What big video game studios and Hollywood have in common
When the first commercial video games were released back in the early 1970s, a brand new, billion dollar industry was created. With the development of computer hardware, games have become more colorful, more visually appealing, and much more entertaining (although I must say I still enjoy a game of Pong from time to time). In the decades that followed major game developers have grown into huge conglomerates, led by businessmen rather than enthusiastic developers, and their goal has switched from entertaining to making the most profits possible.
Big game studios have apparently shifted their goal from entertaining to making profits. OK, their games are most often nice, but focus way too much on formats that are proven to be successful, and don’t explore new realms. They might be better off learning a thing or two from another group of game developers that focus on a completely different group of players (which often overlaps with their target audience): games of chance.
There are currently thousands of online gaming platforms that offer players real money games. The formats are somewhat traditional here, too, and you can play all the top rated online games at one gaming destination, Euro Palace, for example, or other groups from the same category. But game developers in this industry are always exploring new ways of offering their players what they need. And the chance to win real money is far from being enough to pin their players to the screen.
This is why developers behind the above mentioned Euro Palace, and other gaming outlets, are always exploring new grounds to make their content more engaging and entertaining, sometimes reaching back to game formats that have proven their worth in the past, sometimes inventing completely new games to offer their audience. And they And they have a tough competition to overcome – while major game developers own their brands, the game types offered by real money game developers are free to use by everyone.
In the last decade or so I have not seen any truly original games released by major developers. Most of them rely on a series of brands that were successful in the past, releasing new titles in the same series year after year. The situation is similar to what happens in Hollywood – the same story is told time after time, movies from the past are re-made into modern day flicks that look much better, but lack any originality. Just take a look at the titles released in the last few years: a new Dredd, a new Total Recall (which had nothing to do with the original short story, and was far from being related to the old movie), a new RoboCop, and endless new SpiderMan stories, with new faces but the same origin story time after time.
Major game studios are in a similar situation. Just take a look at the major titles EA is releasing each year: the same sports games, the same racing games (I lost count – which Need for Speed is the latest?), spiced with a few Monopoly and Tetris titles. Or take a look at iD Software, riding Quake since the 1990s, and Doom since even before that, telling the very same story time after time.
The only original game they have released lately was Rage – more like a tech demo to their new game engine – that has failed to make an impression. And they plan to release a new Doom, even more visually appealing and filled with mayhem and gore. I hope they manage at least to cram as much feeling into it as in the previous iteration of the same title, or else it will be much ado about nothing.
Lucky for us the gaming industry is in a very different situation than Hollywood. Games cost much less than movies, and crowdsourcing can help independent developers to transform their dreams into actual games. Besides, the internet and the variety of platforms available help developers deploy their titles quickly and with minimal costs, whereas independent movies will almost never grow up to the expectations of the majority of moviegoers.