Friday, December 30, 2005

Games - Innovation in Games

A good double parter (p1 & p2) on Gamespot about innovation and lack of originality in games; the main conclusion is that innovation (or at least in the form that they define it) is simply not economically viable.
In most cases, the risks of attempting to do something new simply outweigh the benefits, according to Pachter. With next-generation development costs skyrocketing, publishers want proven sellers, safe choices that they can be assured will provide a reliable return on their investment.

"The best business for a publisher is to give people what you know they want," Pachter says. "And what you know they want is a sequel to what they wanted last time. So we don't see a whole lot of innovation."


The green-lighting process is a cold, mechanical process by Pole's description, and one every major publisher uses to determine which games get made and which ones don't.

"You have to look at a product from every angle," Pole explains. "What is the product's genre? What are the platforms? How much money are you going to spend? Who are the people that are building it? Is it a licensed product? Is it an original product? You then present the idea to the green lighting committee, which is, like the senior management in sales, senior management in marketing, and product development. And then, basically, you run the numbers. And it's a numbers game after that. If the unit volume comes back and it supports the development [costs] and what you'll need to spend at marketing, then the product is given the green light."

As with so many other aspects of this discussion, it all comes down to numbers. Young says EA cross-referenced Metacritic review scores for the top 30 games of the last three years to spot trends, and they found that the best-rated games all had "1-3 meaningful innovative features that strike at the heart of gameplay." It's a modest goal, and one the company hopes will keep its annualized franchises fresh enough to continue selling.

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