Editors Note: Please note that the views and ideas expressed within this article are not a representation of Blast Away the Game Review, but are that of the writer, and do not reflect us as a team. This article is written as a insight to a writers thoughts and opinions about the current state of the gaming industry.
Where do you begin when you are a fan of companies such as Konami due to titles like Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania, Silent Hill, Suikoden,and Ninja Turtles in their pocket; one can only wonder what has happened to make Konami do what they have done by throwing out their main development studios. Within the past few years, it’s no surprise that the console market has begun to flourish even more than before thanks to the powerful entities known as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Even with their own shortcomings, both consoles have offered us a unique, but extravagant look at the future of games; this includes better graphics, faster load times, and even a deeper look into the future of VR gaming once it becomes publically accessible. It wasn’t long ago that companies such as Kotaku, Polygon, Game Informer, and several others began to report that Kojima Productions had been removed from the label of all their upcoming titles. To many, this was the sign of the end for Konami as we know it since their only titles in production are Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Winning Eleven.
So what exactly has me at my wits end with this company? Some would beg to say that it’s the letting go of Kojima and his studio “Fox Hound” or the cancellation of the skin crawling Silent Hills, but truth be told, it’s their “focus” of going to the mobile market in their recent statement that can be found on Polygon, Trend Nikkei, Jin115, and by a NeoGaf user. So what is my real reason? In truth it’s the idea that the mobile market is the future of gaming. What do they mean by mobile market? You guessed it; cellphone’s and tablets. With everyone in the world having one and companies producing ones powerful enough that they could easily put my netbook to shame, it’s no surprise that companies will find a place to earn cash, and this is the “Pay-as-You-Play” model that many companies have taken too, which means to unlock more of the game – you pay. You want extra turns or content or items? You pay. The game is free, but not everything in it is. This is much like the games we refer to as Warframe, AirMech Arena, Power Pro, and even titles such as Winning Eleven, which provide players with plenty of content, but the issue here? It’s not a market that may seem like it is doing as well as Konami thinks. Sure people do put money into that market, people always will, but the true fans, the hardcore fans won’t do so.
Even with my phone, for example, an Sprint HTC One M9, it’s no surprise that I love to see games such as Order & Chaos Online, Heroes of Order & Chaos, and even small Facebook games such as Double Down Casino on my phone, but does this mean I want to hardcore game on my phone or a Samsung Galaxy Tab S? No, not necessarily, which is where many gamers will stand unless they are sheep to the culling and wish to play games on devices that will make their wrists feel arthritic in one fell swoop. Sure I play a Nintendo 3DS and even a PlayStation Vita on average of 20-25 hours a week or even 10-15 depending on if I’m reviewing or not, but that doesn’t mean I prefer to have my wrists in such weird positions that they hurt, so why would Konami think this market will lure in the hardcore gamers? Honestly, your guess is good as mine at this point.
In his interview, Konami’s CEO Hideki Hayakawa has stated that gaming itself has “spread to multiple platforms”, but it all comes down to mobile (guessing he means cellphones or tablets?), which is where he feels that the future of gaming is there, and it is there that consumers will find themselves going when it comes down to it. Even with their summer blockbuster Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on its way, Konami has all but admitted that they are leaving the console, PC, and handheld gaming markets to head onto the mobile platform, which will be throwing the largest portion of their gamers out. With a later statement, he continues on to say that multiplatform games has gotten to a point that there isn’t a reason to dividing the market into categories anymore, this meaning that the gaming market doesn’t need it, want it, and shouldn’t have it, but because of his statement, he also continues on to state that mobile will be a new role of bringing the general public into the gaming world. So what’s so important about this?
When looking at the long forgotten past of Konami, it’s hard to not forget that they made some of the most influential games to date: Metal Gear Solid (y’know, the game with the guy who smokes cigars and sounds like he drank a keg of rum before heading out onto the field?), Silent Hill, Contra (seems they forgot about this one that’s about their 8-bit warriors that took on enemy forces of any kind back while getting graphics upgrades on the NES, SNES, and PS2), Pro Evolution Soccer, Suikoden (that one RPG series that REALLY should have been rebooted at some point), Castlevania, Salamander, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for those of you don’t remember. Here is some of the largest names in gaming history, a company that has famed themselves on them, and even become most renowned for their Metal Gear and Silent Hill titles. Though they are slowly going away, this is where I begin to think we are getting to the point that many companies are losing sight of what makes games truly unique, but also why many gamers feel their voices fall on deaf ears.
