The Over-Saturation of Cookie Cutter Titles

February 20, 2011

Editorials

Let’s face it, in today’s depressing economy and fast passed technological world, the gaming industry has taken on a new art form vastly different from its golden years of the 1980’s and 90’s.  Also, the face of gamers has also changed from what was once considered, a nerdy male teenagers past time, has now become more mainstream than ever before. Today, children from 2 years old, all the way up to senior citizens, can now enjoy gaming experiences like never before.  The launch of the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS changed the entertainment market forever by bringing in many casual gamers and folks who were never gamers before.  The worldwide success of the Wii brought the attention of its competitors, Microsoft and Sony, who both saw the potential in creating devices that attracted bigger audiences and sales.  Sony chose the motion control route but sought to improve it to a much more realistic perfected hand-held motion device unlike the Wii remote.  Microsoft sought to create a multimedia motion capture device.  With the additions of the PlayStation “Move” and Microsoft’s “Kinect”, the market for gaming expanded even more in 2010.  Young or old, male or female, the gamer has taken on many faces since the industry’s inception.

Sadly however, there is a drawback to all of this expansion and growth, and the result is a mass production of “cookie cutter” titles.  Many will wonder what I mean or what kind of games qualify to me as “cookie cutter” titles.  Well, basically I am talking about lackluster titles that offer no creativity and game time totaling 5 hours or less packaged and sold at full retail.  We all know these types of games; the visuals are usually sub par or average at best and the consumer is supposed to be content with it because it comes with Trophies/Achievements or nothing at all if you have the Wii. And it is not just disc based games sold at stores, developers have found a new venue.  Cookie cutters have flooded the PlayStation Store, Xbox Live Arcade and Wiiware in the last 5 years asking from 5 dollars all the way up to 20 or 30 dollars for titles that normally should be found at a bargain bin in Wal-Mart.  Every week the online store fronts for Xbox, PlayStation and the Wii release multiple downloadable titles.   Some of these “mini games” as I call them, are good, others are great, but a lot of the time they are poor, unimaginative games that offer up a forgettable simple minded experience packaged with trophies and achievements.  That’s not to say that I, as well as millions of others, do not enjoy the simple old school platformers, shooters or puzzle games from the golden years.   However, when this genre is revisited a thousand times over with a different title or character but the same exact formula used for the last 30 years (pretty much since “Galaga” and similar titles), I personally just cannot accept developers or companies pushing out and selling bargain bin titles over and over asking for any money at all.  In 2010 alone, aside from online store purchases, full-fledged titles were sold that really didn’t offer up much of anything other than cashing in on its brand name if it even had one or franchise.  Many will argue but there were big cookie cutter games such as “Fallout New Vegas”, which didn’t change much of anything from its predecessor.  Aside from some enhancements and polishes, it is the same game as “Fallout 3” repackaged.  Other titles such as “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2” followed suit in the same fashion.  The Mario franchise has a monster reputation for using its name to create hundreds of titles.  The latest one, “Mario Sports Mix” for the Wii, is failing terribly in reviews but was created and sold because of its brand name.  Even the “Call of Duty” Franchise has gotten to the point where it relies on its name to push its sales, while gameplay and visuals remain similar in most of their sequels.  The latest installment in the “Final Fantasy” series and also the forth coming one yet to be released titled “Final Fantasy XIII-2” is another prime example of cashing in on a franchise name.  They cash in, in my opinion, because nothing changes and the creativity drops as the sequel numbers increase, in this case to a whopping 13 with a 14th on the way (for PS3, out now for PC) for the FF series. The Sonic series, which infamously pushed out over 40 plus titles since their classic beginnings, has now turned out to be a shadow of its former self.   Releasing shallow experiences and using the Sonic name brand to try and bring back gamers, time and again, has finally faded out for this series.   The 007 series of “Bond” games seems to release once every 2 years, offering the same primitive mechanics and lackluster experiences that we’ve seen over and over again.  This is unfortunate because in years past there were better installments such as the classics like “Goldeneye” and “Everything or Nothing” and in those, there was quality and creativity. And finally, the horrifying wave of unstoppable sequels to games such as “Guitar Hero” (which has finally ended) and “Rock Band”, have all taken the consumer for a ride multiple times.  What was once an innovative and creative idea has now become a sequel drive for more and more profit, giving the gamer a rehashed experience with some new songs.

Of course there were other titles that were not as nearly well-known that were released for all 3 consoles these years.  These games you normally will never see commercials or ads for but they are released each year by the truck load and can be found at most game stores.  We’ve all seen these titles before and based on prior history, I do not foresee them going away anytime soon or ever in fact. As I stated in an earlier article, 2011 is going to be a great year for gaming in terms of a technological standpoint and the triple A title’s getting released.  My own personal opinion is this, when such a huge selection of great games is coming out and the economy is still poor, I will only invest in games that I know will deliver a satisfying experience whether it be AAA titles or AA.  And there are those smaller titles that now and then become classics to us, but they are far and few between.  Also recognize that these shallow titles are nothing more than plastic shell cases that will rob your money and keep your attention for 3-5 hours if even, and promise to make you forget the experience before the weeks out.  My hope is that in the future, gamers will be more aware of this genre of games.

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