When I first sat down to write this article, I have to admit my original intention was to go off on a rant about how the gaming industry is morphing itself into its own chokehold of death. For example, Anthem is the latest triple A game to get critically panned in a market that is already oversaturated with open world, live service, that will get more content later games. I originally was going to then kick off about we don’t need another game like this, yada yada yada, nothing new there. Even so, I bet the Destiny fraternity welcome another Destiny type game to lose themselves into, but, at the end of the day the success of Bioware rests on the sales of Anthem, and is it’s the publishers fault ( EA ) for putting them in that position.
But I can see light for us gamers in all this at the end of the tunnel.
I find it ironic that we live in a society today that craves diversity, yet the gaming culture currently is one of homogenising everything to be the same as everything else, IE the polar opposite of diversity.
Then a thought struck me. While most games series are focusing in how to get bigger, longer, and therefore cost much more to develop, perhaps games should get smaller ( therefore cheaper to make ) ?
You see while publishers are craving for more content, bigger games, more revenue for longer life cycles, that unfortunately takes much longer to develop and cost a lot more than a few years ago. Maybe the way forward and a market area not explored is to go smaller? How about making games with a lot less in them? You know, like they used to be last generation?
Let me explain, and the perfect example is Hellblade. Hellblade in short, is a Triple A experience, no frills, no open world, no endless fetch quests, no boring collectables, no online service, no road map of future content, just a tight, short ( 6 hour ), engrossing, exciting linear experience that took a hell of a lot less time to develop and a lot less money to make than it’s bigger counterparts. Despite being smaller, it’s still a magnificent and brilliant game. It’s been awarded countless awards for its brilliance, even when against it’s bigger cousins, is revered by gamers who have played it, and is pretty much on it’s own in the gaming market. By on it’s own i mean, can you name me another triple A quality 6 to 8 hour single player experience ? There are a few. Uncharted – The Lost Legacy, Quantum Break, Recore, Valiant Hearts, Child of Light, Journey, Abzu, Oxenfree, and although it wasn’t meant to be The Order 1886 should be in this class. ( The issue with the Order for me is not that it’s a bad game, ( I enjoyed it enough to spend time to platinum it ) it’s just not a £45 one. It should have been priced like Hellblade around £25 on release )
I’m currently playing DMC 5 to review, and it is a tight, focused, linear non openworld experience, and it feels fresh simply because it’s not trying to be like every other current game, ( online, open world, fetch quest, collecting simulators ) It’s something cheaper, easier to develop, and even though it has less content ( therefore time and development money ) its not losing any of its brilliance because of this. In way because there are so few games like this, it actually feels like your getting more as it feels so different. Less is most definitely more.
I really got into gaming on the PS3/Xbox 360, and back then every other game was around a 8 to 12 hour experience, and just because a lot of them were shorter than what we have today, it didn’t mean they were any less fun or good. ( Dead Space, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Bioshock, Singularity, Syndicate, Dark Sector, Remember Me, Heavenly Sword, Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia…. and many more I could mention ) I feel the current generation is missing this area of the market, 8 to 12 hour exciting triple A type quality, linear experiences ( like Hellblade ) and although many Indie developers are trying to fill this hole at the moment, I would dearly love to see some of the big boys filling this area of the market also. An 8 hour God of War experience, a new Bayonetta 10 hour game. Some gamers only buy the Call of Duty games for the single player experience. Battlefield Bad Company 1 and 2 are two of the best FPS, funny, great single player experiences to date. ( I’d happily pay £25 for a new singleplayer Bad Company 3 game )
Games don’t need to be bigger to be better. Two examples of this are Red Dead Redemption 2 and Dynasty Warriors 9. RDR was a big open world you could have fun in and took around 18 to 20 hours to complete the story. RDR2 is a bigger game most certainly, and took me 60 hours to complete the story. I don’t feel it was a better game though. Yes the graphics were better, but the experience wasn’t. I spent far too long in RDR2 doing mind numbing boring things like chopping wood, lifting sacks, cleaning weapons, taking a bath. Is this really progress? Is this really what gamers have craved for or what you would call progress and a good use of the extra power of the consoles? Of course it isn’t. But then just think how much time, effort and money was spent in the development to add these utterly boring things into the game?
Dynasty Warriors 9 is a car crash of a game. Yes the series needed a new direction to be fresh but they choose the way of everyone else and made it open world, go here fight, rinse repeat, boredom. Why follow the pack, why not lead. Why not go smaller, linear, tighter, CHEAPER, shorter development times instead ? If all the game has to offer is fighting, why make it a chore to get from one fight to another? Why not downsize, put us in a corridor, lower the cost of the development but still have the same experience?
I’m not in charge of a big publisher, or a shareholder, but i’m hoping sooner, rather than later, the next big trend from the big companies, is 8 to 12 hour linear experiences, priced lower, but just as successful as other bigger titles. If the games are smaller and less expensive, then developers can take more risks, we as gamers get more innovation and experiences, and companies won’t lose as much if the game pans, but can expand the idea to increase revenue if it works. Thank god for Hellblade. I pray that Hellblade is/was a financial success for Ninja Theory and maybe Hellblades success will open the floodgates for other series to think smaller and cheaper as a way forward. I can but hope.