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Does the industry value innovation less today than it used to?

Men_in_Boxes

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The Unofficial PlayStation Magazine (pictured below) used to break their review scores up into sections. Graphics, Sound, GamePlay...and Innovation. Every review would touch upon how innovative a game was. How "fresh" it felt. A game could score 10s on everything else, but would get docked points if it was too formulaic.




Then I see this Tweet, from a relatively well known reviewer who works for a legacy gaming publication. His 5 most anticipated games are all sequels.



I feel like this concept is completely lost on the mainstream today. The only time I hear about a lack of innovation is with yearly sports titles, or yearly Assassin's Creed games. Hell, yearly Call of Duty campaigns, that are all interchangable, don't get called out for it. Gamers and media seem to not value true creativity in games anymore.

Am I just getting old or has the industry really dialed back how important innovation is within games?
 
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Captain Toad

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It's only natural. Video games were a pretty new medium not that long ago, so the innovations were more frequent and more dramatic. As time goes on, things slow down as it becomes more and more difficult to further improve on the formulas.

The same is true with other media that have been around longer, such as television and movies.
 

Magog.

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Innovative things tend to be more niche because people will buy what is familiar and they know they will like it. There is still lots of innovation though. Dreams (PS4), VR, the Dualsense controller, and the AI in TLOU2 stand out to me as innovative things with a real wow factor.
 

Derktron

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When it comes to mainstream gaming I have to say yeah it’s bland and offers no innovation but it depends on who’s making the game. For example, Sony and maybe Nintendo depending on the game especially Sony with the examples of Spider-Man, it offered innovative gameplay and storyline that kept me playing the game till the end and not many games do that for me these days. So I guess it would be 50/50 where innovation is alive and some are completely dead. Now when it comes to some indie games, yeah that’s where some of the innovation comes from.
 
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Jun 23, 2020
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Big videogames cost a ton of money, so publishers want to play it as safe as possible.

There can still be innovation, just don't expect it to come from AAA games.

Also VR, innovation of the decade.
 
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K.S v2.0

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If 'innovation' means more creative and original gameplay or new engaging and well designed characters, then yes, it doesn't care anymore.

If 'innovation' means inserting more Ma'am's Per Second™ into the product to see how high it will score on the Get Woke Go Broke® O'Meter, then no, no, the industry is doing just fine.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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The game industry never valued innovation all that much, other than the initial "surprise" burst of profitability. The modern game industry is definitely thirsty for innovation. Even a game with no originality/innovation but with competent mechanics and a fun twist (like Fortnite) can get really popular really fast. I believe it's not the first of its kind (PUBG came first) but if you wanted nearly the same experience you could even go back 19 years to Tribes 2, which had 128 player matches. Did that kind of innovation matter back then? Most people have forgotten that games like Tribes even exist. Every modern game is a fancy fresh coat of paint on the same late 90s/early 00s titles.

The game industry didn't value the Wii until VR became more prominent, and then the Wii's brilliance became more obvious. Gotta stick with the safe bets when most of your costs are for assets and licensing (i.e. maintaining sports licenses, paying voice actors, making 3d and texture assets, etc).
 
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namekuseijin

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flatgaming is a dead end, a bottomless pit of rehashed sequels and remasters of old button-mashing 2D mechanics under new shiny graphicz

VR is where innovation is at in gaming today. and already it too is seeing lots of rehashed formulas without even getting fully to grips with what's possible
 
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TeezzyD

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Truth be told, I'm not even entirely sure just how much I personally care about innovation at this point.

I'd much rather have a smoother experience with great visuals in something that feels familiar.
 

Men_in_Boxes

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The bigger the budget, the more safe and mass appeal they'll be. That's just how big business works.

I get this.

I don't get game critics quietly dropping how valuable they think it is, or gamers on enthusiast message boards doing the same.

At some point, IP became the most important thing to a game.
 

The Skull

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Triple A games seem to. I tend to gravitate to indie games more as they seem to do more interesting things with gameplay mechanics.
 

kuncol02

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When it comes to mainstream gaming I have to say yeah it’s bland and offers no innovation but it depends on who’s making the game. For example, Sony and maybe Nintendo depending on the game especially Sony with the examples of Spider-Man, it offered innovative gameplay and storyline that kept me playing the game till the end and not many games do that for me these days. So I guess it would be 50/50 where innovation is alive and some are completely dead. Now when it comes to some indie games, yeah that’s where some of the innovation comes from.
What's innovative in that Arkham Knight reskin?
Sony's AAA games are probably most formulaic ones on market outside of Ubisoft games and CoD.
 

