinvent the wheel when you know what people like?
  • To Reply: (Score:5, Funny)

    by falzer (224563) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:06AM (#8693376)
    To reply, you must answer the following question:

    What is the 11th word in the seventh paragraph on the first page of this article?
    • by ejaw5 (570071) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:52AM (#8693655)
      AAH! You just reminded me of the stupid copy-protection what-word-is-on-page-xxx schemes used in games from the late 80's/early 90's. This comes from memory of playing Where in the US is Carmen Sandiego:

      Congratulations! You have succesfully captured the criminal and the stolen goods will be returned to its rightful owner. You have been promoted to gumshoe. To continue, you must enter in the word on top of page 219 of the Fodor's USA Travel Guide.

      (flips through book, see's first word on page)

      >Georgia

      (oh crap! wrong word!)

      That is incorrect. You have failed the copy protection!!! Game Over!
      • Remember that dark brown page with black symbols on it? That thing was hard enough to read even when you have the real copy right in your hands. A friend of my father actually transcribed the whole thing onto graph paper just so he wouldn't have to squint at it in the future. Now that is dedication.
  • by Jonin893 (666637) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:09AM (#8693396)
    Sorry, Sam & Max's cancellation is still upseting me. http://www.savesamandmax.com Nothing wrong with sequels. GTA3 was vastly better than GTA1 and 2. Just because it's a sequel doesn't mean it isn't going to be creative. Just think about the amount of Final Fantasy games, or a lot of the Nintendo games. Pretty much every incarnarnation of Mario has been very creative and original. I think part of the problem may be piracy and the fact that the top selling games like Half-Life sell an ungodly amount of copies more than other solid selling FPS games like No One Lives Forever. Thus, people copy what sells big, not what works.
  • Not too sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ccnull (607939) <null.filmcritic@com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:10AM (#8693397) Homepage
    Analysts have been saying the same thing about Hollywood for 20 years, but every year the box office is consistently bigger than the last (and rising faster than inflation) -- and much of that is powered by sequels. In 2003, 6 of the top 10 grossing movies were sequels. And when Hollywood is short on sequels, they recycle old ideas -- Spider-Man was the #1 film of 2002, and it's free to spawn more sequels anew.

    Bottom line: Creativity has been floundering for a long time, but people keep buying games, keep watching TV, keep going to the movies. Businesspeople would be fools to abandon a known quantity (the revenues of any sequel are easily predictable) in favor of new stories and fresh faces, not matter how much some of us would love to see them. To think that people will suddenly stop buying games because they're all sequels is silly; gamers really have no choice except not to play... and only in WarGames/I. is that a real option.
    • by bigman2003 (671309) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:07AM (#8693718) Homepage
      It looks like 'The Passions of the Christ' will probably be the number one movie of 2004.

      Isn't that just a remake of a 2000 year old story?

      And you thought that videogames were re-hashing the same old ideas...
    • Re:Not too sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by James Lewis (641198) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:58AM (#8693925)
      Yes, and what have we seen in the last few years? The rise of the independent film, and these films by their nature demand that they be new, fresh, and creative to be successful. They may not be the MOST successful movies, but as a whole these types of movies are a lot more successful than they used to be. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing happen to the video game industry, with mod makers filling the shoes of independent film makers. Of course, the biggest problem here is that while making an independent film is getting easier and less costly every year, making a game is becoming MORE costly and harder every year. That's why mod developers need everything but the content up front. The tools, the engine, etc. And they need a way of selling the game afterwards. That means either having game companies that support modding offering fair compensation for sales of modded games and allowing its creaters to retain ownership of their IP, or having a good opensource engine and set of tools developed.
  • logical mistake? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rokzy (687636) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:11AM (#8693410)
    >upcoming sequels (Doom 3, Halo 2, Half-Life 2, GTA: San Andreas) will be successful only because their predecessors were

    the fact that the originals were successful suggests the designers did something right. so what does it mean that they will *ONLY* be successful because their predecessors were?

    in other news: "$team won the $league, but only because they beat all their opponents"

    the only thing they might mean is that the games suck but they will still succeed on hype, but how the f*ck can they say that when they aren't even anywhere near release date yet?
  • Maybe.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PixelSlut (620954) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:12AM (#8693415)
    I think Doom 3 would be successful regardless of the name. For one thing, it's the next game engine by id Software. Everyone buys their games, if for no other reason than to see what the graphics are like. Each engine revision introduces a lot of innovation and creativity in terms of technical and graphical features. In addition, they have some absolutely amazing artists and animators working at id Software right now and it's already clear that the art and animation in Doom 3 will be the finest that has ever appeared in a game yet. The obvious areas of criticism will likely be the game length (it's already known that Doom 3 will be a fairly short game) and that it is deeply stuck in the traditional FPS style that was created by id Software. Their "start here, go here, and kill everything in the middle" gameplay is getting a little old to me, personally.

    I think Half-Life 2 will be successful not purely on its name. Half-Life had no name to begin with, and the company that made it had no prior history. That was their first game, and it became one of the most successful games in history. They've had time to learn from their mistakes and do cool new things in this game.

