This is one of those articles where I thought of a dozen more points to make after I’d turned it in. Near the end of the article I say:
No matter what genre you’re talking about, for every person who digs it just the way it is, there’s about 17 people who would like it if it was a little easier and less confusing.
I chose the number 17 because that’s how many Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movies it would take to equal the gross of Transformers 2. I’ve said before, I think Scott Pilgrim is a better movie. By far. The script was smarter. The comedy was wittier. The action was more novel and more coherent. The characters were more interesting. The acting was better. (That is, it existed.) The cinematography was better. It was a better movie in every way except for the one that really mattered: Less people wanted to see it. I’m sure you can do similar comparisons with books and television shows. It’s sad, but hardly unique to games. It’s a problem with human beings in general and not something related to the ongoing platform wars.
Here are some other thoughts I didn’t put in the article, because I didn’t have a definitive position on them. I offer them as questions:
Once or twice a year, the movie industry gives us one of those huge blockbusters with a $100 million budget. (These can be great, like Avatar, or horrible, like Waterworld.) But what if they were making a half dozen of those movies a year? For every $100m action epic there are a dozen $15m Rom-Coms or $30m Buddy Cop movies. On the gaming side, are they just making too many blockbusters? Are too many studios chasing the Modern Warfare money, and not enough chasing (say) The Sims, Sam & Max, or Total War?
Follow-up question: What’s the budget difference between The Sims and a modern brown cover-based shooter? Is it actually cheaper to make?
We keep looking to indies to deliver us, but is that reasonable? Note the gap in budgets. If someone wanted to make another System Shock 2, how could it be done? It’s too niche for a current-gen big-budget game – the development costs of making a game that big and open with today’s technology would be astronomical compared to the cost of making the game back in 1998. On the other hand, making a first-person game is really tough for indies. The jump from 2D to 3D requires an increase in the size of your team. Even if you’re working with old tech, it still takes a lot of different people to make a character, texture them, animate them, voice them, and give them proper AI. It’s probably completely unreasonable to attempt such a thing with the usual indie team of one to five people. Is it reasonable to say that some games simply cannot be made, even though certain people would love them?
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