Aug 11, 2016
Over the past few years, as games have become highly polished adventures, gaming developers have become their own form of branding.
A vast number of gamers will purchase a game, purely based upon the developer who is at the helm. And often, if the franchise shifts hands, those in the know will not purchase a lacklustre version. When freemium games are rife, on both mobile devices and consoles with free-to-play titles, paying full retail for a game needs to match the quality of the game produced. For the average person, £40 RRP is a big investment. And for that, they expect a top quality game, whether that involves spending 100 hours of gaming galore; or 10 hours of action-packed or heart-wrenching content. And anywhere in between. The point is, if the content does not match the price, consumers will not return to that company. Especially when you can try free games, and choose to spend in-game money if you like it.
As far as downloads go, companies including EA’s Origin and Google’s Android refund games or applications that are uninstalled within a limited time. This means that if a developer is trying to be cheeky, and the product does not meet the mark they promised, they will lose out on revenue. This is pretty good for the consumer though, as they can take a chance, with little risk if it doesn’t meet their standard. But if a certain developer keeps delivering, it is likely they will continue to purchase their new entries, whatever that may be. For developers, their reputation is on the line. Naughty Dog, Bungie, Insomniac, and Bioware, are just a few that have a colossal fan base, just for being themselves. Whatever they turn their hand to, fans follow their next step eagerly, drooping over the smallest teaser of what they have in store next. Their library of games is highly coveted, and their fanbase is ever growing. This seems to be a growing trend, rather than following a specific series or character. It used to be that IP’s would be sold or shared between companies. Following the Spyro franchise for instance; the original three developed by Insomniac Games were highly praised.
Yet when switching to PS2, the rights and character were sold multiple times to a number of companies, culminating in the Legend of Spyro series. And none of these matched the quality of the originals. Of course, Spyro now has fame in the Skylanders franchise itself; yet this just proves how characters are not coveted by fans as such, and are used and abused by those that purchase the rights. Skylanders may have good reviews, but has little to no resemblance to the original Spyro series. By and large, what is essential is that publishers give developers free reign to develop the games they desire. It is this remarkable quality by such developers that allows them to work at their own pace. If publishers do not push deadlines onto developers in order to meet market demands, the result is a much higher quality product. And when the competition is as stiff as it currently is, this is necessary to stand out in the crowd. This includes console, PC, and mobile gaming devices. Average games will not gain the traction required. This is proven by games such as Gran Turismo, famously overrunning by multiple years, yet the end result is the most realistic and polished racing simulator to date. So you may ask, what companies denote an average game? Well, (in my personal opinion), even during my youth when I was relatively unaware of game studios, if Traveller’s Tales or THQ popped up, I’d know it was going to be a remarkably average game. So what kind of studios have managed to create their own fan-base? For me, it was and always has been about Naughty Dog. Even from the original Crash Bandicoot, they managed to create an iconic platforming legend from nothing. And since then, they have simply never failed to blow away the public. They created the original Jak and Daxter, which was effectively a larger and more complex platformer. They they took this former, and applied it to a darker world in the second and third iterations, implementing gunplay and a deeper storyline. The next step was the heavily acclaimed Uncharted series, which has taken the PS3 by storm.
And lastly, The Last of Us. A completely new and original IP, and a BAFTA winner/multiple Game of the Year awards winner. Although against titles such as GTA V and BioShock Infinite, it deserved it as much as any. The fact that the game received such a stunning reception is purely down to Naughty Dog’s own fanbase who were incredibly keen to see what they had up their sleeve, mixed with the breathtaking quality they always deliver At the end of the day, passion and innovation is key to creating a great game, which has been shown time and time again by indie developers. It is all about doing what you love, rather than what you’re told to do. Gaming is becoming more of an art form, and developers are the artists – and I for one will remain following my favourite artists with whatever endeavours they may take.