One of the most frequent complaints about the Triple-A games industry, and one that only seems to be growing in volume as time goes on, is that of its insularity. There really is no doubt that the biggest bets in gaming are made on the safest gambles: first-person shooters; increasingly generic action games; heavily directed action/adventure titles and open-world RPGs. I’ve written before about the homogeneity so prevalent in today’s Triple-A selection, so I won’t waste too many words lamenting the fact. In contrast to this, the indie scene is booming and bringing with it the kind of creativity that is so lacking amongst big budget games. With the efforts of these small teams being embraced more with each passing month by both publishers and consumers, we can’t help but wonder whether this will spark a revelation of sorts.
Think about it. In this generation past, Microsoft and Sony published several highly acclaimed titles made by upstart independents including Braid, Fez, Journey and The Unfinished Swan to name just a few. Going forward, Microsoft is set to continue doing this, while Sony (and Nintendo) are becoming even more indie-friendly by following in the footsteps of Steam and allowing self-publishing on their digital marketplace. Surely this speaks of a recognition of the importance of such far-ranging concepts and acknowledgement that gamers want more than just the formulaic blockbusters that line retail shelves today.
Indeed, it could be argued that a shift has already begun. Puppeteer, the upcoming sidescrolling platformer from Sony Japan Studio shows a clear indie influence through its simplicity and adherence to a genre which, aside from stalwarts like Mario and Rayman, has been dead for years. Not to be forgotten is the recent announcement that Deep Silver has agreed to act as the physical distributor of InXile’s Kickstarter success, Wasteland 2. Speaking of Kickstarter, it is a unique platform to give voice to the people and really display the kinds of games that long-term gamers desire. It is hard to imagine the big publishers not taking a good look at what is being funded, and the amount of money that they are receiving, and considering why people are flocking to them when their own products are seeing drops in profitability pretty much across the board.
Any fundamental change in the thought processes behind the business of making and selling games is going to come slowly. That is something that we must all accept, but when making complaints about the nature of the Triple-A industry, it is best to keep in mind that change will come. How can we not expect the renaissance of story and mechanics taking place right now to bleed into bigger productions? How can we not expect the excitement surrounding titles like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Shadowrun Returns, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Starbound to be picked up on by publishers?
With independently made games becoming such a large part of the industry and being covered so widely, it is destined to become essential for its tenets of innovation to be adopted in the Triple-A sector. If this doesn’t happen, then even the biggest will be forced to bow out.