Innovation vs Marketability
I have been making some observations of what people have posted in various topics. I am curious to see if I understand a certain sentiment correctly and see if there is a case to be made. Essentially, the argument I have seen is that creativity and innovation have been stifled by the marketability of various AAA games. More directly, I am curious to see if it is the case that innovation stands in opposition to the marketability of games, especially in the case of sequels.
What has become marketable is formulaic. AAA titles within a given genre, especially in the case of sequels, usually do everything possible to keep games as close to their previous iterations or last successful release within the genre. The reasoning behind it makes sense: there are aspects of the game that people like that are worth emulating. However, it seems that many of these games do not do enough to diverge from this consistent equation and create a unique experience that is distinguishable from its predecessor.
Many games that attempt to diverge from the tried and true formula, testing out new ideas and modifying current systems, are often lambasted for said changes. This often creates a stigma that kills the marketability of the game. Over time, the stigma is usually forgotten and when people try the game out, they find that it is not necessarily as bad as it was critically portrayed to be. However, at this point, it is beyond the point of showing marketable returns. The initial marketability of the game goes a long way in determining how successful the game will be. It can encourage designers to consider taking more risks while making games, or it can lead back to AAAitis.
Change can be a scary thing. Where a consistent formula provides a level of familiarity, certainty, and security, change tends to discard these comfort factors in the pursuit of something different. Change can be for the better or for the worse. The only thing that is certain about change is that, when it occurs, a lot of people will complain about it.
And that’s not to say that complaining about change is necessarily a bad thing. It’s an action that acknowledges that the changes made have indeed been noticed. Providing constructive criticism, even if it’s just noting the aspects of the game that aren’t enjoyable, can be very useful. It’s when criticism is purely destructive that issues arise. Harsh comments can create negative stigmas that can dissuade people from trying a game out. When people don’t try out interesting and unique titles, companies take fewer risks in an attempt to recoup losses and games go back to relying heavily on formulas.
This raises the question: is creativity and innovation worth the risk? Can games that change their formula or games which are unique (specifically ones without a prior game to be compared to) compete in a market filled with the tried-and-true? Are innovation and marketability in conflict?