    Halo 2 I know nothing about. I have no interest in it since it will probably be an Xbox-only title, so perhaps someone here who finds Xbox interesting can give us some insight on the potential technical innovations for that game.

    GTA: San Andreas. How can you make a statement one way or the other on this one at this point in time? They have yet to release any actual information on the game yet. We haven't seen any screenshots or feature lists or anything. If they're knocking the possibility of innovation based purely upon its name, then let's take a trip down memory lane and remember the differences between GTA and GTA2.. then GTA2 and GTA3 (clearly the biggest difference), then GTA3 to Vice City (not really a huge difference technically, but I think the gameplay was much improved and it was even more fun than GTA3 for most people). Anyway, the point is that without any information about what GTA:SA will be like, you have no room to knock it at all. They may have expanded this game to be a fucking huge region instead of a single city.

  • Doom 3 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:12AM (#8693416)
    I think that Doom 3 doesn't really fall into the catagory of the other games.

    1) Doom 3 is retro. The last Doom game came out while I was still in high school.
    2) Doom 3 is a significant advance over the last sequel. It's not just new levels.

    Saying Doom 3 is just a sequel is like saying Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was just a sequel. There's no comparison.

    Still, I think that companies will start coming out with more creative games soon. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised of LARPing became the next big thing, and games that are offshoots of RPGs became bigger, such as the White-Wolf titles, only with more roleplay.
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:13AM (#8693420) Homepage
    "The ratio of original titles to sequels is dropping dramatically," said Ryoichi Hasegawa,

    "We have to think very carefully about the type of audience we're reaching with our games," Andrew House,

    These two quotes sum it up perfectly.

    It's not that new, original, refreshing mechanics of gameplay aren't -- it's that they're not what's marketable. By far, the largest chunk of the gaming public is that which loves sports games, racing games, FPS's, and traditional RPGs.

    Games like those can only deviate from their core gameplay so much before they stop appealing to that chunk. Furthermore, it's not just about mechanics, but style. Except for RPGs, nitty-gritty "realism" is what dominates; just look at Need for Speed, Project Gotham, Unreal Tournament, Halo, Madden. That style dominates and will continue to dominate until a large-scale shift in gaming culture happens, something on the scale of the transition from 2D SNES cuteness to grim-and-cool 3D PlayStation.

    What of titles like Pikmin, Fusion Frenzy, Cubivore, or that one game where you go down tunnels and match up music with what's written on the walls? Marginalized, utterly marginalized. They are all fantastic games -- and had they come out during the golden age, the '70s and '80s, when game mechanics were just beginning to be explored and there were very few established norms, they might have become classics.
  • by schnarff (557058) <.alex. .at. .schnarff.com.> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:14AM (#8693430) Homepage Journal
    You know, video games are going the same way as radio -- more and more of the same crap, over and over and over again. No one wants to give anything new a chance, even though there's plenty of new stuff out there. The only difference is, I don't know that there's been much of a change in the corporate ownership structure in the video game industry like there has been in radio (i.e. the ClearChannel takeover). But then again, I suppose there wasn't much in the way of diversity in video game companies to start with, was there?

    The saddest thing about it is, if there were ever a new game that did what, say, Legend of Zelda did back in the 80's, the company that put it out could make zillions. It's not like they'd lose much putting out crappy stuff meanwhile, either. ::Sigh::...if only companies weren't so damn risk-averse, maybe society could progress a bit.
  • by Magus311X (5823) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:14AM (#8693431)
    Recently I just picked up Disgaea for PS2. I read a few reviews on it, and PA seemed enthralled by it, but I couldn't justify the full $50 GameStop insisted I pay. I mulled it for months, and finally decided why not and included it in a stack of games I bought.

    I seriously regret having put it off for months.

    The story, though fairly basic, is sometimes downright hilarious. There were three times where I seriously had to contain myself, and throughout the rest of the plot there are many of chuckles. A lot of things are simply said in the dialogue that really came out of left field. And it all comes through with great anime style, and quality voice acting. This is akin to the "Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail" of tactical RPGs.

    There's a lot of hidden things to explore. The demon senate concept is amusing to say the least, though I haven't managed to persuade any senators by force yet. The item world is ridiculous, and turns the game into a FF Tactics meets Dungeon Crawl concept since its always different, and I end up with all sorts of crazy items if I survive.

    And the core game itself? Pretty good. I'm 9 chapters in after about 30 hours, and have a feeling it'll be 60 hours before I just beat the core game -- but they're going by as fast as they did for the original FF Tactics. Nevermind the fact the game supposedly has a ton of different endings, and that I could spend forever leveling up to level 9999, getting all sorts of insane items and ridiculous looking attacks, etc.

    Yet, good luck finding it. 14 stores and one had two in stock. I'm sure this was a low-volume venture by Atlus here in the states. I've thoroughly enjoyed it, but most folks haven't even heard of it. Which is a shame.

