On last week's mailbox Ben Walton e-mailed in to say he thinks story driven role-playing games are keeping gaming alive.
This week we've got Joe Frazer (no, not that one) who emailed in to say reviewers are influencing developers in creating safe sequels.
I've been reading many reviews on the internet lately and got thinking. Reviewers these days pressure games developers into making a game similar or near identical to other high scoring titles. Take the many sequels that have recently come out: I have played a considerable amount of them over the past months and nearly all of them have only slight differences to their predecessors.
Titles such as Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3 and FIFA do little or nothing to implement even a small amount of originality into their games. New tackling animations? Barely noticeable. New survival mode? No one asked for it. The bottom line is, if reviewers don't broaden their horizons then developers aren't going to take the risk of creating an original IP because they rely on reviewers to bring in the money by telling gamers their bog standard sequel is amazing. If this continues, games will become even more repetitive and gamers will become disinterested and move on.
PSM3 says: Thanks for your letter Joe. While we disagree reviewers are the main reason for safe-sequels (risk-averse publishers are more at fault here) we do agree that the games media are complicit in hyping the same small bunch of games, while ignoring more original titles. It's a vicious cycle. The more games sell, the more people want to read about their sequels or spin-offs. So the media writes about them to get website hits or sell magazines. Gamers are increasingly exposed to these sequels, so they're more likely to buy them. Finally, games publishers look at the stats and say "Hey, game X sold well again this year. This is what people buy. Don't change anything too drastically." And the cycle continues. So, no, games writers aren't directly responsible for safe-sequels, but they are part of the cycle.
CVG says: Reviewers simply call it like they see it. How their analysis of a particular game is interpreted by developers and publishers is beyond their control. As PSM3 says, they might be part of the cycle, but there are numerous other contributing factors to the safe sequel trend.