Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Analyze This

I just read a recent article on Gamasutra in where a group of Analysts declare that FPS games are the most attractive genre for publishers (Article Here). This, frankly makes me worried. If I want to make games that show interest in genres other than the four "super-genres" that these analysts have identified, in all likelihood I'll have to distribute on my own. The means for self-distribution are only recently getting re-established. (Actually, what it really means is that the developer-publisher cycle is really starting to spiral and crash.)

In all honesty, the results of the study are kind of obvious to anyone who cares to look. Sports games are mainly developed by publishers with League Licencing. Getting into the genre is hard if you don't have the backing of some major name. Few, except the established, are bold enough to try. Racing is, and seems to have always been, present. It does well, but not outrageously. It holds its own and neither grows or shrinks a lot. Racing games can model realistic cars, real cars even, or they can create obscure, fantastic or simply unique forms of transportation to race. Racing games really haven't changed that much since the early ones. Neither of these genres have much place to go, experimentation- and change-wise.

The last two are crime-related games and FPSs. The FPS genre is the hot one (sales wise). They don't go into why; just that in the last 5 years it has sold lots and grown. There is lots of competition and it is healthy. Maybe it's my natural cynicism, but doesn't that seem cyclical? People are making FPS games because the hardware and platforms are plentiful, they beat out most other games for shelf space. They, in turn, sell lots of units (collectively). This results in publishers pushing for more of the same, so they can catch the wave and make a buck.

But of course this theory is belied by the apparent decline in the crime genre (unless you happen to be GTA). This genre had the same expectations as the FPS. It was a close brother, and many had similar play styles. But as competition grew, sales fell. So, perhaps there is more to the FPS games than simply being larger and louder than everyone else.

I just don't know. Part of me still feels queasy about it all, like there is something behind it that pushes these "super-genres" in front of all the rest of the gaming spectrum. I'm not an analyst, I'm really not a numbers kind of guy at all. Maybe that's why they scare me. I don't want my games to be immediately relegated to the back corner of a pitiful quarter of the market that is left. After all the major games squash the competition flat, where are the independents?

It just seems to me that we're fighting over scraps while the publishers are squandering and soiling the ideal of games to make more money. Not that any of this is going to stop me, mind. Just that the battle gets harder the more we let them get entrenched in market share.

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