    ----- ----- -----
  • by tenzig_112 (213387) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:14AM (#8693433) Homepage
    If they didn't have to risk $50 a pop on a new and innovative title they might not like. This is why genres are so important [and frustrating] in the publishing industry. Both the consumer and publisher want a known commodity. Grand Theft Tony Hawk Pro Simmer 12 will always get the greenlight quicker than something people haven't tried before.

    I think that's why web-delivered games [ridiculopathy.com] are getting to be a lot like the independent film scene. They cost much less to produce and distribute than console or PC-specific games so developers and designers can experiment more. Also, consumers expect more risks.

    For example, in the console market people will buy up racing & football sequels where the only changes are new stats and color schemes. On the other hand, sites that offer only "look I made a clone of that other game but in FLASH" fare tend not to do well.
    • I agree. Most video games are a large investment in both time and money. They aren't like movies where you can spend two hours watching something and then go on with your life. If you like the movie that's cool, if not, well you only spent $5 for the rental anyway so it's not a big loss. However, if you put down $50 on a game, you want to know that your time will be well spent playing it.

      This is an area where I think a system like Xbox Live could really start to shine. Why not offer limited, playable

  • by DeadBugs (546475) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:15AM (#8693437) Homepage
    A game does not have to be "new and different" to be good. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

    I think that certain sequels like Grand Tursimo 3, Soul Calibur II, GTA3 etc. are better than many of the so called creative games.

    Not to mention that many sequels are very new and diffrent and have very little in common with the previous titles other than the name.

    Games are currently outdoing the movie industry in sales....so games are dead, long live games.
  • Uh...again? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by josh glaser (748297) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:15AM (#8693442)
    I don't think the lack of creativity is a problem. I mean, sure, we've seen a lot of sequels lately, but also some really creative games. Paging through the reviews in my most recent EGM reveals Ninja Gaiden, Eye Toy: Groove, Breakdown, and a hole ton of other creative games. About half of the games were sequels, which is a bit much, but nothing to freak out about. Also, recently, we've seen a TON of really innovative games, and we're beginning to see sequels to them. Splinter Cell comes to mind, along with Wario Ware. GTA3 was exceptionally inovative, too. Thing is, with a lot of innovative games, nobody buys them. I love Animal Crossing, and its in a genre by itself, but it didn't sell too well, and Nintendo certainly promoted it a lot. That's not much motivation for companies to make innovative, fresh games, now is it?
  • by MickyJ (188652) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:19AM (#8693470) Homepage Journal
    This just in: the CPU industry is going to die unless they make round chips instead of the square ones. More details after the news @ 11.
  • Trust (Score:4, Interesting)

    by firew0lfz (690262) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:21AM (#8693485)
    in Nintendo...

    seriously, we need Nintendo to start making up games again - just like back in the day...

    wait a minute...

    Actually, now that I think about it, the whole concept behind an Italian plumber and his brother fighting an evil turtle with spikes (ok, its a
    "Koopa") to save Toadstools (mushrooms) and a really hot cartoon chick of a princess really by eating fireplants and shooting fireballs, and sprouting a racoons tail and ears to fly does make me wonder what they were doing when they came up with that concept....

    (Of course, then again you have to wonder about the Ninja Turtles, Sonic [a flying fox?, a superfast hedgehog?], Power Rangers, etc... Pokemon I can kinda understand, as uhm, they're kinda a pet thing...)

    • Re:Trust (Score:5, Informative)

      by TomHandy (578620) <<tomhandy> <at> <gmail.com>> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:30AM (#8693535)
      Regarding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The guys who came up with the original comic book (that later spurned the cartoons, games, etc.) were huge fans of the comic book "Daredevil" and the Frank Miller comic book "Ronin". They sort of combined various elements of those stories and came up with the Mutant Ninja Turtles idea (some of the references in the show were a bit more obvious than others.... i.e. Daredevil was trained by a guy named "Stick", so the Ninja Turtles' sensei was named "Splinter"..... Daredevil fought against a group called "The Hand", so the Ninja Turtles went up against "The Foot").

      -Tom

      • Re:Trust (Score:3, Interesting)

        Well, arguably TMNT was a spoof of sorts... or part spoof, part its own book... Anyway their origin was clearly meant to poke a bit of fun at Daredevil et al.
  • HEH. (Score:5, Funny)

    by adun (127187) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:21AM (#8693486)
    'The gaming industry will shrink unless we start to see new games'.

    *drawing his sword*

    I DUB THEE SIR FUCKING OF THE OBVIOUS!
  • (Shameless Plug) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CheeseMonkey (677515) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:22AM (#8693494)
    This is not 100% true. Midway's trying to break away from the mold this year- check out their upcoming titles. The Suffering just came out- yes, the survival horror genre is a bit tired, but this one is at least trying to differentiate itself by being more action-oriented, having a branching plotline, other characters to interact with, meaningful decisions to make, etc.

    Ballers is coming up soon- I've played it, and I can say it's like no other game I've really played before- like the previews keep saying, it plays like a fighting game/basketball hybrid of some sort.

