Are video games stagnating?

I think we’ve had this discussion here at least once before, but now it’s John Dvorak’s turn to trot it out.

Opinion Column by PC Magazine – Doom 4: End of the Game Industry?

Am I the only one who expects a collapse of the gaming business soon? Does anyone else think that it is overdue? It has happened before, and I can’t see how people will keep shelling out $50 or so for a video game when the games have hardly changed since the invention of the first-person shooter. […] I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a problem. When Nintendo president Satoru Iwata spoke at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, he discussed the lack of new game ideas. He saw the same things that I see: There are four or five simple game categories and nothing really new or different. The categories are shooters, puzzles and mazes, adventure games, sports games, and simulations. That’s it. Most of today’s hottest games are combinations of two or three of these categories, with a storyline added to keep the players from being bored stiff. […] Iwata mentioned that in almost all the big games, the so-called boss characters are all beginning to be pretty much the same: big, creepy monsters. If you want to see exactly how inane this is, go out and rent the brain-dead Paul Verhoeven film, Starship Troopers. The movie stank so bad that nothing came of it after its release. It’s essentially a video game turned into a movie — all the elements are there, including an idiotic “boss” that is just some huge flabby bug — and it shows you just how lame these games actually are.

Any article which takes shots at video games and STARSHIP TROOPERS is just asking for me to blog it. I’m more than happy to.

5 thoughts on “Are video games stagnating?

  1. Honestly Augie,

    I think the gaming industry is LONG OVERDUE for a “correction.”

    For once, I agree with a Nintendo official. There really aren’t any new ideas and most games are about graphics and short on real substance. It’s ironic that Nintendo hasn’t learned this lesson itself in spite of all its pontificating because many of its ‘Cube games are selling below expectations, too. It’s no big secret that some of this year’s big ‘Cube titles, including StarFox and Resident Evil 4, just have not exploded off the shelves the way Nintendo expected them, too. Could be their ideas weren’t “new and different enough” and that they just weren’t the games people were looking for.

    The PC gaming industry is already in decline and it looks like most of the people who were foolish enough to get sucked into the cycle of upgrading their PCs every six months to run the latest first-person shooter will probably be getting consoles from now on. The cycle of upgrading CPUs, graphic cards, and having to deal with program patches and unstable OS’s is just getting to be too much.

    On the other hand, I really think the console gaming industry is being pushed into upgrading console technology a year or two TOO EARLY and we’ll see how things are in 2 years after Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have debuted their new systems. People could get really turned off by the early transition if the new systems don’t deliver on the promised graphics upgrades and if the new games don’t deliver a “new gaming experience.” I think what will really hurt the new systems is the slow transition to HDTV since people really won’t see a tremendous difference in the image quality without a higher-resolution TV set. It’s just far too expensive for most people to upgrade their TV sets at this point in time and a lot of the differences/upgrades in the newer systems will be transparent without being paired to the newer sets.

    Nintendo no doubt NEEDS a hit console. It’s no big secret that the otherwise excellent GameCube system bombed big time and is in third place. X-Box, for all its hype and Halo, just isn’t competing all that well against PS2 worldwide (they can’t even give X-Boxes away in Japan!) and there is a chance that with all the money that MS has lost on the system that they might abandon the videogame console market if the next X-Box system doesn’t do substantially better than the current system.

    Short of a complete bomb, I don’t think Sony will leave the videogaming market. I doubt even Nintendo would leave the hardware market even if the next Nintendo console doesn’t do better than Number 2 in sales. Nintendo, however, also has to worry about losing considerable portable market share to Sony’s PSP system as well. PSP is MUCH better technology than Nintendo’s N64-level DS and a much more impressive hardware package even if the system costs $100 more than the DS. There are far more 20+ plus gamers now and that’s where the real market growth will happen in the next few years. That’s where Nintendo will have a real problem competing because so far Nintendo is still seen as the “kid’s alternative” and its kid’s market hasn’t grown out of the Pokemon fad…

  2. San,

    The public decided it doesn’t like unique, genre-stretching games. People feel safer sticking to old, staid games that repeat the same crap as last year’s version — that’s why Madden keeps selling year after year even though it’s basically the same game.

    Frankly, some of the most inspired and best games I’ve played in the last decade have been games that weren’t the best sellers of all time and have gone on into obscurity.

    The funniest, most unique game I played last year was Katamari Damacy. That game is just plain weird and trippy — but it’s also a lot of fun! Guess what? This game won the TOP award from a game developer’s conference for best game/unique game design. The good news is that in spite of low sales there IS going to be a KD sequel later this year.

    My favorite off-beat game is the original Earthworm Jim (1994 SNES/Genesis) platformer which is also my favorite side-scrolling platformer. I felt it was a much better game than Donkey Kong Country (1994 SNES) which overshadowed it. I’ve always felt bad that EJ disappeared after a lousy 3-D sequel and felt that it’s the height of injustice that EJ really hasn’t made a comeback yet. Sure, EJ 1 & EJ 2 were remade for the Gameboy Advance but those were just ports of old SNES code to a portable SNES. There was no great cost porting old code to an SNES rehash.

    I’d love to see either a new hand-drawn Earthworm Jim platformer or a 3-D Earthworm Jim platformer in the style of either Viewtiful Joe or cartoony graphics like Dragonball Z Budokai.

    I, for one, am tired of most FPS games and don’t think that genre has advanced much since Duke Nukem gave gamers the ability to “look up and down”! That’s about as far in gameplay innovation that FPS has gotten since the original Doom…

  3. Greg Costikyan (noted RPG / games designer) had a similar speech at a games developers conference. He had it up on his site but can’t seem to find it.

    Also that the escalating costs of production and expectations are partly responsible for the lack of innovation.

    I personally don’t have a problem with sequels and the like. Being kind of like movies in that regard. However I don’t like how the types of games has become quite limited.

    Currently the only game I bother to play is World of Warcraft. Its an evolutionary step beyond Diablo and the like. However the online aspect adds a social aspect which is compelling to me.

  4. I LOVED the original Earthworm Jim. One of my all time favourites. My brother and I could play it for hours.

    And I hated DKC so much I never even bothered to buy it ;) There was nothing special about it.

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