Hello fellow gamers, I’m here to talk about a disturbing trend in video game development. Like nearly everyone else in the gaming world, I’m sure you’ve played your fair share of first person shooters, be it triple-A blockbusters, one hit wonders, or free-to-play. But there’s a certain shooter trend that I’m not too fond of and is quickly watering down my experience. It’s the annual iteration model that is growing so popular within the genre.
Some would call the first-person shooter space oversaturated right now. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counter-Strike, and Medal of Honor are just a few big names competing for your attention alongside a multitude of free-to-play titles. Each year, depending on the sales figures of the previous entry in a given triple-A FPS, many studios get a bigger budget for the sequel. This cycle – in theory – is a great thing. Players get more of what they want and developers get to make the next title even stronger for the fans that love to play it. Unfortunately there’s also something called the marketing department. They determine the best way to use money and collect data as to see where money can best be used to make more money.
This ultimately becomes what I call the “game sweatshop”. What often happens is, developers make small, incremental improvements to their game every year, and put it on shelves with a new $60 price tag. When it’s done well, customers feels satisfied in the purchase. They feel like the update in gameplay mechanics, graphics, or even user interface was worth it. But this blight in the gaming world unfortunately becomes a factory that churns out a “new” game, that really isn’t all that much different from the previous entry. Sure, there might be a new single-player campaign, or new weapons in multiplayer, but these days, many gamers don’t even play single-player campaigns. All of this recycling occurs just to bleed your wallet dry. A recent Kotaku article dove into this process and talked to developers who revealed their disdain for this model. One of the memorable statements made in the feature stated that “milking the margins comes first… If you love games, leave it at the door”. Making iterations is the most important thing instead of customer satisfaction. Most adult players have a job just to make sure they can keep playing these games and when they are forced to start a new game it takes away from the value.
You can argue in favor of this process by sating that playing the same game for long periods gets dull. Or you could say that you’ve sat there playing for hours and you’ve unlocked everything, so you need something new and fresh. But the kicker is when you hear that they’re already announcing the next iteration while you’re still playing, enjoying, and making progress in the current one. At that point – what’s the reason for staying with it? To unlock content that will be useless within another six months? Do you really want to just keep going with the same game that recycles ideas and concepts to squeeze out another $60 plus in DLC money from its player base? Once you think about this – you hopefully step back and think about what how you spend your time gaming, and your hard earned dollars as well.
I have opened my eyes and mind to new things in the gaming world. There are plenty of games out there that offer the thrill of competition, or boast amazingly deep single-player campaigns that aren’t just multiplayer driven first-person shooters. We must broaden our horizons to truly anchor ourselves as gamers. Doing so will help show publishers that we aren’t just mindless consumers, seeking entertainment from familiar names and franchises. We are people seeking to be entertained by a plethora of innovative, robust and exciting experiences, no matter what form they come in. Do this my fellow gamers, and we are on our way to bettering the industry that we all know and love.