This trend could namely agree with titles such as Phantasy Star Online 2, God Eater 2 Rage Burst, Fatal Frame 5: Oracle of the Sodden Raven, and even titles such as Monster Hunter Frontier G (Vita) making their debut in America. Much like what has happened with Konami, it seems that a lot of Japanese brands are scared to take the risk of launching their titles in North America, let alone listening to fans outside of Japan on what they want, look for, and desire in their games. Then again, who wants to listen to us since we’re all a bunch of “Call of Duty, Battlefield, and first person shooter junkies, who just want to blow stuff up”, right? To be honest, that answer is quite frankly – no. When it comes down to it, fans have gone to odds lengths in order to keep some of their favourite games alive, and even worked on re-creating the games that they had come to love via game mods on PC. They have also come together by working with eachother and making servers just to keep some of these games alive, while also making North American patches to ensure that the games can be translated to English. Remember that whole thing with Halo Online for Russia? Yea, that’s how bad gamers want some games, and what lengths they’ll go to in order to get them. So why is it that game companies don’t read the forums, listen to the fans, and just ask them what they want in a game versus making them have to go to an odd length to enjoy them? The question is quite simple – they don’t think there’s an audience, but the possibility gamers will also feel they are entitled to the game(s) once they are heard.
When it comes down to it, gaming has gone from an enjoyable place where we get to enjoy new IP’s, but also a world where we are also seeing a lot of copying and pasting, which leaves originality tossed out the window. Lets take a look at Call of Duty Black Ops III versus Advanced Warfare, for example or Call of Duty as a whole for that matter. Lets put it this way, with the lack of changes, Call of Duty online is a more suitable idea at this point.
There’s no secret that I’ve played Call of Duty since it’s launch back in 2003, when it initially launched on PC, and later on PS2 as Call of Duty: Finest hour, and even a re-launch on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as Call of Duty Classic. Since it’s launch, Call of Duty has seen several variations of changes in map types, storytelling methods, and even graphics engines. Over the years, however, it seemed that the game began to manipulate itself from its outstanding storytelling methods to an online shooter that has now become one of the most famed games of all time when it comes to Major League Gaming, and even the Call of Duty Tournaments that games have taken to embedding within the online matchmaking. As the years passed so did the methodology in how the multiplayer worked, having gone from random pick ups on the maps, random power-ups being hidden across the battlefield, Call of Duty saw itself reinvented to be more versatile. It later allowed for players to set up their class ranging from perks, killstreak rewards, weapon attachments, and even allowing players to prestige so that they could reset their rank, but at the capability of unlocking special badges, emblems, and even more loadouts to edit so that they could be prepared for any occasion that may occur on the battlefield. But where did Call of Duty go wrong? As one of the people that used to stand inline at midnight, and hoping for a glimpse of the future, I began to notice something that was occurring with each of these titles; a lack of innovation. Sure the games initiated a pick-10 or pick-13, but there wasn’t much change. Perks all seemed to start running together, players began to go for the same guns in the game due to well known balancing, or unbalancing at that, and even a problematic layout with the maps.
This is a problem that many have even voiced their opinion on, but it almost seems as if Activision’s teams, just aren’t listening. The recent change a lot of people don’t like? Exo Suits. They don’t belong in Call of Duty is how quite a few would express their feelings about it and would even go as far to say that Call of Duty’s annual release is truly ruining the series, which can be said about other franchises as well; look at Assassin’s Creed Unity and the issues it ran into.
When looking at my examples with Call of Duty, and even Assassin’s Creed, it’s not easy to say that the issues that arose are strictly the developers fault, sometimes there are unforeseen consequences that do happen, but when a game does see an annual release (this could be limiting games to a 2-3 year dev cycle, leaving very little room for innovation, but a lot more time for coding and debugging versus pushing the biggest new change to a series). So where do we stand when it comes to games like this? Lets take a glimpse at to why the future of gaming is beginning to become grim, and why innovative minds need to come forth and help shape the future of gaming.
