Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is on store shelves. And as expected, it has proven wildly popular around the world. Even better for Activision, the game’s publisher, it was able to succeed just weeks after its chief competitor, Battlefield 3, hit store shelves. As with previous years, Modern Warfare 3’s success is being touted as an entertainment industry marvel. And the vast majority of industry critics have given it high marks, thanks to its outstanding visuals, solid gameplay, and top-notch multiplayer experience.
But I, for one, am not happy to see Modern Warfare 3 succeed. In fact, I think the game is what’s wrong with the gaming industry.
Worst of all, it’s not alone.
We’re currently in the middle of what is the most important shopping season of the year. And historically, the top games are released around this time. As expected, this year is no exception.
During the last three or four months of 2011 alone, the following titles have either been released or will be released: Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, among several others. Notice anything special about those games? They’re all the latest entrants in major franchises. Not a single title in that lineup is a new franchise that tries to break the gaming mold.
Am I the only one who can’t stand that?
See, I come from an era that watched innovation reign supreme in the gaming space. Whether it was something as simple as Pong or as groundbreaking as Super Mario 64, people in my generation were inundated with games that took chances and tried new things. Those who are growing up on the likes of Modern Warfare 3, however, believe a new version of the same basic game each year is normal.
Whatever happened to innovation and fun? Games that deliver those attributes are being relegated to the Web or mobile platforms where developers have the ability to offer those titles. Traditional gaming devices, however, have become home to the same old game released each year under a new name.
Unfortunately, I don’t see a way in which that will change. Making a console video game today is extremely expensive. And the best way for major publishers to get the biggest return on their investment is to deliver sequels year after year, since those games typically keep costs down.
What’s more, we find ourselves increasingly buying games from major publishers, like Activision or Electronic Arts, while the old school developers that used to have a chance to succeed have been forced to develop titles for other platforms.
Think of it this way: would a company like Sega be able to come on the scene today and make a splash with Sonic the Hedgehog? Better yet, would Rovio have even had a chance to appeal to console gamers if it brought Angry Birds to the Xbox 360 first?
Thankfully, we have services like the Xbox Live Arcade where we can play some new and innovative games. But unfortunately, the companies developing those titles are making a pittance compared to publishers offering blockbuster games. And I just don’t see that changing anytime soon.
So, while you’re sniping friends in Modern Warfare 3 or setting a new rushing record in Madden, think about what’s really going on. As much as you might like to believe you’re playing a new game, you’re really only playing through last year’s title with a few changes dropped in.
It’s unfortunate. But it’s today’s reality.