Halo Reach hit store shelves this week, and already Microsoft is touting it as the best Halo release it has ever had. In fact, the game generated $200 million in revenue for the company. Since the launch, the game has been extremely popular on Xbox Live. And most folks that have had the chance to voice their opinions on the title have said that it’s an outstanding offering that puts a fine end to the Bungie-developed Halo franchise.
But all the laudatory comments and gushing over the game just don’t work for me. I’ll be the first to admit that Halo games are fun to play. But for me, Halo Reach - and all the hoopla surrounding it - is what’s wrong with the gaming industry.
Let me take you back to the 1990s.
During that decade, the gaming industry was a much different space. There were a slew of developers and none were big enough to be called dominating players in the market (potentially with the exception of Sega and Nintendo). At the time, game budgets were small, and the industry itself was a niche market.
And yet, it could very well be the golden era of gaming. It was a time that was led by extremely unique and fun games. It was also a time when the allure of corporate profit gave way to the desire of a handful of people in a room to create a groundbreaking video game. Indeed, it was still a business. But it was one that still coveted and cultivated originality.
Today, the gaming industry is nothing of the sort. It’s dominated by a handful of companies that want to quickly turn a profit. And they feel that franchises are one of the best ways to do that. In the process, they have effectively forgotten about the unique, fun games of the past and stuck with what gamers know.
That’s precisely why role-playing games are hard to come by today. It’s also why so many one-off titles that catch a cult following, but fail to hit the mainstream, are never heard from again.
Admittedly, there are other elements to this argument. Major developers will only stick with franchises that do well. And, for the most part, first-person shooters, sports games, and other action titles have been selling well. Thus, developers are feeding the beast.
It’s also worth noting that there are still unique and fun titles in the wild. But as far as I’m concerned, there aren’t nearly as many as there should be.
So, as Halo Reach gets all the accolades that most gamers say it deserves, I’m left wanting more. The game might be fun to play. It might be a great step up over predecessors. But to me, it’s everything that’s wrong about the gaming industry. The game is part of a major franchise. It’s yet another first-person shooter. And it doesn’t push the industry forward in any measurable way.
To some, that might be a good thing. But I disagree. And I hope that as time goes on and the gaming business becomes even bigger, more companies see value in bringing back the old days.
I’m not too confident that it will happen. But I won’t stop hoping.