The State of American Videogames

As illustrated by the last three covers of EGM:


Are you like me? Do you yearn for American games to reach the diversity of other American mass media, like, for example, movies? Right now I can go to a movie theatre and see a quirky indie comedy about a dysfunctional family, or a ridiculous action epic about snakes (that happen to be on a plane), or a screwball comedy about NASCAR racers and baby Jesus, or a documentary about global warming, or a terrible animated film about farm animals, etc. etc. Heck, all in the same day, if I was crazy and cheap!

But if I step into Electronics Boutique, these days I can pretty much only buy "Two Guys With Guns".

To grammatically-incorrectly paraphrase Clara Peller: "where's the genres?"

The thing is, while it's really easy for me to sit here and implore all game developers to try new things (yay blogging!) — and, to be fair, many developers are, like Telltale Games, Keita Takahashi, the Xbox Live Arcade, etc. — I have to wonder: are there simply not enough gamers, non 15-year-old male gamers I guess, to financially support new and different gaming styles?


You have some grammatical errors on your post. 0_o
Anonymous Bill O'Reilly 8/21/2006 4:02 PM  
While the EGM (wow they still print that turd of a mag?!?!?) covers may lead you to think these games are very similar Mass Effect (the two guys with guns on the left) is actually an RPG. I am with you though. For the most part I am with you though. EA has made what the 54th Madden game but we can't even get a sequel to Beyond Good And Evil or Capcom's 1989 uber-flying-shooter UN Squadron (which is pretty much the best of the best for the flying/space shooter genre IMHO).
Blogger Twist 8/21/2006 4:09 PM  
We already have Mario Kart DS. Who cares if anyone ever makes a new game ever again?
Anonymous bobgorila 8/21/2006 4:10 PM  
Hello, I think you are so right. That's why I love Nintendo so much. I can't wait to Wii!
Blogger Steve 8/21/2006 4:12 PM  
That's actually an important point.

The Nintendo DS seems to be avoiding "Two Guys With Guns" syndrome quite well!

But what about glorious high-resolution gaming on a television? Why can't it be weird too? Too expensive to develop? Too costly to take risks? BABIES!
Blogger Cabel 8/21/2006 4:13 PM  
I would guess it falls in the "too expensive" category. I don't know the details of the cost involved, but I know it would be really difficult to make a game on the budget of Tarnation and still have it be good. I'm enthused by the support of Microsoft's Live Arcade though, even though I don't have an Xbox 360.
Anonymous Matt 8/21/2006 4:17 PM  
But what about glorious high-resolution gaming on a television? Why can't it be weird too? Too expensive to develop? Too costly to take risks? BABIES!
That's exactly it, Cabel. Since the development market has merged into just a few large publishing names (Square, EA, Universal, to name a few) those larger companies don't want to take a risk. They want the easy money. So we get things like "Hockey -insert year here-" over and over. The same game as the previous year, just with updated player stats. Nothing imaginitive or unique.

Though, to be fair, some companies have taken risks and brought over the eccentric (Namco's Katamari Damacy leaps to mind), but by and large the US development houses are all about guns.

I have high hopes for the forthcoming Wii. I hope that it will force the market to explore new ideas and take risks. I hope that it will rekindle the thought in gamers minds that games are all about fun, not how many polygons are pushed per second.

-- end ramble --
Anonymous Johan 8/21/2006 5:05 PM  
I couldn't agree with you more.
Blogger Paul 8/21/2006 5:06 PM  
EGM? Really? You should have blocked out the address labels. Tsk.
Blogger John Siracusa 8/21/2006 5:16 PM  
It was a free subscription! A free subscrption, I tells ya! I'm innocent! ;)
Blogger Cabel 8/21/2006 5:23 PM  
Learning Japanese is the best thing you can do for your video gaming life. The nice thing is that the more you play, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more you can play!

The second best thing you can do is stop demanding max-budget productions; some of the greatest games are built by a small team of passionate people who can make a simple 2D game look better than any amount of high-res, bump-mapped three dee ultra-realism.

I'm specifically thinking of GUST (Atelier Series and Ar Tonelico), Love-de-Lic (Chulip, Giftpia, Chibi Robo, Coloball 2002, moon, LOL), and D3 Publisher's Simple 2000 series, but there are a hojillion more out there.
Anonymous fetjuel 8/21/2006 5:29 PM  
I have high hopes for the forthcoming Wii. I hope that it will force the market to explore new ideas and take risks.

