The Examiner earlier this month posted up an article where David Cage, head honcho of Quantic Dream, the makers of Heavy Rain and Beyond (aka the only reason I am buying a PS3 this year), suggested that the plethora of sequels circulating today and planned for the future only serve to kill off creativity in the gaming industry. His comments are supported by additional statements made last year by Capcom’s former Head of R&D, Keiji Inafune, who spoke critically about the lack of originality in the games that were highlighted at the 2012 Tokyo Game Show. The author of the article then states that it seems as though the industry has too many developers who hold onto new titles until the next console generation, sort of like a freeze to free-thinking until something to make it even prettier comes along. To some extent, I agree with the idea that the time between current consoles and the next cycle has been heavily populated with I, II, III, and IV, as well as varying titles in between, talking about Brotherhood and Black Ops or whatever.
The Examiner itself highlights the not-as-yet confirmed Assassin’s Creed 4 and Modern Warfare 4 as pieces of proof that this trend of withholding new IP until the new console is a thing. The decline in sales related to Call of Duty: Black Ops II (along with the success of The Walking Dead from TellTale) is also an indicator that maybe the gamers themselves are exhausted with the constant flood of Michael Bay-esque sequels that Activision in particular is guilty of perpetuating. I personally have not purchased a Call of Duty title since MW3, because: why bother? My sister wrote a paper on how interchangeable FPS titles in particular have become. But I take issue with Assassin’s Creed being tossed into the mix. And this goes back to a previous post I made about storytelling versus the status quo…because there’s a difference between the ‘story’ of Call of Duty games and the story behind Assassin’s Creed. I think the Modern Warfare storyline was told very well, but in between we had World at War and Black Ops, which in my opinion detracted attention from what could have been an awesome tale of betrayal in the MW world. The rushed sensation behind MW3’s campaign is testament to how attention wavered with WaW and BLOPs. Disappointed does not begin to cover it and it’s fine, because Activision is about its bottom line, as most profitable companies should be. This, unfortunately, doesn’t make them very good storytellers but it doesn’t mean they’re any less important to the industry than any other developer.
See, I believe you need the glut of mediocre games and their sequels in order to give brilliant developers a chance to focus on and produce titles that do what I love every art form to do: make us think and tell us a story all at the same time. I don’t mind wading through the numerous calls to duty on the battlefield if it means I get a title like Dishonored every now and then. They serve to remind us just how great this industry can be, something we all tend to forget when stuff starts exploding two minutes into a new game with little to no explanation of why you’re the good guy and then HOLY CRAP all of a sudden you’re turning someone into a glass eater.
When you look at the time Quantic Dream is taking with Beyond: Two Souls (which I about fell off my chair for at E3 2012), you can appreciate this contrast view of the gaming industry. It’s much the same with every art form, this fractured fan base that keeps Activision afloat by consuming Call of Duty titles like Apple fanboys consume ‘new and improved’ iPhones. For every Michael Bay, there is a Steven Spielberg, and so forth. Why should we expect anything more or less from the gaming industry? It does seem that our opportunities to consume truly great titles are far and in between (for every 5 Call of Duty games, there’s one Dishonored), but given the amount of time necessary to put together amazing IP, I think it’s an acceptable ratio. As additional avenues of distribution continue to grow (XBox Live Arcade for one), I think the rise of storytelling developers is just going to garner more steam. That’s a great thing, for all of us.