Every one of us has our preferences when it comes to certain videogame genres, sub genres and artistic styles, but it seems these days many gamers out there are under the mistaken delusion, that certain games (especially games that they dislike) are somehow inferior to popular AAA releases and/or games that they happen to find enjoyment in playing. This mistaken perception can end up causing many gamers to miss out on a great many fantastic but lesser known titles, the attitude many have towards videogames developed with a lower budget only helps lend to further stagnate the industry. Far too many gamers are narrow minded and unwilling to try out new and different types of videogame genres, leading to the the publishers themselves not being prepared to risk development on games that they feel consumers aren't interested in.
In the age of huge western AAA franchises that offer us Hollywood style storytelling, giant set-pieces, earth shattering explosions and the like, it's easy to see why more humble videogames end up getting over looked or ignored, but are these seemingly "lesser games" actually inferior? or is the only thing that's really holding them back simply that they are lacking in all that glitz and glimmer, that many seem to think is a prerequisite in order for game to be considered "worth playing"? Take a look at your videogame library for a moment, now ask yourself this; How many of those games aren't big budget, AAA releases that have received huge ad campaigns and/or scored over 8/10 from mainstream reviewers? And how many of them have gone on to spawn two or three sequels or a couple of spin offs? Chances are the majority of games you find yourself playing regularly are from big "dependable" publishers, who have spent a huge amount of time and money moulding their major IPs into AAA franchise material. The thing is, there are some games out there that have the potential to be just as good, if not better than any current AAA developed game, but they simply don't have a chance due to gamers passing them over for their more pretty, big budget counter-parts.
Now sticking with a genre or franchise you enjoy is a smart move, especially if you lack the funds to do otherwise, but what about all the great lesser known games you may be missing out on? Believe me when I tell you that there are a great many games that may even have the potential to rival current AAA franchises, even games that you consider to be the best of the best this gen, but are being held back, because gamers today refuse to step outside of their comfort zone by playing a game that looks to be below their standards.
These days too many gamers tend to play a handful of choice franchises all year round, completely ignoring anything else unless it causes a big enough stir in the mainstream to be considered a "must play" title. Personally I just couldn't do that, first of all I don't believe that many current mainstream videogame journalist and reviewers have a better idea than actual gamers as to what's worth playing, and secondly there are far too many fantastic games from big companies and small companies alike, that sticking to just one franchise, heck just one genre for that matter, would mean that I'd have missed out on a great many of my all time favourite games, games I still own today and refuse to sell or trade in because they are simply too good to let go.
Take for example Japanese developed games, many Japanese games (especially JRPG's) are often over looked or out right avoided, by the majority of mainstream gamers due to them having certain recurring tropes and themes that some people find off putting, such as the representation of female characters, the story being too convoluted, the sometimes overly used childish, idealistic notion that love, friendship and hope will see the protagonists through safely to the end, even the anime-esque art style is enough to put some people off almost immediately. Personally I happen to find most of these predictable tropes and themes quite charming, if implemented well and not just used to follow a tired, predictable, tried and true formula.
Atelier Rorona, a wonderful turn based JRPG that I'm sure has been passed over by many
due primarily to it's anime themed art style and female protagonist.
Of course this is not to say that only Japanese games rely on a tried and true formula, in fact many western games have a formulaic structure to them , AAA games especially. The formulaic brand of Hollywood-esque story telling, style over substance gameplay, the childish gratuitous use of explosive cutscenes, profanity, gore, sex, violence and a black and white approach to good and evil to name a few. That's not to say this is a bad thing though, many of these themes are recurring purely because they have significant entertainment value. Obviously it's not the case for all western AAA videogames, but I'm sure you can understand where I'm coming from when I say that western games have their own tried and true formulas, which appeal to most of us because they are developed with a western audience in mind, there's no culture barrier needed to be overcome unlike with certain Japanese games.
The Call Of Duty franchise relies heavaly on high octane shoot-outs, huge set pieces, explosive cutscenes and fast paced gameplay. You may not be a fan but it's easy to see where the appeal stems from.