    And, last but certainly not least- coming up later in the year is Psi-Ops, which (ahem) is going to be fantastic :). But, seriously, it is a new IP with a completely new idea and (especially) a completely new play mechanic. There is no other game out there that plays like Telekenisis (the primary weapon in this game) plays. The closest thing I've seen is HL2's "magnet gun", but that is more of an engine show-off gimmick than an actual gameplay element.

    Anyway, point being it makes me sad to see this constant claim of no innovation in the industry when I feel like there are people out there trying to innovate. It's not their faul that, at the end of the day, innovation may not actually be what the public wants!
  • New Games Don't Sell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:51AM (#8693653) Homepage
    I think the big problem is that new games don't seem to sell. It doesn't matter how great it is, making a sequel to a hit is like free money. Let's look at some innovative games:
    • Pikmin - Don' think it sold well. Probably wouldn't have even been released if it wasn't a Miyamoto game. At least we'll get a sequel (a good thing). Maybe it will sell better, it deserves it.
    • Ico - Talked about this the other day. Looked great. Played great. Didn't sell very well.
    • Sly Cooper - FANTASTIC game, I don't think it sold very well. There will be a sequel, maybe it will sell better.
    • Animal Crossing - I was ADDICTED to this game for months. When I stopped playing, I felt like I abandonded all my friends. It was great. I hope the sequel makes it here.

    I could think of many others. There are some that have another reason (for example many rythum games don't do too well in the US), but many were just great games that didn't do to well. I think a big part of the problem is that many parents buy games. So why risk their $50 or $60 on something the kid might not like when they know the kid has GTA3 or NBA 2k3 or some other game and they can just buy the sequel and the kid will almost certainly like it (even though it might not be that great).

    There are many games out there, and many are fun. But personally I don't buy very many games (innovative or not). There are games that I've played and then thought "I wish I bought that", but I'm not going to because I've already beat the game. But far Far FAR more often the game wasn't that good (or terrible) or it was just short. I can't afford to take the chance to buy games. If games were $30, I would buy more, but a $60 for a new game you've got to be kidding me if you think I'll buy any games that look interesting. I think this is proven by the fact that I have about 5x as many GB/GBA games as most other consoles. Losing $25 or $30 on a game that looked fun (FF: Tactics was nice, but just not for me) isn't so bad. But if the games cost more, I wouldn't buy very many.

    Sequels aren't always bad. Some are very innovative or really improve things (think GTA3 vs GTA2). As you can see above I'm eargly awaiting the sequels to many games. The problem is that some games get a sequel. Then they get another and another and before you know it you're on volume 10 of about the same thing. (Final Fantasy games don't count because each one is different, they're not true sequels (except X-2, which is almost "non-sequel" in it's own right)).

    The end result of all this (and I think moving away from the razor blade model of video games would REALLY help) is that we get mostly sequels and remakes/collections and such.

    I can't afford to take risks on innovative games. Of those above, I own Animal Crossing (because I rented it and got addicted to it and bought it) and Pikmin (because it looked fun and I trust Miyamoto). It's too risky.

  • by jvmatthe (116058) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:07AM (#8693721) Homepage
    Readers might find this study of games on the GBA [curmudgeongamer.com] interesting. It has its flaws (discussed in the article itself, as well as further in the comments) but shows that at least one platform is a huge magnet for sequel/rehash/ports, namely the GBA. I suspect, but haven't investigated for specifics, that other platforms since the Atari 2600 (or thereabouts) are similar.

    To tie it into a "shrinking market" angle, I think that the size of the GBA installed base says that, at least at some level, there is a huge sector of the public willing to eat crap and call it great. Judging from the ongoing poor level of quality in all other media for as long as anyone can remember, it seems that this sector of the public is here permanently and thus there will always be a huge market for drivel. Oh well.
    • You obviously don't own or have never played a GBA. The GBA has a ton of great games. They may not be 3D. They may not even be particularly innovative. But they're fun and isn't that the point? Yeah, there's crap. But there's crap on every system. I'd argue the CD-based systems get more crap because the GBA medium (carts cost more than DVDs or CDs) make developers think twice before releasing something they wouldn't hesitate to throw out for PS2. Yeah, lots of what you get on the GBA are old school games or
  • by kbonin (58917) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:10AM (#8693728) Homepage
    As someone that just left the game industry for the second time - this time 'cause I got tired of looking for a job that didn't require a minimum of 80 hour weeks working on either a n-th generation sequel or a game that tried to differentiate itself through pushing the gore / splatter level:

    The problem is with the people FUNDING the game industry. The independent shops are being swallowed by companies that have made loads of cash getting away with pumping out sequels that have only minor engine improvements. This sucks, but worked for a while in a few profitable genres. Many companies that tried to push it died after too many generations (I used to work at Accolade, that's part of what killed them...)

    Unfortunately, people that funds games look at this seeming no-risk model, and refuse to fund anything that doesn't look like the same. They all want you to license an existing engine, and make a game that can be described in a single sentence as {profitable game A } crossed with {profitable game B.}

    If you don't follow this model, you don't get funds.

