Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Industry closes door on original ideas

The Guardian Unlimited Gamesblog has an editorial on how the game industry is shying away from developing new IP in the waning seasons of the current generation of consoles. In particular, it says that "there are no new games going into development for PS2 and Xbox, it’s all sequels and branded tie-ins from now on." The author takes the position that this is a bad thing, asserting that:
Relying solely on sequels is the videogame equivalent of incest – eventually, the gene pool goes stagnant.

I agree with that sentiment as far as practicalities go, but I don't think sequels have to be "design incest." Really, all the beancounters want is the brand-driving force of a recognizable title. Once the customer is suckered intoconvinced to purchase the game, the game designer has the freedom (or is it obligation?) to diverge from the original game to define compelling new gameplay for the sequel.

Still, what this probably means is that the typical game buyer is reluctant to drop cash on unknown IP, which might be an important lesson for educational game developers. Series like "Math Blaster" seem to really trade off of the name recognition, so I think there's evidence for this phenomenon in the educational ciricles, too. For us, I don't think this necessarily means that we ditch what we're doing and license a movie character instead, but I do think it means that we should have as one of our goals to generate some IP that can sustain a long series of educational titles, because that will serve us better in the long run.


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