Sejan

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I think in some ways innovation is bound to decrease in the mainstream as any creative industry grows. The majority of movies, tv shows, songs, works of art, and any other creative medium leans heavily on the successes of the past. As people realize that there is money in an industry, creativity inevitably gets set aside in favor of profitability. Big action movies and pop music icons are relatively easy to produce with the right team. Setting aside talented individuals in favor of a big team allows the industry to brute force talent.

Music is a good example of this. Finding a pretty face that can sing fairly well is a lot simpler than someone that can sing incredibly well, write music, as well as play an instrument. Auto tune can fix the singing, hired contractors can write the music, and the world is filled with people that can play an instrument or run a synthesizer. Thus, it is far easier to set aside talent and innovation in favor of something reproducible and more profitable. Every now and then, true creativity shows up and finds success, but it’s far more common for the top songs to be a product of the music industry rather than exceptional talent.

Gaming is falling into the same rut. It’s far easier for the biggest publishers and developers to make a safe, profitable project than to make something creative and innovative. Yes, there is minor innovation in most titles, but it is mostly a push to have a selling point rather than a truly amazing idea.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever for small developers to make games. Almost anyone can jump the hurdles necessary to get a game on steam, iOS, or android, and it requires surprisingly little more effort to get your game on game consoles. Easy access and stuff like Kickstarter give funding options, and engines like unity help smaller developers more easily create their game in the first place.

While AAA games are somewhat stagnating, indie games are filled with innovation and creativity. I just played a game called Monster Sanctuary. It’s a game that no one else would have ever considered a monster collecting metroidvania. It’s a crazy idea, but it was incredibly refreshing to play something that was so unique in the world of gaming. If you feel like gaming is in a rut, give indie games a shot.
 

Bonfires Down

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I very much appreciate innovation but honestly I'm perfectly fine just getting my fix from indies.

What are your top 5 most anticipated of this year?
 

ReBurn

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Video games haven't been innovative in 20 years. There have been refinements, but not much new. Even relatively new genres like battle royale are just enlarged refinements of multiplayer arena modes from old games like SW Battlefront.

Developers that take risks lose more then they win. So they make minor tweaks and we praise them as innovation because we're so desperate for something new and good.
 
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Danjin44

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I want to see more AA games in future rather just AAA or indie. Most my favourite games mostly come from from AA games.
 
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The cost of game development and the popularity of games like call of duty killed innovation imo.

I truthfully believe that if Cyberpunk for example, just focused on building the game for next gen and PC they would have then able to innovate more. But because they were so desperate to recoup the money and make a profit they released the game on every platform which most likely hurt the game that we could have gotten.

Even now with these next gen consoles out, there is still talk of a lot of big games coming to current gen vs. back in the day the industry would have fully embraced new tech for game development and innovation.

I think VR is the next big leap in a few more years....
 

DrJohnGalt

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I certainly don't think the big players are willing to take risks like they used to. They find a few winning formulas and release an annual game based on that knowing it will sell. Sometimes this lets them fund a few smaller, more niche projects, but on the whole I don't see nearly as diverse a game library as we used to see on the PS2 for example. That's partly due to the cost of failure being so much higher now, and partly due to the political correctness that's spread like cancer into the industry. So much more time and resources are spent making sure every box is checked that people are afraid to release anything that might upset the woke police.

That said, we do see a lot more indie devs experimenting with new ideas, stories, and gameplay, so all is not completely lost. I'd like some more mid-tier games (between indies and AAA), and I think we'll see more studios break out targeting this middle ground in 2021.
 

Danny Dudekisser

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Well... kind of. On the one hand, the rate of innovation couldn't continue like it did in the 90s. There was soooo much new stuff, driven by tech and the fact that so many concepts had never been tried before. We're just not going to get that again. As far as the industry valuing it less.... yeah, they definitely do. Games are a real business now, and an expensive one to produce new content in. Innovation is risky.
 