    As a related point, there are WAY too many companies in the industry for the amount of shelf space available, and the big players BUY shelf space, so its nearly impossible to compete anyway without cutting a deal with an existing major distributor. Want to do that? Guess what, you have to change your game to follow the same model as everyone else.

    In the mean time, the EA's and Sony's of the world are pushing their developers harder and harder - they've currently got a surplus of available headcounts to replace all the burnt out ones with...

    The industry needs more "angel" funders. But in this economy...
  • by cstec (521534) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:19AM (#8693760)
    The premise that the industry will shrink if we don't see "new" games is patently false. We don't see new games because people don't buy new games. They buy the games they already liked, but different.

    Consider that men have been going to bars, drinking too much and going home with ugly women for thousands of years. (The oldest known human recipe is a Mesopotamian recipe for beer) Obviously humans can do what they like indefinately, even if they regret it the next morning.

  • Product Comparisons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ctaylor (160829) <COFFEE minus caffeine> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:24AM (#8693787) Homepage
    Big publishers go through several steps when launching a new title. They do market analysis, competitive product comparisons, greenlight sessions, profit and loss statements and so on. Basically, lots and lots of paperwork that mostly tries to compare the new product against already existing titles. It's easier that way.

    How do most game concepts start? "Super Killer Frenzy Shooter is a cross between Quarter-Life 3 and ReallyFarOutCry, with an RTS component based on..." Even game developers are constantly comparing games to other games by saying this is a little of that, and a little of this, or just like game X but with feature Y. I can only imagine that other creative industries do the same (movies come to mind.)

    This is not just the way big publishers do business. A lot of pitches I've seen from smaller developers include how they are different or better than a list of already released games. Mostly popular games.

    Most game companies are out to make money. Usually so they can continue to make games and not end up on the dole. So, we tend to look at what is popular and selling. It's very risky, especially with the game development budgets these days, to try something brand new. It still happens, it just doesn't happen as much as the early 8-bit days when it was literally one guy in the garage doing all the design, coding and art. Unless you look at the shareware, PDA and demo scenes where small teams and individuals are still making games there.

    Sequels are popular with publishers because a) they tend to cost less to develop since you can use assets/engines/design from the first game, b) if the first game was popular, the sequel _usually_ sells well unless it's a bad game, c) you can get more press since you don't have to sell the magazines on a completely brand new concept that they are not sure will appeal to their market and d) you find it easier to get "buy-in" from your internal sales and marketing staff when dealing with a known property.

    I don't think the games industry is non-creative, but we've definitely matured and tend to take less risks overall. Sequels and derivitive products are a way of reducing that risk.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:25AM (#8693790) Homepage
    The big thing at the GDC seemed to be putting decade-old games on cellphones. It's about the revenue model. Cellphone companies charge by the month for gaming. They can thus collect revenue from classics forever.

    The basic problem is the one we discovered in the early days of virtual reality - no matter how good the graphics get, all you can really do in there is move around, shoot stuff, point at stuff, and select things from menus.

  • Ratio vs number? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:28AM (#8693802) Homepage Journal
    Isn't the reason there's more sequels that there's more games?

    Like, the number of new games showing up is constant, but besides them, more sequels appear?

    I wouldn't be too surprised. Creativity not waning, but not growing either, market growing seriously, gap between market growth and available creativity filled with sequels. Nothing to really worry about.
  • by LeoDV (653216) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:55AM (#8693918) Journal
    Half-Life 2 is a terrible example of that. If it had been a game no-one had heard of but had the same graphics engine and gameplay mechanics there would be almost as much hype and hoopla around it, I can guarantee that.

    I wholeheartedly agree that there nearly isn't enough creativity in the video-game industry. Because it is a mass entertainment medium, the incentive to give the creative people real creative freedom is severely lacking. But also, because video-games are such a mass entertainment media, the laws of market apply to it, i.e. more often than not, a bad game will flop, and a good game will sell, sequel or no sequel. Like with movies. This is what recently happened with, say, Deus Ex 2, which had a lot of hype going for it and a huge fanbase but (even though I loved it) most people didn't like it and it flopped, even though it was a sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past decade.

    That said, there are several other things to take into account.

    First of all, what matters in a game isn't the title as much as the gameplay mechanics. In a movie or a book, a sequel implies a lot of things : same characters, same genre, same universe... Of course there are lots of unconventional sequels out there, but in a videogame what is appealing is the gameplay (in the broader sense, i.e. gaming experience, graphics, etc.) more than the characters or the story. Look at a game like The Legend of Zelda : The wind Waker. It's, what, the tenth sequel to one of the most successful franchises in videogame history? And yet wasn't that a very ballsy game? The Wind Waker was a very innovative game in more than one way. A very creative game, no matter how much of a sequel it was. Sams with an other hit console game like Prince of Persia : The Sands of Time. An other adaptation of an old school 2D game into a 3D masterpiece. Boooring you say? No, because even though it's a sequel, there are tons of creativity jammed into it. The gameplay mechanics, the famed rewind, the animation, the level design... The point here is that because videogames rely so much on gameplay mechanics, a sequel is far from meaning an uninnovative or non-creative game.

