Is the Gaming Industry Struggling for Successful New Ideas?

New. Intellectual. Properties.

Three words that always get players excited when they hear them muttered by their favourite game developers. However, in the past several years it seems new IPs have rather struggled, being dominated in the industry by three other types of game: remasters, sequels and franchises. Which begs the question: is the industry struggling for successful new IPs?

First let’s have a look at the biggest selling games of 2017 so far, an easy and immediate gauge for the success of totally original releases. Listed in sales from January to the end of June (courtesy of the Entertainment Retailers Association), five of the six best selling games of this year are one of the three listed types, with Grand Theft Auto V taking the best selling spot, accompanied by entries to the Tom Clancy, FIFA, Call of Duty and Resident Evil franchises. The fact that this isn’t a surprise is rather telling to the industry.

Even though only three of these were released this year, all are from best-selling franchises that players feel confident in returning to constantly, possibly at the expense of other, newer IPs. It’s pretty remarkable to say that Grand Theft Auto V came out in 2013, yet is the best selling game of 2017 so far.

So what about the new IP on the list? Horizon Zero Dawn was a PlayStation 4 exclusive and therefore did remarkably well to sit third on the list. Critical acclaim, excellent marketing, solid build-up, and a promising genre contributed to the rise of this title becoming the best selling original IP in the console’s history. However, I can safely say this: it feels like an anomaly button jam in the hefty controller of gaming life. Since then, July has been dominated by the sale of one game: the Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy, which is a remaster and Horizon Zero Dawn has already been moved on from the memory of many.

Remakes and remasters have become the next big thing for developers, with many realising that players are perhaps more willing to cash in on nostalgia and guaranteed past enjoyment than taking a gamble on a new game made from scratch. We’ve seen remasters of Borderlands, Bioshock, Skyrim, the Last of Us, God of War…in fact there are too many to keep listing, but one thing remains very much in common between them: they sell well. I, for one, am not averse to a good remaster, the N-Sane Trilogy and upcoming Shadow of the Colossus being good examples. But it feels extremely dodgy to see a remake of a game only released a couple of years ago when the attention given to that could have been put into a brand new IP. I mean, did anyone really want a Dark Souls 2, Skyrim or Arkham remaster? Did anyone ask for it? Okay, someone probably did, but not as many as those hoping for a brand new, original release.

“new IPs are getting progressively less and less attention as the years go by”

Remasters are by no means the only problem though, as big name franchises like FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and Super Mario seems to grow more and more stale and tired each year, without ever really doing much to earn the sales they get. How many times have we heard the complaints about Call of Duty being excruciatingly unoriginal? How many times has FIFA’s Career Mode been targeted by unhappy player abuse? How many of the ten Super Mario games released in the last eight years could you actually name? And don’t even get me started on the suffering Assassin’s Creed has had recently…but you can bet Origins will sell well.

The state of play is simple, new IPs are getting progressively less and less attention as the years go by and developers and publishers are seeing this and capitalizing on it. For every game that tries to prove new IPs can compete, like Horizon Zero Dawn or Overwatch, there’s a counterpart that shows just how hard it is to swim against the tide. Like No Man’s Sky, as well as the countless Indie games that are absolutely fantastic but get next to no attention. I can pray for the big success of future titles like Sea of Thieves, Death Stranding and Anthem, but there’s a much bigger chance of these games flopping, never to be heard of again. This is in contrast to the likes of Super Mario Odyssey, Destiny 2 and Star Wars Battlefront 2. And even if they are successful, I’d put money on sequels being released very quickly.

At the end of the day, the video games industry is one of the biggest selling industries in the world and it will abide through any troubles. New IPs will come and go, and as long as players are happy… well, the world will just keep spinning.

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