Where Is the Innovation?

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2016 was very much the year of the remaster, the remake, and the rehash. That's not to say that no original releases were seen; a few big hits like Overwatch and some indie surprises like Stardew Valley, Owlboy and Hyper Light Drifter certainly helped liven up the desolate landscape of games.

When you look at the bigger picture, it becomes clear that the games industry is suffering from blatant reliance on nostalgia and brand names to sell its wares. We'd all like to blame it on the big companies, how dare they sell us the same thing over and over, milking us of our hard-earned cash! No, my dear friends, that is not where the fault lies.

We, as gamers, have become too satisfied with buying more of the same, over and over. We have grown accustomed to and even enamored by remasters and ports that no one ever asked for. Lack of proper backwards compatibility is being used by remake apologists as grounds for buying games again that were already bought years ago. Even games that came out last generation are getting the "HD" treatment. Somehow, we have become willing to shell out $60 again and again for trilogies and collections of games we've likely already played.

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What's more embarrassing is the industry's pitiful attempts at creating something novel. We saw not one, not two, but three console revisions in 2016, two of them being slightly smaller versions of existing ones, and one of them adding a touch more power for a touch more "HD" at a $400 price tag. Virtual reality could easily be pointed to as a source of innovation in the industry, but in many ways, it was more like the laughing stock of the industry. Hardly anyone was rushing out to pay the price of another brand new console for a headset featuring a small handful of games that even work with it. Even the games that did support virtual reality mostly just threw in a little extra mode that lasts maybe an hour. And on the PC side, headsets ran about $800 and required a PC costing at least almost as much to run it capably.

The pitiful remaster trend is only half the problem; uninspired, forced sequels rain from the skies and sometimes even manage to slip under my radar. I wouldn't go so far as to criticize the concept of sequels, but when a game comes out that has the number fifteen in its title, I can't help but be a little concerned about the beating to death of the idea. Every year, like clockwork, our annual steaming heap of AAA franchise fodder gets shoveled on our doorsteps, doing little else than making sure the Steam Store has something to show on the front page each week.

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But forgive me, for I have sinned also. I admit to getting that fix from Twilight Princess HD, and being enamored with the nostalgic world of I Am Setsuna. I can't help but want to play the Kingdom Hearts series again as scattered and disorganized as it is. But I, just as well as you, have a choice. We can choose to be satisfied this way: seeing a few typical indie titles with the occasional AAA hit of the year, and being happy with the shovels full of ports and remasters to fill the other gaps.

Or, we can make the other choice: to demand innovation. We can choose to stop buying these shovels full of ports of remasters, to push indie games beyond their usual limits and lengths, and to urge the AAA industry to create something more original. I'm not organizing a protest, nor creating some token petition. But rather, we must realize that sales are key. If we really want this bland trend to halt immediately, we, even I, need to stop spending money on nostalgia and cheap "HD". I can promise that if we stop buying these nostalgia-preying rehashes and money-hungry sequels, we will at the very least end up happier ourselves, and with more cash in the bank to boot.
 

CeeDee

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2016 was okay. Nothing amazing, games wise, but we got some nice stuff.
Star Fox Zero was nice...
As was Paper Mario...
Kirby Robobot...
Mario Party Star Rush...
Pokemon S/M...
Mario Maker on 3DS...

And heck, we got stuff like Pokemon GO and Mario Run as well!

It wasn't too horrible, at least to me.
 
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Ericzander

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Well @endoverend I figure I might as well copy+paste our Skype conversation since it applies to this thread.

