How Sales Stop Progression
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That seems to be the general attitude of gamers and developers alike for the last several years. The cost of development has gone up, as well as the number of ignorant buyers. Are you going to get the next Call of Duty game fully aware that the game engine has hardly seen a tweak since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? Making a few map variations, weapon adjustments, kill streak additions, and periodically adding zombies seems to be the formula for creating the number one selling franchise worldwide.
Call of Duty is just one example. Rather than updating their engines between games, the majority of companies seem content to fall back on their original engines for each sequel. For a large part, Epic’s Unreal Engines seem to be the gaming standard for this generation. Not that incredible games can’t be made this way, but relentlessly pushing the available hardware to its limits has become a rare aspiration.
Another, albeit small reason, is that developers fear a lack of sales when pushing content past the volume of a single disc, or adding features that could only be available on one competing console. Microsoft’s demands state that “Should content not be shipped simultaneously with competing platforms in all regions where the content is available, or should the content and features available on the Xbox 360 not be in parity with versions on competing platforms, then Microsoft reserves the right to not allow that content to be published for Xbox 360 or released on Xbox Live marketplace.” One of Microsoft’s fairly strict retail policies for independent and some major companies is that if content arrives on a Sony platform first or has more content on a Sony platform, Microsoft won’t publish it. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is just another example of how developers are limited to the confines of one console at the risk of losing well over half of their potential consumers.
This isn’t a bash on Microsoft, it’s just a rant about common sense and dollar signs. It does, however, break my heart a little as each sub-par game is released, proving each time that most developers have no reason to try their hardest to bring us the highest quality entertainment this generation has to offer. As consumers, it’s really our own fault.