When I reflect upon the mighty 2011, it’s easy to see that this solitary year contained some of the finest months the gaming industry has seen in some time. Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3, Zelda: Skyward Sword, Portal 2 and Skyrim, alongside a cavalcade of others, all contributed to making our wildest dreams come true.
Yet, while we like to sit back and revel in the joyous elation of Triple-A heaven, a quick glance towards my growing pile of shame showcases the harsh reality of gaming life. It highlights the unavoidable realisation that I, along with many other gamers, simply cannot get through them all. Most importantly though, it raises one resonating question.
Is having this many games within a twelve month period actually beneficial for the industry?
It may initially sound like an outlandish statement, but we must remember that while many of us possess a healthy amount of disposable income, more don’t. This unfortunately forces our hands to make a select few purchase choices throughout the year, despite the burning desire for more. Ultimately, the crushing fact is that one or more of these titles must be overlooked amidst a highly saturated market. A market dominated by top-tier publishers pumping out titles at an expediential rate in order to compete with each other. Call of Duty versus Battlefield, Dirt versus Shift, many of which are rushed to meet a competitive timeframe.
Then there’s the independent scene; an avenue that remains sorely unnoticed and ignored amongst the whirlwind of heavy-hitters. Titles like Bastion and Dungeon Defenders were without doubt some of the best and most enjoyable experiences 2011 had to offer the gaming community, yet for the large part, they are still ignored by those pining to put all their hard earned cash towards ‘pwning some n00bs.’
It leaves a gamer like me to wonder, just how this industry is to evolve and continue to provide us with fresh perspectives, striking originality and inspiring creativity if there isn’t enough of an audience willing to experience it. Smaller development houses lack the support and recognition they deserve because key publishers feel the need to support a demand of repetitive, annualised franchises that, despite being unnecessary, we still seem to ask for. Even worse is that most of them simply get added to our piles of shame.
Sure, it sounds crazy, but imagine if the industry slowed it down just a little, and avoided the temptation to overload holiday seasons with average reboots, re-releases, and even top tier titles in favour of focusing on a few spectacular choices. Picture a world where you had the time and the money to buy and experience what was on offer. A world where you could indulge in a few hidden gems, or invest hundreds of hours into an expansive RPG without the guilt of ignoring three other ‘must-plays’ in the process.
While the need for revenue in a competitive market will almost certainly prevent this ideal world from ever taking center stage, it still doesn’t detract the importance of championing quality and creativity over quantity. Epics like Skyrim or Fallout should be released game breaking bug-free, not pushed out the door in time for the holiday rush.
It’s a pipe dream sure. But one day, maybe one day it will happen. In the meantime, I have a pile of titles to wade through. Game on!