    Very far from it.

    The main problem with the videogame industry isn't that there isn't creativity, it's that there is no incentive to give the creative people the creative freedom they require -- much like Hollywood. As long as boring, unimaginative sequels will sell, why should execs look further than boring, unimaginative sequels? I only wish that there was a 'creativity crisis' in the video-game industry. Those things force the people with the big $$$ to take chances, to crop the useless fat out. Look at what happened with television : HBO proved with The Sopranos that a quality TV series could actually make money. Now we see all kinds of great shows pop up all around the place like Six Feet Under, K Street, but not just on cable, with The Shield, CSI, and many more like The Wire, Dead Like Me, and more I'm forgetting. Only a few years back the only reason I kept a TV was out of habit, for DVDs and the occasional documentary or Star Trek. Now I find myself cancelling dates (yes, I can get dates) to watch a great TV show. The problem with the videogame industry is that a good videogame takes a lot of money, and a lot of skills. The time when you could program a game on your Amiga in your bedroom while your brother drew the sprites and made a bad MIDI soundtrack for it is long gone. Once again, why is HL so good? Because they've been working at it since the first one came out! And because Valve hired some of the best programmers they could find! That's what, six/seven years of development and with very talented people. I can only imagine how much money has been invested in this project. And it paid off! The game is fantastic, even before it came out. It's got the best graphical engine anyone has ever seen (John C
  • by KarmaOverDogma (681451) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:09AM (#8693955) Homepage Journal
    because of the push for 1st person shooters and gorgeous rendered graphics, IMO.

    I am in my mid 30s. Most of the games I loved as a teenager are on MAME but don't allow for progression/devlopment - unless you play the sequal, of course.

    Precious few computer games of recent memory really engaged me for more than a few days. They were, in no particular order:

    1) Civilization II (the king of them all) and III
    2) DungeonMaster (a close second from the Amiga, which hit the PC way too late)
    3) Ultima III and IV (now I'm really showing my age...).
    4) Diablo II and the expansion pack
    5) Starcraft and Warcraft III
    6) Myst and Siberia
    7) uMoria (DOS and GUI).

    IMO, these games were either truly innovative or so improved on their predecessor to merit BUYING the game and reccomending it to my friends.

    also, IMO arcarde games were moved faster into obscurity by the fact that they focused to heavily on the street fighter genre. This is not to say that street fighter was not a great game because it was, but as time went by these were all I saw in the arcades.

    Similarly, when I go into the computer stores today to buy games, I see a clear focus on the 1st person rendered/shooter types to the extent that they appear to be crowding out ideas for other games. Unreal is great fun if your reflexes are great, but snipers picking me off from God-know where just takes the fun out of it for me. Maybe this is the criticism that the article had in mind about few truly innovative game ideas.

    Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to be said for gorgeous 3d rendered graphics and visual realism, but that should be the foundation, not the substance of a game.
    .
  • by Genda (560240) <marietNO@SPAMgot.net> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:14AM (#8693972) Journal
    Look around...

    Why is music repetitive, cliche, formulaic?

    Why are motions picture even worse... special effects fodder? Mindless, action packed fantasies, design scientifically to appeal to the male and pimply... in the never ending quest to suck dollars out of young people's pockets.

    If anything... the games genre is even more clearly designed to go after that young male demographic, with a second wave of assault aimed at male adults (namely violent games that include some degree of sexually explicit content.)

    What has always been at the bottom of human experience is the compelling story, the deep and moving experience, a chance to go, do, be something you might never get the chance of doing or being in this life. A great game, has to first be a compelling story... it has to have a context, which is artful, involving, absorbing. It has to create a viable universe that allows people to discover themselves newly, heroic, or antiheroic. There will always be new and compelling paradigms for human interaction.

    One could combine existing game categories creating comletely new game types... one could come up with a new game genre all-together... The interactive novel, you press a button, and suddenly you're part of an interactive, compelling universe, a story driven by actions, choices, and an author's intent. A story that is complex. subtle, mysterious, that demands that you be smart, show finesse, and strength... Or maybe one could create a game which is a puzzle, where a team of players has to take elements, visual, linguistic (programmable code?), or alternately perceptual (music, motion, magic.) And combine them, related them, assemble them into a whole, a creation, a unique solution to the puzzle space. Then in an arena, teams compete, either for the love and appreciation of the spectators, or for some kind of game points... It took only a few seconds to invent something unique... A bright person could spin ideas out all day long... this isn't magic.

    People... it's a wide open universe, you can do anything y'damn well please. The limitation of guaranteed profit (the worst kind of fallacy), or get in quick, get out quick, hit and run, sloppy. greedy half-assed attempts to shakedown the lusers, is it's own resolution. In the end, people will just walk away shaking their heads and find something else to do with their time and money.

