If there's one criticism I hear a lot from gamers, it's that there are never any original or unique games out there, and that publishers spend too much time on sequels and rehashes. I would have agreed with such notions before Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was announced for XBLA and PSN. As I saw pretty much the majority of the gaming community flip its lid with glee and delight over playing a ten-year-old game that they probably already own, I began to pay attention to what gamers themselves pay attention to.
I came to conclusion that the lack of original games is entirely our fault.
Sequels and remakes are what capture our imaginations, not imagination itself. We want to be fed the same thing over and over again. That's why we're going nuts over what is essentially Capcom's exploitation of our mindless nostalgia, and why fresh IP is left by the wayside in order to pursue a quick rehash.
Don't believe me? Look no further than Destructoid itself for evidence.
Comments aren't a perfect indicator of pageviews, but they're certainly a good indicator of community interest, and looking at the 123 comments that came with our Marvel vs. Capcom 2 announcement, there is a lot of interest indeed. That's all well and good. I could question the intense excitement for a decade-old game that anybody could be playing right now if they really wanted to, but whatever. The point here is Capcom is re-releasing a sequel, and it's apparently the greatest thing anybody could have done for humanity.
Now let's compare this to something else that is coming to XBLA, and looks really good. Raskulls is a brand new IP from developer Halfbrick, and from what I've seen, it'll be incredibly hot. It's a fusion of Mr. Driller-style block breaking, sidescrolling platforming and multiplayer racing. It's original, it's adorable and I'm expecting it to be one of the best XBLA games of the year.
That's how much people care about a new and great looking game. One could argue of course that it was just a name and a picture at that point, that nobody really knew enough about the game to comment. Let's fast forward to a more recent post, then, when Raskulls finally got its first gameplay trailer. The video looked great and really impressed everyone who commented ... but it struggled to reach 18 comments, some of which even stated that they hadn't given a shit about the game beforehand. So far, the game has been met with more apathy than intrigue, despite the cool concept and great art style.
It's not just Raskulls, either. In fact, I make a habit of discovering new games and then giving them more coverage than any other outlet. I do this because any game could become the next breakout success and I want to support them, and help these fresh games get through the glass ceiling. You'll notice that I cover games such as Edge of Twilight, Venetica and Hellion more than just about any other writer in the industry. Unfortunately, it's difficult to keep doing so when you feel that nobody actually gives a shit.
Hellion: Mystery of the Inquisition should have excited people with its ambitious concept. Set in 13th Century Europe, it's a shooter on a console that isn't about space marines for once, instead revolving around themes of Catholic religion, exorcism and heresy. It's the kind of concept you just don't see in a modern FPS game, in an age when people whine and complain about "too many space marine games." However, if people truly think there are too many space marine games, why do they barely raise an eyebrow at a game like Hellion, then go right back to talking about Halo?
Venetica is an obscure RPG from German developer Deck 13 which has similarly failed to capture the minds of gamers, despite looking incredibly promising. I was very lucky to find the developer at E3, hidden in a small alcove, and wrote a preview of the game. As you can see from this link, excitement levels were not exactly high. That is to say nothing of the fact that only seven people on Destructoid gave a crap. A grind-style RPG set in Venice and starring Death's daughter? You can sign me up, but apparently I'm one of only a handful paying attention.
Edge of Twilight has been a struggle, but with the help of a world exclusive, absolutely amazing E3 trailer, the Destructoid community finally took notice. Again, this is a game that is original and unique, a fresh IP set in a steampunk world where everybody is a hero in their own mind and villains only exist in relative terms. I can only hope the momentum that the new trailer started continues when next we talk about the game.
I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Jim is whining about not getting comments." It's very hard to write this article without inadvertently sending out such a message. However, this isn't a personal thing. If this was all about pageviews and comments, I'd simply write more criticisms of PS3-exclusive games and let the Sony fanboys print money for me. If all I cared about was the hits, I'd have stopped writing about new games ages ago, since I've already learned that they don't generate traffic.
This isn't about that, though. This is about a passionate gamer who sees these amazing looking, intensely promising new games get brushed aside in favor of a rehash or a sequel, and it makes me very sad. It's disheartening to see a fresh new game that nobody's ever heard of, then shouting about it to an audience of mostly deaf ears. There are some hot games out there that just need a spotlight. It's horrible that even when such a light is shining on them and they're given a stage, the auditorium is all but empty.
A big part of this is human nature. We like to be comfortable, and comfort comes with familiarity. We know where we are with a sequel to a popular game, and can easily assess whether or not that's something we want to invest in. It's obvious that Halo 4 or Gears of War 3 will get attention, and I don't begrudge those games the interest they deserve. It's just a wretched shame that we can't be bold enough to invest our time in something that might not be a guaranteed hit as well. Sure, it's a risk. Some new games could become the next Castle Crashers, but some could become the next X-Blades. It's worth paying attention and getting in on the ground floor with these games either way, though. You just don't know what could turn out brilliantly.
I'm not saying that we should never excited for sequels and re-releases, by the way. I am just as guilty as anybody of wanting games I've already played on a new platform. I'm very excited to see Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy VII coming to PSN. I've been tapping my foot impatiently while waiting for Doom II to appear on XBLA. It's incredibly stupid to get excited for old games on new systems, especially if you could get those games for cheap or free elsewhere. Still, I am just as much a whore for it as anybody else.
However, it's gotten to the point where we, the audience, do nothing but justify the "greed" of the publisher. On one hand, we mock Capcom for constantly re-releasing Resident Evil on every platform under the Sun. On the other, we praise the very same company for putting MvC2 out there. It's pretty hypocritical, and only encourages Capcom to keep doing it, especially when its more original games tend to sell poorly.
Obviously, we should not get overly hyped for every new game that comes out, or that indeed any fresh IP should automatically be deemed good. However, it seems that the only way for a new game to get any mindshare is for a major publisher to pick it up, regardless of how good it looks, and that's just wrong. There are lots of games out there, either with small publishers or currently without publishers at all, that could really do with a little more consideration sent their way.
All I ask is this: Next time you start masturbating over the announcement of a ten-year-old game, please save at least a little semen for something more original. There's plenty of spunk to go around, after all.