I'm sure somebody's made this analogy before, but remember back when the bubble burst? Not the Cisco one--this bubble was a few trillion dollars less devastating. I'm talking about a few years ago, when real-time strategy games finally hit the saturation point. Everyone and their mother had come out with a StarCraft or Age of Empires clone or was working on one. Then Blizzard unveiled Warcraft III, and everyone just sort of said, "Well, I guess that's it, then." There had also been one of these a few years beforehand, when the very last Doom clone took its 6.5 rating on the chin and called it a day.
Anyway, can somebody please burst the freaking first-person-military-World-War-II-impossible-odds-commando-squadron bubble already? Battlefield 2's looking pretty darned good, recent hax0r troubles notwithstanding, so how's about we just hand them the trophy and collectively cease production on the crappy, get-the-better-gun shoot-a-thon we're developing? And before you say anything, I don't care if one of the guns has two lasers instead of one laser; or you get no lasers but four tanks; or this time, the hero has animal powers.
Look, I apologize if I'm coming off as a little angry here. But I went to an Ubisoft event last Thursday--and this may be the near-food-poisoning I received at the hands of their "egg rolls" talking--but it was one of the most depressing things I've ever seen in my life as a gamer. There was Ghost Recon 3, and a WWII airplane game, and that Far Cry spin-off, and another freaking Rainbow Six (is it number 20? I've lost count). One developer proudly boasted that his game's budget was in the $25 to $50 million range.
Guys, is it cool for me to say I have a problem with that?
I realize that gaming is a big-budget theater now and that GTA and Halo have matched the GDP of Belize, and next-generation graphics require paying for 2,000 human texturers, modelers, and kidneys. And I realize that this is wartime, and people want to experience the front lines without all that pesky real-world danger and, as such, will shell out for games that have many times more weapon types than original ideas. But I don't care what the law of the market says, because when the guys who made Star Control II have to make Madagascar and Disney Extreme Skate Adventure to pay the bills, something's wrong with the system.
Psychonauts and Katamari Damacy proved that clever and imaginative premises can succeed, even in today's derivative, war-torn gamescape. But until the people with the money start realizing that their games are creatively bankrupt, they'll continue to force-feed us 10 variations on the same grenade launcher. Then again, as long as the masses keep sidling up to the trough for more, who can blame them?