The only reservation I have on that is the Wiimote. Is there a better controller for a shooter on a console? Probably not. The first metroid game will be fantastic on there, and probably spur the war clones onto it too. Not to say that there won't be originality also, but the quick-buck merchants will likely swarm.
Anonymous pimento 8/21/2006 6:01 PM  
I want to say four words to Twist re: best of the best for the flying/space shooter genre... Be. Attitude. For. Gains.

And in response to the main post: Yeah, what the Hell!
Anonymous Rom 8/21/2006 7:08 PM  
Wow, nice. To be fair, the only gaming magazine I get is Nintendo Power, and that was because of a good deal I got thanks to registering games. But among the last three, only one had guns, and that would be the issue with Samus and friends on the cover. Eh, pointless comment, that one.

Anyway, I agree with you, but c'mon, don't you like games with guns? Weird games are starting to be accepted here, largly due to Katamari Damacy strangely enough, but it will still be a while before it's widespread. Europe is still stuck in the rut of GTA games, and if you look at recent game sales, four versions of the same football game appear on the top 10.
Blogger ShadowMarth 8/21/2006 7:10 PM  
While Mass Effect is nothing like general FPS games I most certainly understand your gripe.

The FPS genre is full of cash-ins and bastardizations one after the other and until the masses stop buying them it will continue to be as such.

I hate to say it but Halo REALLY gave the genre a push into bland, corporate, repetitive...well crap lol

Now everybody and their mother wants to publish a game with guys with guns and the bigger the guns and faster/cheaper they can get it to market the better.
Anonymous Kenny 8/21/2006 7:40 PM  
Yeah, games are getting pretty repetitive these days. Not a whole lot of originallity anymore. I think that's why lately I've only been playing my DS. The games on that system seem fresh, while the others feel like I've played them a million times before. I hope the Wii brings back some excitement to the consols.
Anonymous Michael 8/21/2006 8:27 PM  
Muahuaha, now I know where you live.


Good point.

Anonymous Zach 8/21/2006 9:02 PM  
Even though I happen to be 15 years old, male, and a gamer, I couldn't agree with you more. Why great games like Psychonauts, Rez, Ico, and so on, don't sell just doesn't make any sense to me. I guess people are content playing the same old garbage in a shiny new packaging every few months, but there's got to be a limit. The industry is heading for another crash if it keeps going on like it is now.

I think there is some hope, though. Sony did quite a bit of advertising on Shadow of the Colossus, and it paid off pretty well for them (although not as well as deserved). Hopefully the other megacorps will start taking hints. If not, at least we've still got Nintendo, right?
Anonymous Jay 8/21/2006 11:40 PM  
its the same reason we're inundated with sound-alike [insert genre here] music. its easier to sell. you like x band, you'll buy y band too because they sound the same.

at least that's my theory anyway.
Blogger brandon 8/21/2006 11:41 PM  
You'd think EGM, probably the magazine most likely to acknowledge the obscene testosterone poisoning in gaming today, may reflect their publicized disdain for the current crop with covers featuring something other

But they did have the guts to ask the develops of army of 2 or whatever if the pair of assassins were romantically involved with each other. That's why I love EGM.
Anonymous Joe K Trotter 8/22/2006 12:14 AM  
Hmm, remember when EA used to do original content. Sure there was violence, but Desert Strike or Road Rash were fun games. How about Monkey Island? or how about World of Warcraft? Why on earth Disney didn't give Ron Gilbert a call to do the Pirate of the Caribbean game I'll never know.

Meh could be worse, could be the wreckage that is the UK Games industry.
Anonymous Chris 8/22/2006 1:51 AM  
Cabel couldn't be more right; this is exactly why I've gone from 6 games a year to 1, and dropping. The fact that most Mac ports are hasty hack jobs doesn't help. The last computer game I bought was World of Warcraft almost two years ago, and I see nothing new on the horizon.

At least the new Super Marios on my DS is fun.
Blogger Paul Davidson 8/22/2006 5:06 AM  
Says the man who knows all about Nintendo and the vision they have? Says the man who reviewed the DS Lite so well?

I agree with you, mostly because I am a girl and the best 2 games I can remember are Animal Crossing and Pikimin.

But still, dont forget the other markets that exist.

Thanks for bringing some attention to them in the world!
Anonymous Rachel 8/22/2006 6:47 AM  
I agree with... Jay was it? I'm also 15 years old and absoluteley hate fanboyish magazines like EGM that go and say stuff like "Nintendo DS is going to lose the handheld battle as it is completeley inferior to the PSP." And then start keeping their mouths shut once the system sells ten times over the PSP.

