Not because I’m one of those rebellious gamers who thinks hating popular franchises is cool (though it is cool, you should try it), and not because Halo and Final Fantasy games are bad. I hate mega-popular franchises because gamers love them too much.
Every copy of Halo 3 sold tells Microsoft they should pay for a dozen more “I’m a big guy with a big gun and I plan on shooting you in the face, also there are aliens or Germans” games for the 360. Every copy of Final Fantasy Crisis Core sold sends the message to Square that they are right to limit original output and they should in fact support their enormous company by releasing 4,000 titles in the same series (or two).
Really I’m not mad at these games at all, but rather I’m mad at gamers. Of course you should buy Halo 3, it’s good, but buy some smaller titles, too. Take a chance on something you’ve never heard of, or better yet, do research and find a title that was well reviewed but failed to make a commercial splash.
Think about all of the games that could have existed if it weren’t for a management meeting where the question raised was, “This sounds like a good idea for a game but would it stand a chance against Final Fantasy?” The amazing presentation that big-name games bring us are easy to defend as good – beautiful games challenge other designers to make beautiful games. That’s how capitalism works, sure, but there are so many smaller developers that just cannot compete. As a gamer, I want good games even if they can’t stand up to the cut scenes in a Final Fantasy or the massive hype of a Halo.
Gamers don’t take risks on smaller unknown games because it is human nature to save your money and spend it on something you know you will like. The industry feels this – one in five games is profitable. I don’t know how to overcome this dilemma, but imagine the wide breadth of games we would have to play if even two in five games were profitable?
Halo 3 selling a bajillion copies is actually a bad sign for the game industry. No other industry is so homogeneous that this could happen. Even the biggest blockbusters of Hollywood don’t appeal to every movie goer like Halo appeals to every gamer. Because we all like the same games it will continue to be difficult for creative and offbeat titles to make any profit. Diversity is the sign of a healthy industry and for the most part is what the game industry lacks.
The music industry, despite having problems of its own, is a good example of what the game industry should strive to emulate. There are a million bands in the world making enough to continue creating music. Humans have hugely diverse taste in music and so we can support a huge amount of artists. Does this mean games need to cost $15 each, or will need to increase their audience drastically?
I don’t know, but I’m fucking sick of hearing about Halo 3 so I’m going to go play my newly purchased copy of Luminous Arc.