So why is the future so grim for games? When looking at games, we all know it’s easy to not say we’ve all played tons of them, some seeming more and more like others, while some try to become innovative, but only ends up to find itself at the bottom of a well with no rope to climb up. When discussing this, it’s hard not to use a title such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Assassin’s Creed as an example. While these franchises have changed in ways of graphics, small mechanics, characters, and locations, but can we honestly say that the series has changed much at all? The most significant change to it? Going from being a single assassin to having been joined by a team of assassin’s. So why does this read out a shining example of why games are beginning to lack innovation and setting us forth into a world where games are becoming too similar to a previously released title? Take a look at Destiny for example, it’s not much different than Halo, but could that be the fact it was developed by the same minds behind Halo? To defend my argument, I’ll just say that the enemies do seem quite similar, and so does the story.
In both titles, bad guys invade Earth, bad guys are being attacked by other bad guys, in this case The Fallen are being attacked by The Hive, and the Hive are being attacked by, well, the Guardians that work to restore Light and power to The Traveler. Sound familiar? Remember the Covenant from Halo? Sure you do. For those of you that don’t, the Covenant is an organization, a religious grouping of alien’s more or less, whom have formed a unity in order to carry out the will of their “Prophets” and wipe out the universe by using the Halo rings, which (big spoiler), are weapons to wipe out life in the entire universe to rid the universe of the Flood. Sounds familiar, right? Well it should, this is something rather similar to Destiny’s whole story, which is much the same. This time around, “The Darkness” is the flood, they are problematic, and rather annoying creatures, the Hive is for those of you who didn’t catch on.
The problem here isn’t that companies aren’t trying to be creative, it’s that they are using a very similar formula, one that has been overused, and run into the ground to the point that even the ground is tired of it being run into it. So where do we go from here? When looking at games, we can easily say that games are becoming more and more similar to one another. Want a shooter? They’re a dime a dozen and many of them are copying one another. Want a good fighting game? Well there’s a wealthy bunch to pick from, but the issue? The developers haven’t done anything to truly improve upon their old mechanics in the past, well, decade really. Mortal Kombat, has changed, however. It went back to its roots, decided to add multiple fighting styles to each fighter, and even gave them costumes that change their selected costumes based upon the fighting style used. Even with small changes, it’s just not quite enough. So this leaves the question, where does gaming as a whole, need to go and what direction?
When looking at it, it’s one of those areas where developers need to sit down, look at the community, read the forums, ask gamers what THEY want to see changed, what they want to see added, ask them what could make their game vastly different from any game out there. That’s where games need to go, that’s where developers need to look, they need to truly discover what would make their title so damned unique compared to the vomit we get these days.
So where can they start out if wanting to use a game that made itself vastly different from any other? Enter Bloodborne. Sony has been well known for their works with Japanese developer From Software. Renowned for their original franchise Armored Core, which at the time, was one of the hardest franchises in existence, From Software began to push themselves when they teamed up with Sony back in 2009, published and co-developed a game by the name of Demon’s Souls, which was quickly received as one of the most difficulty, and even punishing titles ever developed. The game forced players to watch for traps, take on monstrous enemies, but most of all, how to stay alive and manage currency as both money and XP. Stats would quickly become a player’s best friend or worst enemy depending on their playstyle, and their approach to the games punishingly difficult enemies that varied from location to location. So what managed to change between their having developed both the Souls franchise and the newly and very well received Bloodborne? This game is something of its own monster, having torn itself from the well known play style and storytelling of the Souls franchise, Bloodborne has all, but separated itself from the past titles. Having changed how the combat system works, players don’t just get to run on stealth tactics alone. Thanks to the games new Visceral attacks, players got to see enemies get stunned, and opened up for an attack that hurts, and quite frankly – a lot.
