Lack of Innovation? A Counter Point…


Pedro wrote a great post on the lack of innovation in games. I’ve heard this a lot lately. Here, I’d like to present the counter point to that general sentiment.

Too Many Shooters, Too Many Sequels

Are there too many songs on iTunes? Too many books on Amazon? I can name a dozen items at the grocery store that I don’t want to buy, but so what? Buy what you want, enjoy it, and don’t let the other options trigger any anger.

Motion control sucks, pay-to-play sucks, stereoscopic 3D sucks, Blu-Ray sucks, DRM sucks, etc

Same as the above. BTW, plenty of people like all of the above.

Publishers are evil and destroy game developers

Hey, if you want to fund game projects that publishers are finding unprofitable, go ahead. Game development doesn’t get government protection like education or health care, they are subject to the brutal whims of the consumer market, and realistically that will involve lots of good, talented, hard working people getting layed off and having miserable and frustrated careers. You can’t blame that on publishers, that’s how the system works. I’d give aspiring game developers the same advice I’d give aspiring musicians: no one wants to discourage your dream, but I’d consider a safer career track with a better likelihood of happy outcomes. For every success story, there are hundreds of miserable tales.

Take a Break

If you hadn’t been exposed to video games for the past five years and just got back into it, you’d be blown away by the progress. If you’ve been playing new releases constantly, and are just comparing this month’s new release to the dozens of other recent games you’ve experienced, you are more likely to be disappointed at the lack of progress.

Real Innovation is Happening in Games and Entertainment

If you take a step back, and look at the transformation of gaming throughout the past five years, it is phenomenal. Everyone who attempts to predict how the industry will evolve over the next five years also expects dramatic transformation going forward. Most other sectors of society are relatively stagnant compared to the constant innovation and transformation seen in game entertainment.

The Fertile Field of Innovation

For those who act champions of innovation, take a break from video game entertainment. Focus on Math, Science, and Engineering. When is the last time you took a science class at a local college? I’d argue that innovation in these areas is more important for humans as a species, and ultimately more exciting, than innovation in video game entertainment. Entertainment is still important and has an important role in life, but some people focus on it too much. I’d also argue that many talented game programmers would have happier and more satisfying careers in the traditional sciences.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by FooBear408 on July 25th, 2011 [ 17244 Points ]

    I played Killzone 3 in 3D and I had to call the boner police because i got so excited.

  2. #2 by CHEETO on July 25th, 2011

    Hmm, some of your points are valid and some are not. Just because people like or dislike a game doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t push for better. We want better games, new and fresh ideas and sometimes a little extra ordinary cause variety brings freshness to this industry.
    Supporting something boring and unoriginal should be a crime, because you encourage publishers to release more of the same crap we’ve seen over and over. Just because it plays good and looks good doesn’t change the fact that its still crap!

  3. #3 by Pedro on July 25th, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    You’ve made some good arguments, specially that part of taking a break.

    For many year I didn’t have a new console or a decent pc to play so I just sat on the sidelines and waited… eventually when i got a PC and started to go through my backlog, I really saw the difference between what I had seen in the past and those newer games. However I (personally) wouldn’t call it innovation, there was certainly a great improvement over the years.

    I also agree there is still a enormous market for blockbusters shooters and numerous sequels, but that, in my opinion, is not a excuse for lack of polish or improvement.

    Overall, I agree with you, but I’d have to say I still do not think we’re seeing a lot of INNOVATION around, but I won’y deny, there’s certainly a lot of IMPROVEMENTS being made to games in general.

    Great post Darrin.

  4. #4 by Royalty32 on July 25th, 2011 [ 1020 Points ]

    Just like evrybody else is saying there are some good points and some awful points. First i would like to say who ever claims that Blu-ray sucks should smack themselves really really hard until some sense comes back into ur brain. I disagree and agree with the to many shooters point.

    Agree: I agree becuase not all ppl are gonna like the same shooter. Some ppl love bioshock, i think its completly over rated. I love COD and some ppl hate it but when its all said and done like Darrin said choose what u want.

    Disagree. Even though there are a lot of shooter half of them SUCK and the ones that dont suck try and copy everything that COD has already done. How can there be innovation in shooters when theyre all the same game.

