The Endless, Inevitable Grind of Industry

In most cases, we’ve been playing the exact same games for decades on end.

We will continue to do that which we have always done. At the expense of sounding prophetic, it’s hard to not believe that this the current state of the video game industry.

the industry isn’t necessarily lacking in innovation. New technologies are continuously being pushed both onto devs and players in the forms of more computational cycles than ever before. But when we look toward gameplay and systems, it’s hard to admit that there isn’t something lacking.

Think for a moment of your favourite AAA franchise. When was the last time that the developers pushed a truly meaningful and bold gameplay system? One that revolutionized the way you played the game?

Sure, improvements are made via patches, and slightly bigger changes are typically made via the next instalment in the series – but far too many studios have been playing it safe for far too long.

On one hand, it makes sense. Big-budget franchises can’t afford to alienate their player base by changing the underlying formula too much. As such, it’s become par for the course for genres and franchise to progress along incredibly predictable gameplay loops – albeit offered under a bright veneer of new paint in whatever the hottest tech for the season is.

Rare is the project that takes massive chances to offer something new and different.

Perhaps we’ve just become far too jaded and are hoping for something amazing an extraordinary which simply doesn’t exist. But we’re not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

As we look to the horizon and the coming release schedule, what we see predominantly is a swathe of experiences that we’ve already had. The coming storm of AAA shooters the likes of Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is resetting the progression tracks that countless gamers have filled up over the course of previous instalments – and they’re already frothing at the mouth for more.

It can be said that the progression tracks themselves have become the core issue within the industry. We’ve seen more innovation on loot boxes and ways to keep players paying for months on end than anything else.

The longer the core gameplay remains the same, the more stagnant it becomes. Most major publishing houses are far more keen on throwing money at flashy new bells, whistles, and lights on their next release. Fielding a team of designers to utterly rework how the core of any franchise works just isn’t worth it. Because if you lose your core audience, who do you have left?

The tracks seem to be clearly headed in one direction: we can continue to dress up the same old song and dance in new trappings, but it won’t change what it fundamentally is.

At what point will we issue new challenges to revivify a genre that has arguably pushed graphics and calculations before anything else?

VR was supposed to be the next best thing, but the current adoption rate is far below a sum that would lead one to believe that it was the next tidal wave of interactive engagement and entertainment. Let’s not forget that the quality of experience that VR offers is little more than “stand stationary and pivot around a fixed point”.

The tech is new and exciting, sure, but it’s far from a revolution that can upend the established paradigm. Despite the perpetual growth experienced by the industry year after year, there’s no doubt about it that the field is ripe for a revolution.

The only question will be whether or not we’ll ever want to accept a wholly new form of play – or if we’ll go running back to our traditional creature comforts.

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