At the dawn of 2010, to kick off my new weekly gaming column, I didn’t know where to begin. So much changes on such a regular basis that the games industry as we knew it 5, 10, 15 years ago is almost
indistinguishable unrecognizable in many ways from the game industry of today.
As I looked at the games I’ve played over the last 2 weeks of 2009, it became clear that it was a great jumping off point for this column’s intended discussion points. I’ve had a variety of game experiences, from new solo games received over the holidays, to group games played with friends and family in town for New Year’s. The one thing all these games have in common is that they are new releases for 2009 – meaning they are all products released for sale to current, modern game players.
In no particular order:
- PixelJunk Shooter (PS3)
- Excitebike World Rally (Wii)
- Press Your Luck 2010 (Wii)
- Price is Right 2010 (Wii)
- Bayonetta (360)
- Castlevania The Adventure Rebirth (Wii)
- Metal Slug XX (PSP)
- The Saboteur (PS3)
- Twin Blades (360 and iPhone)
- New Super Mario Bros Wii (Wii)
The reason I listed the games was to show how different and diverse the same gamer’s tastes can be. So many times games are labeled as either casual or hardcore, and in many cases, the truth lies somewhere in between. What do these games have in common? How can they be grouped together – or can they? There is a wide variety of game styles represented, and different experiences for the same gamer (me) in various settings. How uncommon are my tastes vs the so-called mainstream? How does that translate into how we review games?
Playing both Press Your Luck and Price is Right on Wii, there was universal agreement that that sponsored prizing in Price is Right made the game more authentic, whereas every prize in Press Your Luck was generic. This reinforces some surveys that suggest gamers not only don’t mind advertising in games, but prefer it in some cases.
I ended up lending both of those games to my brother, who has his own Wii system. We had also played Excitebike World Rally extensively – and it was a great example of the pending limitations of digital downloads. There was no way I could lend him that game, he’d have to login and buy the game separately. This got me thinking of how many games i lended/traded with friends in school, and how this might not be a reality for kids in the future.
Interestingly that Excitebike, as well as Castlevania Rebirth and New Super Mario, are old-school throwback sequels that we’ve seen more and more of in the last year. These games are clearly intended for older gamers, and arguably hardcore gamers, yet they are released exclusively on the Wii, widely “accepted” as a casual console. These contradictions keep popping up when applying conventional gaming wisdom to predict a games success.
I grabbed Bayonetta as time expired on New Year’s Eve, about a week after downloading Twin Blades from the Xbox Live Indie Arcade. Bayonetta is the epitome of a 2010 gaming epic – vibrant, intense HD graphics, gobs of rendered movie sequences, ultra complex control schemes and promoted on TV with a major marketing campaign. Twin Blades is the complete opposite side of the spectrum – an independently produced, 2D side scroller released quietly after Christmas to no fanfare. Bayonetta is $60 for a new game with box and instructions; Twin Blades is 240 points or $3 for a digital download license. In so many ways, they are completely different products.
However, the one thing they do have in common is that I purchased and played through both of them. These two games stand equally in that they were released within days of each other, for play on Xbox 360 and both caught my attention. Each features a female protagonist with a variety of upgradeable weapons. Both even have religious themes explored. Otherwise it’s hard to directly compare them. And that’s just the two for Xbox 360 – the full list is almost impossible to make sense out of in general terms.
Out of the 10 games above, 4 of the games are new properties – the other 6 are sequels or brand extensions of existing IP. This ratio seems high for gaming today, where so many of the most popular games are based on something earlier.
There are so many comparisons, contradictions and anomalies that arise just from analyzing a random assortment of 10 new games – there were over 1000 games released in 2009 and that doesn’t include many online or free games. We are at a rare time in the lifespan of gaming – an era of explosive growth, nonstop change and literally more games than is humanly possible to experience. It all adds up to the best time for the player in history – constant innovation and unprecedented access to gaming’s history (legally or not).
Gaming Under Construction is going to be my ongoing quest to raise questions and through my own experiences and observations, try to make sense out of things as they happen. I want to bring a reasoned perspective to major issues, from a perspective as a lifelong game player, as well as an experienced developer and writer. But more than anything, I want to enjoy the ride.
Jonathan Widro is the publisher of Diehard GAMEFAN and owner/CEO of the Inside Pulse Network. He has worked as a writer and publisher for over a decade, after working in game-related retail for over five years. He has worked in game development, most notably creating user-generated gaming portal Fyrebug and over 100 Flash games. Gaming Under Construction, Jonathan’s perpective on the gaming industry, is published every Wednesday on Diehard GAMEFAN.
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