Well, I hate shoot-em-ups. That's why I'm such good friends with Nintendo. I support them in any way I can. I buy games before they become players choice, I subscribe to Nintendo Power (fanboy-ish but still don't diss other systems), and I appreciate what they do in every way possible. People wonder why I don't have an XBOX or a 360. There's my reason right there. At the top of this blog.
Blogger A.J. 8/22/2006 7:27 AM  
BUT, the guns have sights, therefore it is innovative, new, and fun!

I agree. We are all too visual for our own good.
Anonymous Toast 8/22/2006 7:33 AM  
I think another reason for this is the game companies use of the same game engine to create games. For instance the news today is that EA has licensed the Unreal 3 game engine. I bet they now make at least four games off that same engine. They make too much money just making the skins of the same engine. Grand Theft Auto is a perfect example - it's all he same game! So a big company makes three or four engines and then adds as many skins as they can. Driving engine, FPS engine, role-playing engine, sports engine and then skin, skin skin!
Anonymous Jim Renaud 8/22/2006 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous 8/22/2006 7:01 PM  
Mass Effect is COMPLETELY different to Call of Duty. One is a SciFi RPG the other is a WW2 FPS!!
Anonymous John Griffin 8/23/2006 5:03 AM  
Ha. Nintendo is doing pretty well! I dropped my DS Lite...

But cabel, that is very true. What happened to strategies? I guess american gamers don't wanna think while they're playing their games.
This is sorta off topic, but I haven't bought another game for my Xbox 360 since NFS: Most Wanted. Most of the games are bad- and anyway, I'm waiting for Halo 3. :D
Blogger Aerodyna 8/23/2006 3:44 PM  
You should read Play magazine - it's my favorite.

I realize that's not what this post is about, but I thought I should share that anyway.
Anonymous eeje 8/23/2006 4:50 PM  
I choose Tiger Woods 2007 on the Cube (can't wait to play it on the Wii!). There is nothing aggro about it. The sound of birds and waves are soothing. My girlfriend and I can both play, and neither one of us know anything about golf. We are so dorky as to have created players that look like us! This is our preference. When I play with my brothers, we like the slightly more testosterone-filled Madden or NBA Street. Everyone else I know who is a gamer loves the first person shooter thing. I don't get it, the sound makes me anxious, all that gunfire, but I'm glad they have the choice to play anything they want
Blogger Joel Conrad Bechtolt 8/23/2006 8:46 PM  
Answer: No.

I was at the annual Swedish Game Concept Challenge, where our game concepts were to be judged by a panel of people from the industry. One group had a really interesting game wherein the main character was a woman, whose chest wasn't ridiculously inflated and who otherwise looked pretty average. Now, after the presentation, when the judges were commenting the concept, one guy from a publisher (don't remember which) said something along the lines of, "Interesting concept, but the girl needs bigger boobs, and couldn't you make that friendship thing into more of a love sub-plot thing?" Everyone groaned, but the guy argued for a while about it, and he was the kind of guy who decided what the publishers publish. And while he agreed that it didn't really fit the game, he said that's what the audience wants.
Blogger Nevyn 8/24/2006 4:09 AM  
Bah, this is why I read EDGE.
Anonymous Brad 8/24/2006 5:38 PM  
It's incredibly disheartening to see the state of the industry and its obsession with boobs and guns (mirroring our own country's priorities?) but honestly, it's just made me respect Nintendo all the more. Every time I get tired of this industry, Nintendo does something to restore my faith, and pique my interest. The DS was an appetizer, and then here comes the Wii, something I never would have imagined. Brilliant.

I have had SO much fun with quirkly little titles like Chibi-Robo, Animal Crossing, and Mario Party -- at least as much fun as I have with tough, "male" games like Resident Evil or Eternal Darkness. (Nothing wrong with a little zombie-killing after all, it just isn't everything).

I just hope people remember - you vote with your pocketbook. Buy these games that show a little originality and a little spirit. Try something outside the norm, and pay full price. Your dollar speaks louder than words, so go support the people who are putting some heart into these games.