    It's not hard to create something unique. It's not hard to create something compelling and beautiful. It is however impossible to create anything that satisfies the bakers and beancounters, when the first contraint, is to make money without risk...

    One more reason, to give people who aren't bound by the profit motive, the tools and space to create new and unique play environments.

    Genda
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:26AM (#8694005) Homepage Journal
    Damn, I wish these people would stop crying wolf for once. The gaming industry has doomed for over a decade and now, oh my gosh! It might shrink! Ok, lets break it down for the doomsayer-- Every market goes through phases, which are normally driven by what sells. If FPSs sell in the gaming industry, guess what you'll be seeing a lot of????? GASP! First Person Freakin Shooters!!! Eventially people will get tired of FPS. A new cycle begins. Something else sells. I mean think about it logically, do you think they would continue to make it if people weren't buying???

    Come on, people, let's pull out heads out of our short term asses and realize:
    -The Gaming Industry isn't doomed
    -PC Gaming will not die out because of console competition
    -The industry goes through cycles and there's no shortage of creativity

    Oh yeah-- We'll be running out of oil in 25 years too.
  • by nothings (597917) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:47AM (#8694083) Homepage
    I am independent game developer burned out on the mainstream industry, and not that thrilled with the web downloadable publishers who are turning out much the same as the mainstream publishers, writ small. But there was plenty of creativity on display at the GDC if you looked for it.

    At the IGDA awards, three games were given "Game Innovation Spotlights": the EyeToy, Viewtiful Joe, and WarioWare Inc. All three of these seem quite novel and worthy of the attention.

    At the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, both indies and mainstream games were shown. On the indie front, this year's Indie Game Jam [indiegamejam.com] games (full disclosure: I co-run this event); Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates [puzzlepirates.com]; and Zoesis' [zoesis.com] The Demon and the Princess. On the commercial front, the creator of Namco's Katamari Damashii [gamespot.com] spoke about and demoed the game ("Was it difficult to convince Namco to let you do this game?" "Of course." was even funnier with the long pause for translation between question and answer); we had presentations about WarioWare and about the explorations of time as a game mechanic (specifically in Prince of Persia, Max Payne 1 & 2, and Viewtiful Joe).

    (There were a few more presentations about more academic "games": Ken Perlin's work on natural-language-programming for kids, "Haptic Battle Pong", and I forget what else, as I was developing a fever during the 3-hour EGW.)

    The winner of the Indie Games Festival's web downloadable grand prize, Oasis [oasisgame.com], is a fairly original and creative game (full disclosure: I did contract work for Oasis' developers on a different project), and since this is announced at essentially the same ceremony as the IGDA awards it has a fairly significant cachet.

    So I think the Reuters reporters just didn't go to the right events at the GDC.

    The story itself has plenty of debatable claims. Are gamers, as the article claims, getting more conservative, or are publishers just getting extremely conservative and releasing more sequels and focusing their marketing dollars there? Hint: nobody debates the truth of the latter.

  • by Crizzam (749336) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:55AM (#8694110)
    The way I see it the video game industry is analgous to the movie industry or music industry in general. In fact, we can group all of these under the heading "Entertainment Industry".

    I will use the movie industry as an example and I believe the analogy will become fairly self evident. In the early phases of film making the director had to struggle with many technical issues as the art form was in it's infancy. Low light shots, grey balance, film processing, sound editing and duplication were enormous technical and logistical hurdles. As the technology of this artform became more complex, people involved became specialized in their particular niche of the process. The technical resources are now available to the director without the complete, in depth knowlege of each process. The director is free to focus on his particular job: making the best movie possible. (Please note, I'm not in the entertainment industry, I'm just hoping to make a point here)

    A video game, without question, is a form of art and entertainment. I believe that the industry is still in a developing phase. In the beginning, the person programming the game WAS the director. Typically they concieved the game, developed, programmed and had the challenge of overcoming all technical and creative issues. (Relatively few creative issues, I might add [think: pong]).

    Now the indusrty is seeing it's split of fields. People are now only responsible for texture mapping 3-d models. Other people work on physics engines. We have been seeing the specialization of technical fields within this industry. My arguement is that this specialization allows for greater creative freedom by those whose job it is to just "make great games".

    Lastly, I think there have been a lot of crap games recently, but let's look at why that is. Well, why is it such a high percentage of early movies made are now considered classics? Well, they were good movies, but why? Because the people who made them were professionals and it was expensive to make a movie back then, so they took it seriously. Today, anybody with a DV Camcorder and iMovie can make a film, but how much of the stuff thats churned out is actually worth watching? It's the same with video games, the development and distribution costs of game making has dropped dramatically and the technology to produce games is now as easy as getting a developers kit and a PC.

    Any discussion of the current state (or future) of the gaming industry without at least a footnote to the entertainment industries history, I think, is somewhat lacking perspective. I believe the industry is in an acceptable place, given its relatively short history.