Us on Skype like an hour ago said:
Ericzander: I see the value in the remasters as they usually use different developers than those that are making the bigger titles. For example I really doubt that The Nathan Drake Collection was made at the expense of Uncharted 4. And spending $60 or often times even less on a bundle of a series that I never played is awesome. And more power too them if they have some people eating them up multiple times. Seinfeld is still making money after all haha
Endoverend: Yeah I see what you mean. What really gets me is games like Skyrim Special Edition
Endoverend: Very little point to that even existing
Endoverend: All those single game remasters of definitive games for the sake of having it exist on ps4
Endoverend: eg sleeping dogs, last of us, tomb raider
Ericzander: Would you say the same about GTA V? Ported I think a year later. Maybe more, I don't remember.
Endoverend: Well, I personally didn't like that they sold the game like 3 different times
Endoverend: PC, ps4, ps3
Endoverend: At the very least PC should have been ready
Endoverend: But at least they didn't go marketing it as "definitive, remaster, super hd" etc
Endoverend: Was it a launch title for ps4 or no?
Ericzander: No. I think it came out for PS3 after the PS4 came out.
Endoverend: ...really?
Ericzander: And they said at the time, if I remember correctly that their reasoning was that they wanted to push the game to the current gen's limit and didn't want to focus on next gen (now this gen)
Ericzander: Which was obviously marketing BS
Ericzander: Sorry I was wrong.
Ericzander: GTA V came out 2 months before the PS4
Ericzander: But still around the same time
Endoverend: IDK I mean I can't help but think it would sound good for them to get their money on the ps3 and x360 and then have it be sold again full price a year later on next gen
Endoverend: I would call a fair amount of BS on that
Ericzander: That's certainly what happened
Endoverend: But yeah, the trend of stuff like that happening hurts me a little bit
Ericzander: And I'd say that the current gen one is the definitive one. As it gets all the updates
Endoverend: I mean, at the very least, don't charge full price for these things
Endoverend: Yeah PC gta 5 is really good
Endoverend: only took them 2 years to port it
Ericzander: My fiance's little brother logged hundreds of hours into the PS3 one... Got a PS4 this November and immediately got GTA V again.
Endoverend: Classic
Endoverend: Minecraft has done that like 6 times now
Ericzander: He was crazy about that too up until he wasn't one day.
Endoverend: But yeah, the article is more aimed at that kind of thing happening. Stuff like the kingdom hearts collections make sense to an extent
Ericzander: And GTA 5 for PS4/Xbone came out 2 months before PC. Not a whole lot of time.
Endoverend: Although I think it's dumb that they released 2.8 as a separate full price game
Endoverend: and also it's dumb that it came out before 1.5 + 2.5
Ericzander: With KH at least now you have every game on one system. But yeah I mentioned in the review that it was too much and should have came out after.
Endoverend: IMO 2.8 should have came with 1.5+2.5
Endoverend: This sounds like a math problem
Ericzander: Oh they explained their shitty naming convention at least.
Ericzander: Aqua's story is technically 0.2
Ericzander: So like 2.8+0.2=3
Ericzander: But then that means THIS is Kingdom Hearts 3? Nvm don't think about it.
Endoverend: No amount of explanation can make it less shitty
Ericzander: GOOD point
Edit: And now I realize how tough that is to read when both of our names start with an E. Sorry for any eye strain this may cause people.

The innovation is there, in another console.
Which one?
 
Last edited by Ericzander,

Pokem

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I'm okay with remakes, but do a remake on games people haven't played (or at least most)
Like, Final Fantasy 6 for example (imo, this is the best game in the franchise.)
Great game. I'm sure many FF fans will rise, build hype, and drag the modern gamers along with the hype and it will end with a colossal success.
Some scenes in FF6 would look absolutely beautiful with FF15 quality graphics, along with the amazing story and one of the most epic, cruel, and mindtwisted villain I've ever seen.
 
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Veho

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Extremely high production costs and the need to play it safe kinda curb the innovation. Nobody wants to risk that kind of money on a hit-or-miss idea that's not guaranteed to return the investment. Also in order to increase sales titles must be multiplatformers and have to conform to what all platforms can run. So we end up with a ton of action adventure games, GTA clones and slow FPS games, and HD remakes. Innovation is limited to small budget indie titles.

Of course there are exceptions to all of the above, but that's basically the state of things.
 

Santaros

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I don't think that it's so much a reliance on nostalgia or brand names, these days the games industry is big business and AAA titles can cost in the realm of hundreds of millions to produce. As a whole gamers are always reaching for the next level of graphical polish, the more realistic physics engine, the more advanced AI etc. Whether you like it or not as the production costs continually rise while gamers demand progress, this is an unfortunate and inevitable consequence, I would liken it to what is happening within the film industry. The sheer cost involved in producing big name titles forces the developers to play it safe, it's a lot of money to lose if the game does poorly, so they stick to the 'safe' options, the remake, the cut & paste sequel. Innovation is largely gone from the big names and you're likely going to have to look to the indie scene for unique ideas, while people continue to fork out money for these sorts of games I don't see anything changing anytime soon.