Men_in_Boxes

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I very much appreciate innovation but honestly I'm perfectly fine just getting my fix from indies.

What are your top 5 most anticipated of this year?

Deathloop
Hood O+L
Lemnis Gate
Forbidden West (mostly for the potential multiplayer mode)
Halo Infinite (mostly for multiplayer)
 

jroc74

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It's only natural. Video games were a pretty new medium not that long ago, so the innovations were more frequent and more dramatic. As time goes on, things slow down as it becomes more and more difficult to further improve on the formulas.

The same is true with other media that have been around longer, such as television and movies.
Yup.

You can't reinvent the wheel every gen or every other game.
 
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Important to draw a distinction here...

New IP != Innovation

Existing franchises can innovate through introducing new mechanics, metagames and gameplay systems.

Equally many new IPs retread well known conventions and don't really do anything new, essentially reassembling established gameplay systems and repackaging them with a new narrative and thematic basis.
 

Rhazer Fusion

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Most gamers really don’t appreciate innovation. The majority of them are fine with playing the same game and experiencing the same formulas over and over again without second thought.

I know people are going to scream Indies! Indies! Indies!!!!!! Yeah, I know. I just would mind seeing more imaginative games and ideas being implemented in some higher budget titles every now and then.
 
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NahaNago

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For me indies fall into either half baked half interesting ideas poorly executed or low budget games that would have been better if they had a real team and budget but to each their own.

Innovation is just to risky. So you won't get folks give a team a decent budget. Folks also tend to buy what they know.
 
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eyesabitdull

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Dreams is a pretty innovative game.

Did you buy it?

I didn't.

Shows that sometimes innovative concepts need to either understand that it will be a niche, or an innovation that supplements or enhances what already exists - like dual wielding, bullet time, over the shoulder, cover mechanic, RTX, ragdoll animations, open world gaming, simulated worlds, and etc.

That, or somehow hit the nail and create your own genre (to an extent) like Soulsborne, Metroidvania, and Battle Royale (yes those are innovations by definition).
 

Men_in_Boxes

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So? Did you love Death Stranding? That's one Innovative game, did you play RS6/For Honor? Those are pretty Innovative MP games.

I liked Death Stranding better than most games. Still got bored of it after 10-15 hours.

RS6 Siege is just the Rainbow Six on played on OG XBox... Didn't sense much innovation there.

Never really played For Honor though.
 

cireza

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What are your top 5 most anticipated of this year?
Most of the time you have no anticipation for new games, and realize how awesome they are simply because you gave them a chance.

That's how I discovered Catherine, Steins Gate, Nier Automata, Outer Wilds etc...
 
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Bonfires Down

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Most of the time you have no anticipation for new games, and realize how awesome they are simply because you gave them a chance.

That's how I discovered Catherine, Steins Gate, Nier Automata, Outer Wilds etc...
I agree. That's why it's not weird for a journalist to include "safe" big budget games in their most anticipted list. I play lots of indie games but I still have RE8 and Ragnarok in my list for this year.

Now, looking at actual GOTY lists they do tilt heavily toward that type of game, but that's what happens when a number of writers have to agree on one game. I generally find individual lists more interesting. But even so Death Stranding did well last year and Hades is doing good now.
 
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flatgaming is a dead end, a bottomless pit of rehashed sequels and remasters of old button-mashing 2D mechanics under new shiny graphicz

VR is where innovation is at in gaming today. and already it too is seeing lots of rehashed formulas without even getting fully to grips with what's possible
Was about to say. VR is where the future is at.
 

Hawks Eclipse

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Important to draw a distinction here...

New IP != Innovation

Existing franchises can innovate through introducing new mechanics, metagames and gameplay systems.

Equally many new IPs retread well known conventions and don't really do anything new, essentially reassembling established gameplay systems and repackaging them with a new narrative and thematic basis.
This is (probably) mandatory reading for all the people who stick their asses into Nintendo threads and shit on them for "releasing the same game every generation" (paraphrased).

There's certainly an interesting discussion to be had about the difficulties franchises have with reinventing themselves when the audience has expectations that span series and years.
 
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Hawks Eclipse

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I assume you're slamming sequels for being more of the same and if that's the case then I think you're jumping the shark.

