Have you noticed how when we see someone were to do something different, we will look at them all funny and probably point our fingers at them and laugh?
So what do you do when you are that someone and you do not want to be laughed at? You will most probably stop doing something different and conform to the wants and demands of society. In other words, you ended up playing it safe.
We can see this most profoundly in our gaming industry today. Go to any game shop and look through the shelf. More often than not, you will see more sequels than original titles and more first person shooters compared to other genres. Why is this so?
It is certainly not because the publishers are afraid of being laughed at, it is more a concern on whether they will get to laugh their way to the bank. You see, due to the high capital costs of gaming production this days, where it may rival or in some cases even overtake those of Hollywood, game production have become a risky venture.
And in any business venture, how do we minimize the risk?
By matching the demands of the market as closely as possible with the product we deliver in the most cost effective way possible.
Sequels are safe investments as a base of followers have already been established in its predecessors, as opposed to an unproven, untested IP.
Popular genre such as first-person shooters are safe investments too as there are a large following of people who play on that genre that allows company to attempt some new IP without risking the lost of the market share.
The problem with playing it safe, however, is that everything moves like clockwork. Humans thrive on their ingenuity and creativity, and its ability to continuously adapt and find ways to make their life simpler or more enjoyable.
High costs of production of games, led to intense pressure to deliver the games on time, putting extreme stress on the developers and designers which may affect their ability to develop new ideas.
So what can we gamers do to promote ideas and helping them allow creative ideas to flourish?
The easiest way is to write up to the company themselves, providing suggestions and what not.
Just like how we can stop shark killing through abstaining the purchase of shark fins, so too can be done for games, albeit with less blood involved.
Let me be clear, I’m not advocating a total ban of games, that will be counter-productive and will serve no purpose other than damaging the industry.
Instead, what I propose is for us gamers to consider our purchases more carefully. What are we getting when we buy a title? Are we going for the continuity of the story, the new concepts, and so on? Take a breather and pick a title that you genuinely want to play and not something that you have to buy because there is a new number stamped on the box next to the title.
A good example to look at is Call of Duty. Its transition from WWII to the modern era was a perfect example of a balance in their attempt to provide new ideas without changing the core mechanics too much. It was fun, and it had one hell of a story. It also introduced the now legendary multiplayer system that allows leveling up.
When millions of copies were sold, what happens after that?
Go ahead and pick up the latest call of duty title and compare it with the modern warfare 1. I am certain you will be hard pressed to find a distinct different between them.
Knowing that they have struck on a gold mine, the publisher continue dishing out sequels over and over with but a bit of change here and there to stick to what works. It has worked for them, and it will continue to work for them when we continue to buy the latest copies.
Lets look at guitar heroes. Do you remember those?
Back when it was first launched, it was an excellent game built on simple mechanics that allow us to fulfill our dreams of becoming a rock star at the comfort of our own home.
What happen then?
After landing on another gold mine, sequels after sequels are being produced with hardly anything to distinguish them apart from each other which have led to an over-saturation of the title in the market, killing it in the process.
Of course, I’m not saying all sequels are bad. There are sequels that have incorporated many new ideas, wonderful story and enough new content to justify itself being called a sequel. Titles like halo series, metro series, assassin creed are some examples of well-done sequels.
In summary, I feel we gamers must do our part to safeguard the industry by supporting new ideas, new IP and sequels with new contents, and consider strongly on whether we need to buy those sequels with little changes apart from the number stamped on the box.