"People say large publishers are very risk-averse, but I can't think of a more risky thing than betting 50 million, 100 million dollars on a single game," was how Klei Entertainment's Nels Anderson summarised the "triple-A" console blockbuster earlier in the year. Arguably, the risks have never been higher than they are today. 2012 has given us the usual mega-budgeted success stories thanks to FIFA and Assassin's Creed, but beyond that small circle of light, the situation seems increasingly grim.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter remains perhaps the most infamous casualty of the many evils - market saturation, diminishing returns on established IP, huge competition from mobile and browser - that now beset traditional games publishing, but the rot extends far beyond the much-decried military shooter genre, encompassing superheroic escapades like Prototype 2, combo-driven RPGs like Darksiders 2 and quirky Kinect titles like Fable: The Journey. In a world where initial spending thresholds are such that selling under three million units worldwide constitutes a failure, can the species of gaming Call of Duty typifies survive? And more importantly, perhaps, should it?
In our latest Hot Topic, Log butts heads with Dan Griliopoulos over the decline of the videogame blockbuster. Seal its fate by voting in our poll over the page.
Dan says: YES!
They push the little guys out into the cold.
Blockbuster games, the rational man must agree, in our field are a necessary evil. But the world would be so much finer without them. The whole machine of their creation undermines all that is good, true and proper in videogame development. Their existence corrupts the minds and morals of youth, and turns the artistic promise of this fine medium into something staid and plodding. If I were a religious man, I'd call blockbuster games sinfulness personified.
From the moment of their inception, they're compromised. A studio pitches a safe-safe idea to an executive who throws 50 million dollars at it, to make something unchallenging, that's polished and ticks every box in a safe genre - guns, multiplayer, DLC, tickticktick. Double that will be spent in marketing money, which diverts attention and funds from more worthy, more original titles. Out there in the cold, original games are left out to die - while in the heart of the development machine publishers obsess over what colour to paint the next sequel to roll off its conveyor belt.
You will argue that blockbusters expand and support the industry. Yet, indie games stand happily and profitably on their own two feet in more open entertainment systems, like the PC or Android environments. Blockbuster games only lead to the creation of more, identical, blockbuster games - and confirm the stereotypes of non-gameplayers that we are hateful, malicious morons. Give me Braid or Stacking any day; stuff your CoD where the sun rarely shines...