It's one of the reasons I tend to prefer the handheld systems these days [owning both a Vita & 3ds]. The much lower production costs give more room for ideas that are a little bit out of the ordinary. I would say overall that there is still plenty out there, you just have to look a little harder for it, and quite possibly outside the mainstream.
 
Last edited by Santaros, , Reason: Added another paragraph.

Chary

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A "few" big hits, "desolate" landscape of games. What? Unless you're a Nintendo fan, 2016 was full of some of the greatest titles we've seen in years. Tons of blockbusters, tons of returns to form, tons of solid indies. What more did you want?

On the remake side of things, I can understand porting last gen console exclusives that ran at 30fps/720p and upgrading them to 1080p/60fps, because that helps the games age better. Other remakes will add in features that should have been in the original game in the first place. Games that were not in HD in the first place also should get a free pass on the remake boat, as it's also modernizing those titles as well.

Games like Borderlands or Sleeping Dogs or Tomb Raider getting "HD" ports though? I think they're completely unneeded and there only to drain consumer's pockets like you said.
 

daniel26150

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People are stupid they buy the stuff, game developers and publishers keep doing it, just tell people not to buy remasters and remakes!! tell people the xbox one is for xbox one games!! not 360 games!!
 
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Jack Daniels

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People are stupid they buy the stuff, game developers and publishers keep doing it, just tell people not to buy remasters and remakes!! tell people the xbox one is for xbox one games!! not 360 games!!
don't take my right away to play the only good games there ever been on a new console will you? i can't help dev's can't make any real products except copying those already made by another...
 

mightymuffy

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Extremely high production costs and the need to play it safe kinda curb the innovation. Nobody wants to risk that kind of money on a hit-or-miss idea that's not guaranteed to return the investment. Also in order to increase sales titles must be multiplatformers and have to conform to what all platforms can run. So we end up with a ton of action adventure games, GTA clones and slow FPS games, and HD remakes. Innovation is limited to small budget indie titles.

Of course there are exceptions to all of the above, but that's basically the state of things.
This, all day long. Or to be precise, all year long - not only in 2016, but the years before it, and 2017 too... The industry would really need to collapse into itself before we can see the kind of innovation we all want, and a collapse isn't something we'd want either.
It's a shame of course, but there's always the indie market, or you can simply dip in to your retro collection, while plodding your way through some mildly brain destroying me-too AAA title. And there are exceptions too, titles like Last of Us and Bloodborne don't offer anything new but what they do offer is so expertly made that we don't care anyway.
I'm still here for the ride anyway! :D Can't wait for the upcoming Mass Effect and Zelda myself, despite both games being done countless times before!
 

yoyoyo69

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The industries been moving in this direction for a decade or 2. They saw how the movie and music industry operate and clearly felt they should abuse their customers to the same extent (clearly more).

Everything has been moving to a subscription model. they haven't been happy just making extortionate amounts fir quite some time. the want us to pay monthly to THEIR services.

This falls apart when the market is divided by numerous service providers. In a decade or 2 more there may less as the popular providers lock down their control , it could go the other way of course, who knows.

On top of subscriptions the ip rehashes the expect you to buy is ridiculous. It is becomming very clear that backwards compatibility is intentionally withheld . Nintendo have always resold the same cut and paste, at least it still used to feel fresh.

Sony and Microsoft introduce backwards compatibility when desperate (when the other has more of market, as witnessed with PS3 - there was more in play here with hardware differences though and of course Xbox One)
 

yoyoyo69

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I've suspected it for a while, but don't post due to all the "you can't say 3" comments.

But Valve have not made a game for a while, infact, I'm sure they even outsource their developing mostly (CSGO).

They are like Rockstar with their ip and polish them to a high standard and most are held in high regard.

I feel they been waiting for something, pissibly something special, not just a higher resolution, slightly better physics. They want a game that goes down in history as the best of it's generation and maybe even a couple of generations after.

VR is very immersing and offers them something not only very different, but new. They can finally make a game that us not simply and update.

But chicken / egg. Valve are in a very unique position in that they can ( and often do) what ever they like, if they feel it worthwhile. They can afford for the game to not be a record breaker in sales, but I doubt they would go this route.

They are developing and when the uptake of vr is reasonable (a long , long way to go still) + the price of hardware is acceptable for serious sales we will get news, maybe before.

