Players tired of sequels?
Very interesting piece today on next-gen.biz, where an analyst (WMS) claims that players are increasingly turned off by sequelitis.
I don’t have a lot of faith in analysts in general, I will readily admit. I’ve seen plenty of reports about Nintendo64, GameCube, PlayStation2, PlayStation Portable, etc that have been wildly off base and basically pure speculation – but people seem to give these reports a lot of credibility “because an analyst said it”. (Makes me wonder if I should become an analyst… hmmm…) But this report is one I’d like to believe.
Why? Because if it’s true it would encourage our community to invest more in new IP. But unfortunately, it seems unlikely. The problem is not sequelitis as much as a lack of innovation in gameplay. These are two distinct things. If Medal of Duty 56 comes out, and I liked Medal of Duty 55, I’ll definitely look at it more closely than I would RandomNewGame. But if the play experience in 56 is not unique and interesting, providing me something new and exciting, I’m much less likely to pick it up. If I love the story or universe and want to experience another tale in that universe, that’s one thing. But this is the game industry we’re talking about – how often does that happen? We’re still very action focused, not story focused, and a new story told with exactly the same game dynamic is not something that most people find particularly compelling. What people really want is a new *experience*.
Neil Young said at the Montreal International Game Summit that a successful game must have “1-3 innovations”. I thought placing an upper limit on innovation was somewhat odd, but innovation “in the small” is certainly a requirement for commercial success, 99% of the time. People want new play experiences. That’s one of the reasons that the DS has been so successful as of late… Nintendogs, the surgery simulator, Feel the Magic, all these crazy games are new play experiences, and are just really fun. Of course, just creating a weird gameplay experience does not make a successful game on its own; it also needs to have a compelling tale to tell.
We’re at a cusp where we’re trying to move toward a more story-driven industry, but we don’t have the player base to support it. As an industry still largely defined by action, innovating the action, the gameplay experience, is absolutely important. But as games become increasingly expensive and we use more licensed IP and produce more sequels, it’s oh so much easier to just create a story and use the “tried and true” gameplay mechanic. Booooriiiiing. Eventually we may get there. But for now, “managed innovation” – in both gameplay AND story – should be the rule of the day. Not “playing it safe”.