One of the "dirty" words in our society is "shovelware". It inspires fear in even the lead hardcore of us. For many however it is a great source of fun, but if all our games are to become the same, wouldn't that ruin the industry? We constantly complain about how the PS1/PS2/Wii has too much shovelware but do we really not notice the amount of terrible games that end up on the pc? All I know is publishers have a lot to answer for.
Many people complain that when the latest film/girl band/sports event happens there is always a tie in game, and to be perfectly honest I can't blame them as nine times out of ten these games are worth less than the plastic onto which they are printed. However there do exist a few exceptions. I do recall one of the Spiderman games being less than terrible, but on the whole these games are rushed out onto the market to coincide with the events release so that gullible fans will rush out after spending £7 on a ticket for a film then buy the game that can cost up to £50 which is going to be terrible but because it lets them "play" the film they bend over and take it. Most of these games come out as either fighting games or platformers because these games are easy to churn out and most developers have templates for tie-in games lying about and all they really need to do is take that framework and add in new content.
We in the "hardcore" (for want of a better word) community often deride these games as being below us, or off our radar because they are not really games. It has occurred to me recently that we are not without fault. You see there was a little film called "The Watchmen" that came out recently, you may have heard of it. Now, you are thinking, what is wrong with that? Well since in the Venn diagram of graphic novel readers and gamers there is huge overlap, a great number of you have been fans of the fine novel since it came out or some people later on. Since Hollywood has had a crack at an IP that is very dear to your heart you thought that you would give it a chance. Not long after the film is announced we find out that there will be a tie-in game. Wow, the collective mind thinks, a chance to play as our favourite characters. Herein lies the rub. We have been essentially hoodwinked by the evil publishers! The best part about this excellent stratagem is that we didn't just become enticed by this game, but gave it fair chance as a game when in our heart of hearts we knew it would blow. Guess what it did, like a $2 hooker.
As far as I have strayed on this tangent I do have a point. The market is getting to the point where it is being homogenised by the big publishers. Even managing to lure in gamers that should know better into the same cash cow demographic as the Madden fans and the 10 year old kids. This homogenisation is becoming almost epidemic. Rarely does a day go by where some journalist doesn't mention the fact that today's games have become to brown and grey, lacking in colour and vibrancy like in the good old days. FPS's have become ten-a-penny, with basically nothing other than special features being their USPs. So many FPS's look the same, have the same basic story, have the same 'roid pumping space-marine-GI-Joe-esque one man army lead character. Racing games are the same, it is becoming difficult to tell apart pictures of PGR, Forza, Gran Turismo these days.
We as gamers are to blame really. When an honest to goodness great, unique game comes out, who honestly buys that niche title? Who can stand up and claim to own the Viewtiful Joe games? Braid? Ico? Shadow of the Colossus? Valkyria Chronicles? Okami? The list is endless yet these all failed commercially. This means that as much as we love creativity gaming is a business and to run a business you have a RESPONSIBILITY to your shareholders to produce a profit at the end of the year. Without solid numbers then smaller publishers will be less enamoured with your quirky adventure game and instead choose your colleague's sequel to last year's best seller.
We think of "shovelware" as being a toxic grow on the face of gaming, but we lap up the latest games like CoD5 and NFS:IDon'tEvenCareAnymore as if they were the last games on earth. The truly great games often slip through our fingers. Now there are rare cases where sequels can be great games (CoD4: MW being a prime example as well as GTA3) but these really are few and far between. Sometimes I wish we could just boycott these crappy sequels until EA or Activision wake up and only put out quality games, but the mainstream gamers would never agree with this, because without their yearly Madden/FIFA fix they would surely die in a foetal position. There isn't an easy way to stem the flow of crap in the gaming world, especially now that the financial climate has taken a violent downturn, but if we stop buying terrible sequels and just buy the quality games, the quality games, heck even just the fun games then maybe we can chip away at this problem and create a brighter gaming future for our offspring.