Thanks, Cabel, for another insightful post.
Anonymous Ryan 8/24/2006 7:15 PM  
Also, Mass Effect is a Canadian videogame

Anonymous Anonymous 8/25/2006 10:26 AM  
Johan pretty much said everything that I've thought of. The main publishers are trying to scrape in all of the dollars they can, and why not follow in the footsteps of another success? My irritation with the game industry is that there seem to be too many kill-everything-that-moves types of games. Ooooh, look, yet another FPS. *yawn*

I grew up as an adventure gamer, and that is a genre which has declined significantly, especially in the past 10+ years. There are the games out there, just very few A-level games. Perhaps why we can see more experimental games on the smaller platforms like Nintendo DS or even cell phone games might be due to lower cost to develop them, which means less risk for the publishers. Games these days have just become far too big and far too expensive to be worth it to anyone anymore. I'm just wondering when we will finally reach critical mass and the games can no longer get any bigger.

But as others have mentioned, I'm looking forward to the Wii to see if this helps inject some fresh blood into a tired industry. Hey, I bought a DS just because of the game Brain Age, which has been a great style of game play for me since I just don't have the proper amount of time to sit down and play games for hours on end, week in and week out.
Anonymous Chad 8/28/2006 3:09 PM  
The next issue of EGM has Guitar Hero 2 on the cover. Just sayin'.
Anonymous Anonymous 8/30/2006 12:31 AM  
Sony's obsession with realistic violence is killing the platformer genre on their systems.

2nd party developer Naughty Dog - creators of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter series which together sold over 37 million games - has abandoned the genre! Their next PS3 game is realistic and violent. But we saw this coming - Naughty Dog has been progressively trying to make their Jak games more "X for extreme" by emphasizing guns and racing. Guess what, the original "Jak & Daxter" with its classic gameplay outsold all the "Xtreme" sequels.

Platform games used to be the bread-and-butter for consoles. And while they are not as popular now as in the NES days, they still sell millions. I'm disappointed to see the genre skipped over my Sony. At least Nintendo is keeping platformers alive.
Blogger Evan 8/30/2006 9:09 AM  
I was just thinking the same thing when I looked at the newest EGM yesterday. I opened the cover, and every page was basically high-res screenshots of humanoids with guns. I'm over it.

Nintendo is the glimmer of hope, as others have said. They can do Metroid, but they can just as competently do Brain Age. I own an Xbox 360 and a PS2, but the DS is the only reason I'm playing video games right now. The Wii will probably be the next reason.

That said, magazines they need to cater to people who would buy a publication about games. It's not so easy to put a Japanese neuroscientist on the cover, unless there's a real story to back it up.
Anonymous Scott Stevenson 8/30/2006 2:25 PM  
You are all idiots
Anonymous Actual Game Designer Who Is Smarter Than You 9/02/2006 2:08 AM  
Ah, now I see. We're all idiots. Well, my opinion on this matter has completley changed.

Anyway, Nintendo is my favorite, because their games are...Great. Diverse. FUN. Yes, all X-Box is selling is crap about guns n' stuff. "This time he SCREAMS while shooting!"

I never have liked X-Box, and I don't think I EVER will because they have barely any diverse games.
Anonymous Anonymous 9/03/2006 8:03 AM  
I agree, except I don't think Japan's game development is what it used to be either. Hoping the DS and Wii can turn things around, but right now I'm wishing Mario and Zelda would just take a hike! I miss original, "magical" games like Zillion, Another World, Kid Icarus, Marble Madness, Tempest, Landstalker, The Scheme, the first Sonic the Hedgehog, etc.
Blogger Matthew Dickinson 11/05/2006 11:39 AM  
Today's games are too professional and extroverted. They're trying to please nitpicky fans who care too much about whether the characters have only 4 frames of animation and crap like that. Japanese games used to have good music, with interesting compositions, but not anymore.
Blogger Matthew Dickinson 11/05/2006 11:41 AM  
The thing is, while it's really easy for me to sit here and implore all game developers to try new things (yay blogging!) — and, to be fair, many developers are, like Telltale Games, Keita Takahashi, the Xbox Live Arcade, etc. — I have to wonder: are there simply not enough gamers, non 15-year-old male gamers I guess, to financially support new and different gaming styles?

Don't worry!! Nintendo Wii and DS will work together to change the world!!!! (sorry, got carried away, big Nintendo Fanboy.)
Anonymous Anonymous 11/12/2006 1:37 PM  
I feel evil saying this almost EXACTLY 2 years after the last comment, but you are all idiots. I agree with the game designer.
Problem solved, meltdown averted and all that.
Blogger Daniel 11/11/2008 7:11 PM  

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Name:Cabel Maxfield Sasser
Job:Co-Founder, Panic Inc.
Location:Portland, OR