Unfortunately it's not just gamers who seem to refuse to acknowledge certain "lesser" genres and sub genres, it seems the videogames industry itself refuses to develop for less popular genres these days. This gen many big publishers severely limited their output (apart from sequels to their already popular IP's) to focus primarily on FPS's, TPS's and open world games. Sure those are some fun genres which have brought us many popular games/franchises, such as COD, Gears of War and GTA to name just a few, but don't we already have more than enough games currently covering these genres? I mean aren't we always hearing how the market is "over oversaturated" with shooters and open world games right now? Sadly, as it stands now next gen seems like it may be more of the same... I suppose it wouldn't really be such an issue if a great many games from these genres weren't severely lacking in comparison to those they are trying to replicate. It's just that, well to me anyway, many of them feel as if they've been pushed out the door half backed in an attempt to capitalise on the past success of the games that helped popularise these genres to begin with.
Honestly, if I've learnt anything from purchasing both AAA games and lesser known games, it's that the AAA label is certainly no longer a mark of a games quality, in fact it's really just a reminder to us all of the insane amount of cash that's gone into developing a AAA game, making the fact that so many of them tend to lead to flop or lead to disappointment, or perform poorly in regards to sales (if you consider a game earning a company upwards of $7,million, performing poorly) that much more depressing.
The Tomb Raider reboot was a fantastic game selling far better than many other reboots (Team Ninja's DmC: Devil May Cry for example) but according to Square Enix the company suffered an "extraordinary loss" due to lower than expected sales.
There's another thing I hear a lot of gamers say these days, and that's "I don't buy second hand games" well that's all well and good I suppose, I mean if you want to support a company, then the best way to do so is to purchase their games new if you can afford to. But refusing to buy "any" game second hand means you've very likely missed out on some truly great gems, games that probably got over shadowed during the release of more popular AAA games, and seeing as most "less popular" games tend to get a smaller number of units sent out compared to their popular AAA counterparts, it means that the chances of finding any great lesser known games on the shelf brand new, is highly unlikely. So, if you consider yourself a "gamer" then you really owe it to yourself to purchase a lesser known game second hand, there's probably some game you've heard about, either from a friend or reliable reviewer, that you've considered picking up, so if you happen to see that game second hand somewhere, why not pick it up there? It'll probably be pretty cheap too, and if you enjoy it then you may go on to purchase it's sequel new if the game sold well enough for it to be sequalised.
It's safe to say that many of us have grown increasingly weary of the constant slew of generic, cookie-cuter, made for the masses releases that have saturated this current console generation. How fortunate for us then, that Indie gaming have taken the industry by storm, and have proven what many, many gamers have been saying for years now, and that is; A game needn't have a bloated AAA budget, fancy graphics and mass appeal behind it, to be entertaining and sell well. In fact a smaller budget often means that indie games are required to be innovative and original in order to stick out from the competition.
Journey proved that offering consumers immersive gameplay and gorgeous graphics
needn't cost the developers an arm and a leg.
We can only hope now, given the success of Indie games, that more original and innovative IPs will be announced from mainstream developers and publishers in the near future. But the thing I feel must be mentioned here is, there have already been plenty of original and innovative IPs to released throughout this gen, but sadly a lot of then have been ignored in favour of the more popular AAA franchises many of us have become accustomed too, but continue to complain about. It does the industry no good if we continue to support companies we feel are only further stagnating the industry, and go about ignoring those companies who are trying to make the next step forward. However I can't say that we gamers are entirely to blame for this, the mainstream media and videogame journalist play a part in this too, by constantly shoving popular AAA franchises in our faces and announcing how "mind blowing" and "must have" they are, without ever mentioning smaller more modest IPs that are also worth checking out.
If we ever want the videogames industry to get out of it's current rut, then we as consumers we need to be more vigilant in regards to our purchases. Obviously we need to support the companies we know and trust, but we should also make the effort to support innovative lesser know titles. The more consumer focus is turned away from games that are stagnating the industry by creating generic, made for the masses, cookie cutter content, and turned towards those games that offer originality and innovation, then naturally the industry will have to change it's approach in order to keep in line with consumer demand.
Gamers have a lot more pull than I honestly think we realise, but our continued ignorance has only helped maintane the status quo, helping line publisher pockets while depriving the industry of growth and diversity. It's not the publishers or the mainstream media who dictate industry trends, it's all of us, and right now we need to be putting this pull to a positive use by supporting companies who place the further advancement and betterment of videogaming in general, above that of personal gain, satisfying their investors and maintaining the publisher imposed status quo.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you'd like to add anything or disagree with any of my points, please feel free to leave a comment.