    Like i said in Pedro’s post, theres ony ONE game that i can say is truley innovative and brings something new to gaming and that is Scribblenauts and yes 3D does suck in both movies and games and the biggest reason why they suck in games is because nobody wants to buy a $3000 tv when u can buy a $500 tv that does the same thing but not in 3d. Death to 3D in about a year or two

  5. #5 by Darrin on July 25th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Captain, “Supporting something boring and unoriginal should be a crime, because you encourage publishers to release more of the same crap we’ve seen over and over”

    Consumers should spend their time and money on what they enjoy. If there is a large audience that really enjoys multiplayer shooters, more power to them. And if there are developers that like catering to that, even better.

    @Pedro, “I also agree there is still a enormous market for blockbusters shooters and numerous sequels, but that, in my opinion, is not a excuse for lack of polish or improvement.”

    Of course polish and improvement are positives, but you’re implying that blockbuster shooters and sequels are somehow bad. Lots of people legitimately like those things, including me. I loved Killzone 3 multiplayer. Some of favorite games of all times are sequels: I hated the original Grand Theft Auto when it came out, but I loved every GTA from 3 on.

    “I still do not think we’re seeing a lot of INNOVATION around, but I won’y deny, there’s certainly a lot of IMPROVEMENTS being made to games”

    I don’t think there is a clear distinction between those two words. They genearlly mean the same thing.

  6. #6 by Trieloth on July 25th, 2011 [ 3426 Points ]

    Hey wtf! Royalty is STILL here?sigh
    I spent about $1,200 total (51in plasma) and got a kickass 3DTV. Iam loving the movies, even though there isnt many and games in 3D. KZ3 and cod:black oops is great in 3D. Now that iam used to it I want more!

    Anywho, Darrin that was a good read and you make some valid points. Alot of the DL games that people over look seam to be innovative, imo. I have been gaming for ages and games have come a long way. Pop in Ninja the Gaiden in the ol NES and look how things have changed.

  7. #7 by Darrin on July 25th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Royalty32,

    “First i would like to say who ever claims that Blu-ray sucks should smack themselves really really hard until some sense comes back into ur brain” … “3D does suck in both movies and games and the biggest reason why they suck in games is because nobody wants to buy a $3000 tv when u can buy a $500 tv that does the same thing but not in 3d”

    Royalty32, please take your own advice and smack yourself until some sense comes back into your brain. You can buy $500 TVs with 3D. And the price premium isn’t that big for 3D.

  8. #8 by Pedro on July 25th, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    @Darrin, I’m not saying shooters and sequels are bad, I personally am not very fond of shooters, but I’m having a great time with Borderlands and I’ve loved many sequels as well. Fallout New Vegas (which is half shooter) is a title I loved (I even platinum’ed it with 150+ hours put into it) but I still say the game was total crap when it was released, it took over 6 months until they fully patched it and made it playable and honestly that is absurd.

    And again, for me innovation and improvement are completely different and I can give you a couple examples:

    - Car engines get better every year, with fewer emissions and less consumption, that’s improvement. When mass produced electric cars came along, that’s what should be called innovation (even though electric engines were not new).

    - At the same time GTA titles (and I’ve loved all, GTA 2 still one of the most fun times I’ve had with a game) are arguably “the same game” at least ever since Vice City. We have had improvements over the years and titles, that’s for sure, but the overall gameplay and core mechanics hasn’t changed that much. That’s improvement but it isn’t innovation at all.

    That’s the difference between the two. I think for me personally they’re very distinct, but that’s possibly due to my professional background were the line between both has always been pushed around and debated.

    I’m not saying I don’t like sequels, I’ve bought all Assassins Creed games at launch (except II, but was the first game I bought for my PS3) and it was the one I used as an example. I think it’d be a hypocrisy from my part to talk about titles I do not play or like.

    So basically, I like games, a LOT, but that doesn’t mean I can’t say they’re not perfect, because they’re not.

  9. #9 by Royalty32 on July 25th, 2011 [ 1020 Points ]

    Give me a break, just because Sony is coming out with a 24” tv that cost $500 doesnt mean you can get a lot of 3d tvs price. Plus its 24”, thats a SMALL ass tv. If ur like me and like big ass tvs 46” and above u definitly wont be paying $500 dollars. The lowest sony 3d tv ive seen so far is $2300. You guys brains are like women ( in denial). 3D is not innovative at all. Its a gimmick, just like motion control its a gimmick.

  10. #10 by Jay on July 25th, 2011 [ 83111 Points ]

    Royalty, you’re such a troll.

