Ask yourself a question, what release in the gaming world are you looking forward to the most in the upcoming months? Gears of War 3? Zelda: Skyward Sword? Uncharted 3? Mass Effect 3? Modern Warfare 3? Batman: Arkham Asylum?
Now ask yourself what you’ll see in any of them that you haven’t already seen in previous installments of the series. Skyward Sword might I suppose include motion controls which change things up a bit from previous Zeldas (though I’m willing to stick my neck out and suggest that the experience will hardly be revolutionised), Gears 3 might have further refined deathmatch (though arguably nothing that isn’t a simple amalgamation of it’s predecessors) and Uncharted 3 will certainly have yet more perfectly pitched set pieces to drool over, no question there.
All reasons to celebrate, of that there can be no question, but each an alarming reminder of the lack of willingness major publishers demonstrate when it comes to backing the more revolutionary title.
When it comes to putting out anything truly mould breaking, even a little daring perhaps, I can think of only Ubisoft (Child of Eden), Capcom (Ghost Trick) and Rising Star Games (Deadly Premonition) willing to take the chance. You might say ‘what about Limbo, Flower, the forth coming From Dust and even Braid?’ I’d agree that all are games which push boundaries, but what do they have in common? They’re all little risk download only titles which the likes of Sony and Microsoft know they can take a punt on without facing financial repercussions.
Even the great innovator that is Nintendo is beginning to take less and less risks, a company famous for reimagining their classic backlog of games on new consoles they might be, but now we’ve hit upon a generation of consoles at which point graphics can’t get arguably game-changingly better, how can even Nintendo argue they can get away with releasing identikit sequels of Mario, Zelda, Star Fox, Smash Bros., Kirby, Donkey Kong, Metroid, et al ad infinitum? What’s more is that the more interesting looking games, Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower are seemingly only deemed fit for what Nintendo increasingly see as the more accommodating and willing to experiment Japanese market.
We, as gamers, find ourselves at an importation impasse. Do we buy into sequels which are already amassing the potential for backlash — just look at the furor surrounding the impending market saturation of Call of Duty — or do we take, say, a Battlefield 3 as being the last in that series we’re willing to buy for at least a few years and back up that decision with a conviction to not buy the inevitable Battlefield 4 which will, let’s face it, play virtually identically but feature — yep, you guessed it — slightly better graphics and even slicker promotional video trailers?
For years this was a industry based on the simultaneous evolution of gameplay and technology, now we’re looking at a time of stagnation for at least one of those qualities — but hey, who can’t get excited of the prospect of Halo 5 being the launch title of the next Microsoft console, just imagine those next-gen visuals… right?