The gaming industry goes through quite a few cycles and these cycles help to line the coffers of publishers so that they can continue to be profitable but as the last year is finally proving, sometimes gamers have had enough.
Let us look for example at the music genre and sports genre the hardest hit by the over saturation of software in their respective areas. The music game genre industry was doing very well but was so quickly over-saturated that when developer Activision did try to branch off into games such as DJ Hero they fared poorly.
EA, perhaps in response to consumers frustration of having to purchase a product with lack of variety over the previous title is now the subject of a class action lawsuit with being anti-competitive despite it being the NFL granting EA the exclusive contract. EA even canceled its annual NBA Live title to retool it, perhaps knowing there was little new about it. There is a bevy of titles that are over-saturating the market right now and if publishers aren’t careful like the music genre, the popular first-person shooter genre could grow stagnant and without warning. Here are some of our top games and genres we need to see less of below.
An amazing franchise that was initially crafted for PC, it focused on World War II and its conflicts. While not the first developer to create a WWII FPS, many of the staff did help develop one of the best WWII shooters, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for Electronic Arts before going on to do their own series.
After the success of Call of Duty and later Call of Duty 2 and, selling over six million combined on several systems, Activision worked quickly to create an annual franchise. A few games later, they realized they had done the subject of WWII to death, moved into the near-future with Modern Warfare, and into Vietnam-era with another alternating every year.
Ultimately, publisher Activision realized that they could plaster the name on anything and it would sell well over 10 million every year, tapping into gamers insatiable need to blow things up with air strikes, and mow people down with high-power scoped weapons they spent hundreds of hours to unlock. Pumping out of these games got so bad, that according to nearly half of the developers that left Infinity Ward, Activision withheld compensation just to ensure they would develop Modern Warfare 3 before the end of 2011.
What resulted is there are a total of three development houses working on Call of Duty series; Sledgehammer Games; creating a new third-person adventure, Treyarch; creating the non-modern based games, and Infinity Ward which most assume is still developing CoD:MW3, despite losing half of their original staff. Even more horrifying is rumors of a CoDin space, a Call of Duty Future Warfare, and a CoD MMO which of course, will require you to pay a monthly fee to play.
The music genre has its roots in Japanese titles such at BeatMania, Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Freaks created by Konami. However, Harmonix has created the genre as we know it today with the first two Guitar Hero titles and later Rock Band, setting the bar for all developers after. Once again, Activision saw a great cash cow and decided to milk it dry. Between the time Harmonix had left the series to do Rock Band and now, there have been a total of thirteen titles in the series within four years time including Band Hero.
While not as bad as Activision with the GH series, MTV Games along with Harmonix and distributor EA mustered out six titles in three years time. The end result of the over-saturation of the market is despite efforts from several other publishers as well as the usual players to continue, its to little to late; or enough already? The games remained mostly the same during their height of popularity, adding more music, keeping the same rock instruments the same, and only adding slight improvements overall to the gameplay experience. More recently, Harmonix has added a keyboard to RB3, and Activision has created the DJ Hero title but both have sold poorly compared to their offerings not even two years ago.
MTV Games now sees Harmonix more of a liability, and has reportedly sold off the developer for fifty dollars—less than a videogame, including their music royalty pay-outs. There is a silver-lining at least for the king of music games in Dance Central. The game has been called the best use of Xbox 360’s Kinect to date, fun, entertaining, and good thing for Harmonix has sold over a million copies.
I remember when part of the joy of the Halo series was anticipating what it was going to be like when it came out and feeling like I was going crazy they didn’t release enough of them. In between that time we were enticed by to-good-to-be-true trailers, and a novel here and there for the hardcore fans that helps us feel all “brainy”. Then the Xbox 360 happened. In the span between the release of Halo 3 in 2007 to now, we have had our wallets, time, and social life assaulted. Halo 3 and all of its DLC, the real-time strategy Halo Wars and the “expansion” of Halo3: ODST and finally for now Halo Reach and all of it’s upcoming DLC.
Then there is the merchandising assault with everything from Mountain Dew, Burger King, apparel, animated movies, comic books, action figures, and even building blocks shaped around the franchise. All of this shameless merchandising is made possible by Microsoft internal 343 Industries studio, created specifically to whore out Master Chief and friends. Where has Bungie been through all of this? Ready to get Reach done and over with Halo all together. I’m sure there is not one person at Bungie that doesn’t love the franchise to death but when you have the higher-ups breathing down your neck to pump out a labor of love, it likely gets old quick. That is why in a strange, but likely beneficial move for Microsoft in the future, they allowed Bungie to go out on their own, only owning a minority share in the company while retaining the rights to the Halo franchise. Now Bungie is presumably hard at work at their next big thing, in a contract they signed with third party publisher Activision for a ten-year exclusivity agreement. This time however Bungie will fully retain rights to their new intellectual property.