“Appeal to a larger market” The most feared words by gamers
“Appeal to the larger market.” Sound familiar? It should because these are the most feared words by hardcore gamers today.
Remember the first Mass Effect game for Xbox 360 and PC? Do you also remember how simplified Mass Effect 2 was compared to its predecessor? Now don’t get me wrong, Mass Effect 2 was a great game in its own right. However, the RPG elements that made the original Mass Effect….well an RPG were none existent in Mass Effect 2. The deep, in-depth character customization between armor, weapons and abilities weren’t present in Mass Effect 2. Sure you leveled up, added points to your abilities, but it was a very small list and the complexity of the RPG system present in Mass Effect, wasn’t there in it’s sequel. Bioware chose to “dumb down” as some gamers would say, Mass Effect 2. Now in my opinion, while this did anger me, after playing the game for myself I felt they didn’t do a bad job with it. Bioware continued this path of “dumbing down” their games with Dragon Age II. The game received for the most part, unfavorable reviews. Bioware’s forums were filled with hate, and the fans brought down the user score on Metacritic all the way in the 2’s and 3’s.
Simply put, Bioware dumbed down Dragon Age II so much it wasn’t even the same game anymore. Bioware just recently announced the highly anticipated title Mass Effect 3 will be delayed until 2012, not only that but Bioware wants Mass Effect 3 to “appeal to a larger market” which you can read about here.
What does this mean exactly? It could mean a few things. Bioware wants to simplify what use to be an RPG game into an even more simplified version of Mass Effect 2 offering almost no RPG elements what so ever, or go the Dragon Age II route and make a completely different game enraging fans.
I’m not just picking on Bioware, because they’re not the only ones who pulled this stunt. The original SOCOM developers Zipper Interactive have done the same with their latest installment, SOCOM 4. Let me get this out of the way. If you enjoy SOCOM 4, great, good for you. However as a long time dedicated fan since the series begun, I feel betrayed. Not only has Zipper dumbed down SOCOM 4, they completely “Call of Dutyfied” it as some would say. They took everything that originally made the series once great, and put everything in hardcore gamers don’t want so they can once again “appeal to a larger market”. Not every feature these developers add are bad, I’m not saying some good can’t come from this development choice. Most of the time it’s not though. All three of my examples suffer from this very cause. The first game was something new, fresh, having gamers coming back for more and more (with the exception of SOCOM. First two games were like this), than on their next installment took all of those things, and striped them away.
As a gamer I feel cheated. Yes it’s their game, but us gamers are the ones who support it, and make them their money. These companies are obviously not here just to make us happy, they’re also here to make money. Which I understand, but how far is a developer willing to go for money? Is 2, 3 maybe 4 million copies of your game not enough? Do they feel entitled to more so much that they dumb down their game to appeal to more people knowing their original fan base will buy their gaming because the name on the cover? I’m not saying it’s wrong for a company to want more. If I was in their shoes I would love to sell 20 million copies like Call of Duty does. These companies are afraid to take risk. They’re afraid if they keep their game the same but improve upon what they have, they won’t sell 2-4 million more than their previous installment. Instead, they dumb down their game to the point where a 5 year old can play it. Just to sell a few extra million copies.
I’m no developer but if I had a choice between an extra few million copies, or the praise, respect, and dedication from fans. I would choose the fans. Gamers aren’t just people who pick up controllers and play games. Some gamers take it further than that. They will fight, argue, harass people over their favorite game, company, or developer. My point is, developers need to focus on use to matter most in this industry. Respect from your fans.
Not all developers are like this. Developers like Valve are a perfect example. They love their fans, they give back to them, they give them what they want and at the same time make millions of dollars. With the gaming market being as big as it is today, it’s easier for a developer to abandoned its fan base and float upon the sales of the casual market. Is the casual market to blame, the developers, or a combination of both? Either way, in cases like this it doesn’t make me, as well as many other gamers happy.
Leave your opinion on this matter in the comment section below. I’m curious to how other gamers feel about this.