Thanks to these changes and additions to how the rifles, shotguns, and even cannons work, firearms are a new change, one that works quite well, which offers combat an entirely new twist when not working with every weapons secondary mode. Much like Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, weapons no longer need to have special materials to upgrade their appearances, and or special modes. Instead weapons now include a secondary ‘form’ instantly. Prime example? The Ludwig’s Holy Blade. This weapon is unique, in its base form, it’s a single handed sword, which offers fast attacks, a powerful jab, and combat with an offhand such as a shield, a torch, or simply a firearm. Unlike before, however, many players would be inclined to using two single handed weapons, which has now changed since it’s no longer possible. Thanks to firearms, From Software has dramatically changed how players will enter combat, how they will prepare their weapons, and the stats they will shoot for with inserting gems, using runes on their character, and even on how they will spend Blood Echoes when leveling. Unlike previous titles, From Software looked at what they had done in their previous three styles, and did what they do best – created an entirely new IP, a new world, and even took former mechanics and improved upon them. While it could be said I’m casting the first stone upon titles such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and many others, it’s not that they don’t try to innovate, it’s not they don’t try to change their chemistry, but what they do is too close to their predecessors that those changes don’t seem incremental enough or altered enough to matter. Instead these changes are being overshadowed by the old bits and pieces that made it through from the previous entry.
Sure, Call of Duty has vastly edited perks, removed, added, and even altered how some work, but in the end? They’ve remained the same, the weapon balancing remains the same, but so does the killstreaks, the weapon attachments, and even the balancing issues no matter how much they try to alter the appearance to look a bit more refreshing compared to the originals. When it comes down to it? Call of Duty hasn’t really changed in twelve years, it still remains, at the base of it all, the same exact game that could use a breath of fresh air in order to give the game a truly refreshing and new coat of paint. This could also be said about Battlefield as well, which is unfortunate as D.I.C.E. has been well known for their creativity when it comes to game engines, Battlefield has been almost the same exact game as each version is released, but this time around, they chose to try new things with Hardline, in its own, it shows that EA and D.I.C.E. have worked on altering a game, becoming unique, but at the core, not changing what the game itself is. This is what titles such as Bioshock, System Shock, Deus Ex, and many others have tried, and successfully done in the past, and hopefully will keep attempting to do when future titles (for Bioshock we can only hope to see more) will do as gaming goes on. With the enhancements that VR could offer with projects such as Oculus Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus, and HTC’s Vive VR Headset could offer developers a chance to to truly indulge in ultra-realism, but also a chance to work on mechanics, interactivity, but also physics, which is something many games have forgotten to work on these days.
But what about companies that have begun to force too many HD Remasters out the door for gamers? It’s another part of the problem even though it gives fans a chance to enjoy games. Unlike before, we were used to seeing ports, small upgrades, and even a remastered edition that didn’t require much more than a few tweaks in order to provide the game with some small upgrades. While this is beneficial to fans who can’t afford to go back and grab the original copies as well as the console, there is something to be said to when too many remakes is an issue, and while I can’t state that I haven’t bought a few, it is a troublesome ordeal when some fans haven’t the slightest clue to how these are developed and why they are developed. So why is this also a problem? While I understand from the business perspective, many developers do take their time to place members of a development team on a side project in order to bring forth a game, but also to help bring forth a form of income in the mean time while they are between games. While I can’t lie that I don’t enjoy a good session of revisiting a title, it’s an issue when we begin to see the catalog of available games being hidden by the large amount remakes. Is this an issue? Yes, but should companies stop? Depending on how well the remake is done? No, it offers players a chance to play the games they want, but also gives them a chance to go through what they are wanting to receive, but also a chance to experience games that may have been missed in the past.
When looking at all of these reasons behind the grim future of gaming, it’s hard to not say that a few companies out there are pushing hard to keep gaming moving to the right direction well some companies are doing just the opposite. Till then? We can only assume that the AAA game market is slowly going down hill and won’t be around much at this rate. With the overall cost of games going uphill it can only be anything, but surprising if we see another video game industry crash much like the one we saw between the years of 1983 and 1985, but this time, it may be even bigger with companies like 2K Australia, THQ, ImagePooch, and now Konami slowly leaving the market, but unlike the others, Konami hasn’t gone under and is seeking other options for when it comes to releasing press information. At this time? All we can say is the future at this time looks grim, but at this time, it can still be saved if companies take the right steps in order to bring forth innovation, originality, and bring something completely unique to the gaming world rather than games with mediocre stories that hope to bank in on DLC, online competitive modes, and micro-transactions. Till then, what are your thoughts on this? Is the gaming industry looking as grim as it sounds, or are we just seeing another evolution into what it’s meant to turn into?
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on hisGoogle+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.