What happens when the worst video game is the highest selling ? A crash happens, and it’s happened twice by now.
Currently we have services and platforms that allow an incredible amount of games to be played. In addition, making games has become far easier than before. For better or for worse, the game developers may not even have to know mathematics to perfect their games because builders like RPG Maker or Shooting Game Maker exist. While they limit what sort of games can be made to an extent, it’s an indicative what could be. However, similarly to how we have dozens of webpage builders, knowing the language behind the website is always recommended to know. While few people seem to be fond of building sites straight up with a txt file in HTML, website builders will never defeat the core knowledge. To use another comparison, it’s like knowing the materials a chair is built of. Designing a good chair is far easier when you know the dimensions of human body and what sort of materials can carry the weight of modern men.
With the amount of games we have on table right now, it means that we have more shit games that we’ve ever had before. Sturgeon’s law is very straightforward with this; 90% of everything is crap. The chances of your favourite developer’s latest game being shit is high.
While statistics can always be taken as the objective view, we need to remember that all statistics should be taken into account, and that’s an absurd task. While I keep repeating the mantra Call of Duty is doing something right if it keeps selling like it does, I personally have issues with it even it has a seed of truth in it. Humans are beings of habit, and I’m usually at the front row seat to see the same people buying the new FIFA or the new NHL game, because my older brothers are this sort of people. Same goes with kids I know who are all fired up when either of the new sports games gets released. There’s nothing wrong in that, as long as you regard your money well spent.
The question that I tend to ask when discussing game sales statistics is ‘Is the currently most selling game better than the most selling game of 198X?’ Direct comparison of sold units of each year is something a lot of people do, but that’s ultimately also just cherry picking.
A good game does not always sell as much as it deserves, does not get as much attention it deserves and so on. This is also true, but in these cases we should ask why this has happened. For example, wasn’t Skies of Arcadia the hit the fans still want it to be? There’s no clear answer. I would have to say that it has to do with it being a Role Playing Game, it looking extremely Japanese (anime still doesn’t sell in the west) and was on a console that was both eclipsed by the PS2 and was very easy to pirate for. Dreamcast is a nifty console, but it lost the Sixth Generation competition hard. It being ported to GameCube later on didn’t really boost its popularity, as it was on a console with a similarly limited userbase. That, and the PS2 was selling like hotcakes with large quantity of games. Similar patterns repeat with many games that have garnered a following.
Statistics tell what game is deemed the most valuable in regards of consumers’ money, but the game that’s selling the most may not be academically the best, or best in whatever sense an individual may think himself. Very roughly speaking, the common consumer expects games to be just that, games. Most hardcore gamers seem to accept that story is secondary to the gameplay, whereas a vocal minority pushes story to the forefront. Then you have agenda-driven people who think that games are all about the story and are sad that their game needs to have a gameplay element. My editor is right; these games would make better movies, and the films industry has been in need of original scripts for some time now.
It deserves to be repeated; what you regard as the best things about games is valid for you. We can evaluate the coding, the design and whatnot. The academically good game. If all games would be academically good, follow the same patterns and copypaste the same core over and over and over again to fit the mould, they would lose their inherent uniqueness. The sad thing with this is that it’s actually happening to an extent. Engines like Unreal, Unity and Havok are being used and reused between so many games that it’s not even funny anymore. Same moulds are reused over and over again in game design, and moulds have a tendency to break down after too many uses.
Let’s get to the original question; What happens when the best-selling game is the worst one? No, let’s go a step further back; How does this happen? When you have an incredible hype for a title and it falls flat, not delivering what it promised and the overall reception is lukewarm at its best, you can only look at your own wallet and ask if you put your money into a worthy thing. Humans are beings that make errors and misjudgements. What we deem worthy of our money may not always be so. Some go into denial and make excuses for their purchase, as we’ve been how some Star Citizen backers are in full denial about the state of the game, or how the most hardcore Inafune fans still fellate him despite the game not even delivering on one of its game mechanics.
Unlike during the 70’s and 80’s, now we have people who grew up in the Renaissance of gaming and in the 90’s. The modern hardcore is most often a person who grew up with a Fifth or Sixth generation console, and has the habit to buy games and ignore certain aspects. While some argue that modern gaming is different from the late 90’s and early 00’s, the change is very slim, and the same mould is still in use. The looks are just bit more slicker. Perhaps we all should be far more critical on what we put our money into.
But if millions of people make the same mistake, buying the same shit game, are we that much slaves of our habits, idolising the developer gods or do we even care?