    Samsung 51″ LCD for $1037.99:
    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Samsung+-+51%22+Class/LCD+/+1080p+/+600Hz+/+3D+/HDTV/2144103.p?skuId=2144103&id=1218311133577

    Same basic TV, minus 3D for $899.99:
    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Samsung+-+51%26%2334%3B+Class/LCD+/+1080p+/+600Hz+/+/HDTV/2584325.p?id=1218337329459&skuId=2584325

    That’s only a $138 difference (sale prices; regular price is only a $300 difference). Did you even bother researching?

    Also, there are plenty of 3D Sony TVs for under 2 grand. Only the higher end models are over that.

  11. #11 by Darrin on July 25th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    @Pedro,

    You are saying there are lots of small, iterative refinements but few big dramatic reinventions. The latter are often the accumulation of the former.

    Taking your example of electric cars: Electric cars isn’t a single isolate innovation. The industry has been gradually improving battery technology, electric drivetrain technology, and lightweight car construction over the years. It’s the combination of all these improvements that’s gradually making electric vehicles a mass market reality.

    @Jay, thank you!

  12. #12 by Jay on July 25th, 2011 [ 83111 Points ]

    No prob

    Also, I think there’s a pretty distinct difference between improvment and innovation as well, but that’s not to say that they don’t compliment each other. In terms of gaming, I think it’s more along the lines of playing something new that feels familiar or playing something new that feels completely different. In the former, most games still have that familiar feel, but they often build upon and improve previous gaming formulas and the like, but are not necessarily innovative. The latter is a different story. A new genre of games are often started by a completely new idea, and those completely new ideas are what are considered innovative.

    When Battlefield 1942 came out, that was innovative. No other game mixed in multiplayer first person shooters with the sheer variety of vehicles to control on that scale. Every Battlefield since that has simply been an improvement over the old BF42 formula, and not really revolutionary/innovative.

    Oftentimes, sequels are not going to be very innovative anyway. If you’re going to make a sequel to a game, you want it to feel at least a little familiar to appease the fans of the original title. LittleBigPlanet 2, though adding a lot of new tools and abilities, isn’t as innovative as the first title was (created levels, on the other hand, can still be very innovative), but it is an improvement over the original. LBP brought to the table the ability to create your own stuff with tools not found in any other game. Sure, the gameplay itself is a take on the platforming genre, but if you’re only going to look at LBP as a platforming title, you aren’t doing it justice.

    With that said, there aren’t too many truly innovative titles. Most developers still rely on tried and true formulas for building a game, because doing something different is a risk that might not necessarily pan out in the end. Who usually makes those risks, though? It’s mostly your independent developers. The ones you’d expect to not want to take risks because they have more to lose. thatgamecompany, the guys behind Flower and flOw, created games that feel completely different from games we’ve played before, mainly in the way they controlled. On paper, the games don’t sound like anything anyone would want to play, but because they were so different, people, I guess you can say, fell in love with them, despite how simplistic they actually were.

    So I think there is definitely a distinction between the two.

    Also, to point out, you need to specify whether you’re talking about gameplay, story, etc, because a lot of those can be a mixture of innovation and improvement. Assassin’s Creed, for instance, had an innovative story, but the gameplay was more or less an improvement on the third person action title.

  13. #13 by Jcmdaddy on July 25th, 2011 [ 56297 Points ]

    I agree with your ‘Too Many’ statement. Are there a lot of shooters? Yes. Do I like all of them? No. I like having options in a genre.

  14. #14 by Emrah on July 27th, 2011 [ 7319 Points ]

    Are there actual (real-life) people who like DRM? It’s a nuisance at best, and usually is just restricting for the buyer. I can understand people that accept DRM and would live with it, but I don’t think anybody would prefer to have it.

  15. #15 by EdEN on July 27th, 2011 [ 131293 Points ]

    All valid points Darrin but even you have to agree that the “brown tones FPS shooter” is HIGHLY represented in this gen. Also, I’ve never met ANYONE that liked DRM hehehe.

  16. #16 by Darrin on July 28th, 2011 [ 17143 Points ]

    Obviously, DRM shouldn’t have been included in the “plenty of people like all of the above” statement…

    “even you have to agree that the “brown tones FPS shooter” is HIGHLY represented in this gen”

    Obviously, they are highly represented. People who hate the genre can easily ignore them. Even military shooter fanatics don’t want to play half the military shooters coming out, but there is never too much choice.


You must be logged in to post a comment.

Like trophies? Like giveaways? Want to speak your mind? Register here!