Sequels are one way for developers to refine things (time and money constraints usually mean no developer gets to fully explore the idea they had in mind) and also to implement stuff that they had to cut from the original. On top of that, they're meant to be safer for publishers to invest in; no money, no games.

People can dream up all the innovative ideas they want but without the manpower/talent/money etc. to pull it off, all you have is a game you can play in your head.
 

luffie

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WHO is the industry you mentioned here OP?

If it is publishers & critics then yes, they prefer more established franchises. But if it is the gamers then no, we always welcome fresh good innovation.

Cyberpunk 2077 is new ip with slightly more innovative take to the 1st person rpg. Witcher 3 in context is also innovative, considering how they evolved from previous Witchers. But to even further, look at Fall Guys & Among Us, these are far from established franchises, and they are few of the most popular games in 2020.

There are a lot of smaller or indie studios coming up with innovation, but they have less marketing power to get media attention. You need to put some effort to look for it yourself, don't always depend on mainstream media to tell you what's next, they will always showcase the one paying the most advertising money.

Darkest Dungeon, Hades, Othercide, Remnant from the Ashes. Hell, even Dark Souls and Sekiro was actually innovative. So if the "industry" includes us gamers, then yes we do still value innovation.
 
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brokenduck

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Depends on what type. Graphics and animations still are making improvements while AI and physics basically stagnated. Mostly consumers’ problem that the industry is like this.
 

Northeastmonk

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There are probably game designers who are inspired by classic IP’s and want to expand upon something they already enjoy. There are probably designers who want to reinvent the wheel. Which is probably why we see some developers leave big name studios to start their own. There are game designers who did well with JRPGs and innovation to them is telling another story versus making the game play different. I bet it’s a mixture of developers who have already given us great games versus big corporate giants who need to reach higher revenues.

Innovation at the arcades didn’t save the arcades from going south. Innovation doesn’t always save the studio. Why do so many good studios get shut down? Working Designs did a great thing for gaming, but they didn’t make much for porting over classic JRPGs. Wii Resort probably sells more than a lot of amazing classic video games. Innovation to me isn’t always the best thing to judge. Innovation could have been those arcade simulated games that let you box or act like a cop. It’s a cool concept, but it doesn’t have a huge profit in the long run.

I don’t play Ring Fit and I don’t own a VR unit. Some people pay money to play VR at a VR center. That to me, isn’t the most amazing thing in gaming. It just suits another person’s interest. I use to love going to the arcade and playing 2D fighters and 3D shooters. How could they innovate that? They already make entries into those franchises. If it sucks then you just wait for the next title because 9 times out of 10 it won’t make the same mistakes.

What I’m seeing are more and more people with the same interest in terms of AAA choice of games. The reaction videos to say Spider-Man shows me multiple people with the exact same reaction. They all play the same game with the same quests after performing the exact same tutorial. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything or does that even make sense? I am looking forward to RE Village and FFXVI, but so are like 80% of the gaming community on social media/journalists in the spotlight/reviewers. Sometimes it just feels like “who is going to get the early copy first?”. Which is probably why I don’t like to spoil major plots or boss battles. Hearing some of the stuff early is like getting a good book or movie spoiled. Then it really boils down to how good the gameplay is because the other stuff is heavily scripted cutscene crap. Which is always why I love to see game designers make games like Dark Souls, that can tell a story with the items you discover and exploring the world.
 
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Physiocrat

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I don't suppose anyone really valued innovation for the sake of it apart from a small number of people. In general aiming to be innovative ends up just resulting in a bad product. That said it does seem to be the case in both film, TV and gaming that sequels are more of a cash cow because they have a built in fanbase already. Sadly it is the case consumers will go for something they know rather than pick a new IP which is well reviewed (assuming of course these are reputable). All that said I would prefer that devs create what they think is the most rewarding and engaging experience rather than ticking the fan service or the "innovative" box.
 

turtlepowa

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The last innovative game i played was Astro Bot Rescue, because it used the tech very clever and some elements felt completely new. But other than that, i don't think there are too many innovations left. Gears, Halo, Forza and so on always stay the same with small improvements, games like Horizon or Ghost had many "Best of Ubisoft/SE" elements, Spiderman could have been a Batman skin pack and so on.