Maybe they'll test vr publically with CSGO. They have Left for Dead (3?) also and alit if resources have been transfered to source 2. Likely a Portal 3 and rumours of a new ip recently, maybe this is the vr "test" game to also increase sales.

I sometimes think too much . A lot of nonsense . .....
 

Cyan

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big companies are relying on their past success to keep their incomes. they started small, but can't go back small anymore so they keep their IP and make new episodes or remake and HD of it.
though, some sub-teams can make smaller games, like Setsuna. (please don't complain about snow, you never complain about rocks, forest or plains in other games!)
But they need to be able to afford making dedicated sub-teams.

On the other side, there are "indies", which are the type of games reflecting the 80's 90's spirit, developing different and innovative games, but I think a lot of their games are under the radar and too few people are taking interest in them. I don't buy or even feel interested in them, main reason being the graphics and look of their games. they look somehow unfinished and too much "80's". Some people like 8bit graphics remake (again, nostalgia !) but most indies are stuck in 8bit nostalgia for lack of resources and real talent. now everybody can make a game with 3 lines of code (flappy bird?) which sells millions of copy, why bother making something better?

what we might need is the idea of indie's developers with resources of big companies.
Something like sponsorship or traineeship, a big compagnie providing their resources for new comers. Anime industry is doing it once a year! the new school graduated animators are making a name in the industry thanks to that idea! 4 or 5 big animation studios are selecting a project from different schools to "make new animation project and IP", providing a new vision and something different that the old industry wouldn't have thought about. It could fail. that's the game.


That doesn't mean there's no good indie games or innovative from big companies. they are just longer to develop and release. like Veho said, they are risking their money if the project fails to sell well enough.

I enjoyed playing Oxenfree last year (little game from a sub-team of TellTall), and that's probably the only indie game I found myself interested in.
I'm waiting for the new IP Horizon zero dawn, even if it's a new IP it still a well known game genre (tomb raider, last of us), but it's a new approach in that game genre from the developers used to make Killzone FPS.
 
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H1B1Esquire

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On the other side, there are "indies", which are the type of games reflecting the 80's 90's spirit, developing different and innovative games, but I think a lot of their games are under the radar and too few people are taking interest in them. I don't buy or even feel interested in them, main reason being the graphics and look of their games. they look somehow unfinished and too much "80's". Some people like 8bit graphics remake (again, nostalgia !) but most indies are stuck in 8bit nostalgia for lack of resources and real talent. now everybody can make a game with 3 lines of code (flappy bird?) which sells millions of copy, why bother making something better?

I like the stories and success of Gunvolt, Spelunky, Binding of Issac, that one sandbox game with blocks, but I really want to see some of the cancelled games (M$ WTF??) or yet-to-be-released (M$ WTF??) games like Cuphead/Jugface and games that end in '3' that weren't on a system with '2' before 2020.

I blame the state of gaming on people expecting too much and people trusting people who are paid for reviews.
 

Foxi4

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Games, much like movies, have become multi-million dollar investments that take several years to complete, that's what happened. They take a considerable amount of effort and manpower to produce, to the point that failure is not an option as it could mean that the studio responsible might get shut down by the parent company if the returns are not satisfactory. Not only that, but even "breaking even" or making a "modest" profit is not enough, as investors want their slice of the cake, and if the slice is small or non-existant, they could've just as easily spent the last few years producing something better instead. The game has to be an absolute blockbuster, anything below that par is not enough. As such, companies will always push for the surefire ideas that are a guarantee for sales unless the climate seems particularly good for new ideas or the sales pitch that landed on the board's desks is excellent. We see it all across the board, from Activision's yearly installments of Call of Duty to Nintendo's Pokemon series. Games are firmly embedded in the entertainment business, and just like with movies, you have to slog through an endless sea of Marvel and DC movies every year to find the few diamonds hidden in the rough that somehow managed to slip through the corporate machine, and even those are likely to be bogged down and altered by it compared to the original vision of the creators. That doesn't make them bad games, of course - everyone and their dog liked Guardians of the Galaxy, but since you all liked it so much, you're getting 50 sequels and tie-ins that are already in production before the sequel's even out, creating a whole saga for one film that worked out. That's how your sausage gets made, and you're either okay with that and try to pick the good games out of the lot *or* you go Indie and play much more varied, but also smaller, low-budget, simpler games that are often experimental or innovative, for better or worse.
 
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