  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:17AM (#8694442) Homepage
    Let's throw in some new ideas:
    • Grand Theft Auto - Online!
      Finally, massively multiplayer comes to GTA. The bad guys are played by players in South Central LA and Medellin, Columbia. You can do actual drug deals in the GTA world. "Live in your world - deal in ours". Now with fully encrypted voice chat.
    • Days of Our Lives As the World Turns
      The first soap opera video game. Online, but requires only occasional dialup, because the pace is so slow. Includes in-game shopping. Astrology option included.
    • Rove for President
      Try to do Karl Rove's job, manipulating the electorate to get Republicans elected. High-scorers win internships at the Heritage Foundation.
    • Silent Scope Extreme Edition
      Get in touch with your inner sniper. Comes with a light gun that emulates a full-sized sniper rifle. Choice of M-40A1, Dragunov, or H&K G3. A press of a single key turns the game into Deer Hunter, in case right-wing parents come in the room. Includes NRA membership application and one-year subscription to Guns and Ammo.
    • Desert Despot
      Tropico for the Islamic world. You're the dictator. Get too oppressive, and there's a revolt. Lighten up too much, and the religious fanatics overthrow you. Can you develop nuclear weapons before the US catches on?
    • Donald Trump's Casino Manager
      Why just gamble? Run your own online casino. Take bets, pay off bets, make or lose money. All transactions are fully anonymous and are routed through servers in the Bahamas. A Donald Trump popup gives you advice. Screw up, and he bellows "You're Fired", and your machine shuts down.
    • My Really Annoying Baby
      Now, buy Baby Think It Over, the doll that teaches you how to care for a baby, at a low, low affordable price. Screams when hungry. Screams when diaper needs to be changed. Screams at threshold of pain if treated roughly. Can't be turned off. Uses special disposable single-use diapers, available wherever toys are sold.
    • House Music Construction Set
      Thumpa, thumpa, thumpa, all night long. Set a few sliders, twist a few mix pads, and out comes original house music. Upload your songs to peer-to-peer networks. Subwoofer optional.
  • Risk vs. Return (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ingolfke (515826) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @08:21AM (#8695003) Journal
    If you look at game companies, instead of the entire industry, you'll see that it makes a lot of sense to focus their limited resources on producing sequals to top selling games. This is common in most (all?) entertainment industries. They'll make incremental improvements, focus heavily on tweaking gameplay, adding features, enhancing graphics, and then take the money, the internal experience, and the code libraries to their next innovative idea. As soon as people started getting tired of playing Half-Life 4: Half and Half and Halfed again... they'll be an opening for an innovative and interesting game. Now of course, some other company without a franchise like HF2 may come along and shake things up, but again, it's less risky to target and existing market.

    It takes a lot of money to make a commercially successful game, and most investors don't want to invest in "starving artists" with just and idea and no real solid plan for financial return.
  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:26PM (#8696547)
    ... and much more discriminating. Compare you're young gamer self to how you view games now. When you were a kid you didn't care so much about reviews of games (unless you had a magazine subscription) you just wanted to play and experience every genre type of the games that you liked in existence. Thats how it was for me. Back in the day it was 1) Action / Beat-em-ups 2) Fighting games 2) RPG's and 3) shooters like Gradius, R-Type, etc. (Not first person shooters).

    And to tell you the truth that hasn't changed in all these years I still like games from those categories/genres. I have expanded my gaming to included PC gaming, RTS and online FPS like Quake/unreal. But the gameplay/genre could still be boiled down to 5-6 genres you can count on your fingers.

    There's a few problems and realities that the industry has to face:

    1) Games and gaming are $!@# expensive (Esp for teens/kids who don't have rich parents) which limits the size of the market who can afford them. Look at what happened when Nintendo dropped their Gamecube to $99 they sold 2.5 million more! Thats nothing to sneeze at you just increased your market by 15-20% with a single price cut. I believe games themselves could reach a much wider audience if they didn't cost so much to produce and retail for over $40US ($60-70$CDN).

    2) The older you become the more discriminating and jaded you get with the more games you play. It's unavoidable, the novelty loss gets worse with time, it becomes harder and harder to wow a seasoned gamer. Your nostalgic 'old favorites' from when you were a kid look like a pile of crap nowadays, with the rare few old games that are as your nostalgic mind remembers them.

    3) Game rentals, I'm sorry but game renting negates almost any reason for anyone to purchase a game. The publishers and companies are just F'n dumb I swear! Available game rentals should be DEMOS of the game, not the complete thing. How moronic it is when you can buy and finish a game on 4-7$ weekend rental at blockbuster then fork out $40-50 for a brand new singleplayer game that once finished sits on the shelf and collects dust, thats over 500% savings at least for the same gaming experience!

    Gaming industry has to wake up and realize that games are consumed differently them movies. It's not like the movie industry where you release to the theatres first and then make DVD/VHS versions available later, and you can consume movies much faster then you can consume games due to their short length of usually 1-2hrs. Rented games are available usually the day they are released, which totally negates any reason to buy them, after you've already played them! It's very simple economics really. Thats what has been the norm all throughout these years in thh industry, you can rent any game and finish it in a weekend rental for %500 less then actually buying the game.

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