Friday, March 2, 2012

Creativity Cycles, Business and Risk

Games works in cycles. Like many other things it have some designs and themes that are popular during a time, disappear and them have a comeback. This happens for several reasons and it is something that the main factor is the player and a secondary factor is tech. Both have influence on how games are made, what form and content they have. but that is now. In the beginning, the limited tech also limited what kind of games we had.

During the beginning of games, 2D platformers were one of the most popular genres. Part of this popularity comes from the fact that consoles and even computers couldn't generate nice 3D graphics. So, of course, developers were severely limited by tech at that time. But platformers were not the only genre possible, and we had RPGs, racing, puzzles and others. Platformers become a very popular genre because the players loved the characters, scenarios and challenge provided.

There was a time that all games looked like that.
But platformers gave space to point-and-click adventures and fighting games later. And when the tech itself evolved, everybody jumped to 3D. Now we have so powerful machines that there is basically no limitation on what can be done. Developers are more limited to their imagination than the tech. Sure, with even more powerful machines, they can create more realistic worlds or more lively ones. But it is not that the machines today can't create the gameplay experience they want to.

Today what limit creativity is business. What the players want to play? Publishers are not willing to risk money in genres that they don't believe they will have profit. Some will say that it is the fault of publishers that we have so many FPS. But that is misunderstanding the market. Players will give money for games they want to play. If there is twenty FPS and you don't like any of them, you aren't forced to buy it. You can always give a chance to something different.

Of course, as every cycle, things will change eventually. The music game genre, with their plastic instruments, were one of the most popular a few years ago and it is now in a niche position. That is because of several factors, including overcrowding the market. but in the end, the players just got tired of them and moved on different things.

You know, this is not that fun anymore...
Humans eager and fear innovation. That is why new things are saw with suspicion until it start to become common things. That is why attempts in innovation are sometimes met with a not so receptive crowd. And when you remember that games are business, you start understanding why it is so difficulty to be creative.

It is easy to say that developers and publishers should take more risks. After all, it is not our money who are at risk. It is not so easy to put hundreds of people's jobs at line because you want to please a percentage of players who might not even buying your game, when they have the same old big franchise sequel to spent money one VS that brand new, innovative game that they don't know if it is worth the money.

Of course everyone wants innovation and brand new IPs. But that is not where the money is put. It is hard to figure what gamers want, when you go to the internet and see several angry articles complaining about yearly sequels and see these games breaking selling records every year.

What we forgot is that when a publisher fund a game he is putting millions of their money on this game and if it does not sell it they will likely loose money. You can say all you want that they already profit millions and should spent some of this money just to please a small group of gamers. But that makes me question:

Would you do that? Would you give a hefty sum of money just to please someone?

Maybe you could buy an ice cream to your siblings once in a while, but I doubt you would buy them a Ferrari just because they want to race. And specially, when you know that they will stop being grateful the moment you say to them that you will not pay for insurance and gas. Because that is what happens.

If you really wish that a certain genre or innovation start kicking off ground, you need to support it, buying the game (new, if possible). It is important to vote with your wallet. Because business only listen to the sound of a register cashier. And videogames are business, no matter how much you love them.

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