When you take a moment to look at the landscape of video games for the upcoming year you can’t help but be overwhelmed. 2013 is stacking up to be an amazing year for gamers, with sequels and prequels such as Crysis 3, GTA 5, God of War: Ascension, and Bioshock Infinite . We have new IPs such as The Last of Us, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. We also have two reboots of beloved series that I am pegging as the most important games of 2013 with Tomb Raider and Devil May Cry (DmC). These two games mean more to gaming’s future than any game to date or others coming out this year. I know that I will be treading on some thin ice with some, and others may just stop right here; but I ask you to hear me out and keep an open mind.
We gamers are creatures of habit, playing our beloved classics over and over again while creating a virtual pedestal so high that we don them king of their respective genre. Every gamer has their favorite game or series and most want them left in their original state, a part of gaming history if you will. Sure, now we have many high definition remakes that take the old and make it look shiny and new. The biggest pitfall, though, is that we are trapped into buying the same old game that we have played millions of times on an older console with simply a new shell and another set of Achievements/Trophies to earn.
We as a society are superficial and focused more on the outer shell than the individuality that makes that being what it is. Devil May Cry and Tomb Raider are perfect examples as more gamers have been wrapped up in the way that Dante and Lara look than about the game itself. With Dante, gamers are upset that his hair isn’t white anymore and that his clothes look slightly different. Unfortunately, some are more frustrated about Lara not being in skimpy shorts and a tank-top than being excited about a game that puts a new spin on a flat-lined series.
The issue with media in general is that we get too hung up on the top coat of the piece. We are more worried that it doesn’t look the same, move the same, or dress the same. It is sad that people cannot re-imagine something to fit a time or era without scrutinizing it simply because a story or character has been taken in a different direction or been visually altered. The most important thing when it comes to games should be the mechanics and overall themes. Does the game play well? Does it keep the same characteristics? That’s the heart and soul of the game and what should matter the most to gamers rather than looks.
This wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation if these games were simply given a different label. If DmC or Tomb Raider were called something totally different, people would be saying “Wow this game is like Devil May Cry or Tomb Raider” and they would be welcomed editions to everyone’s gaming library. These games have the chance to open up the door to other potential reboots in the future. In fact, just recently, Masachika Kawata said in an interview with Eurogamer that there is a possibility of a Resident Evil reboot to a more open world style of game.
Would you be opposed to something such as this? While some may love the idea of being able to go back to the roots of Resident Evil and play Resident Evil 2 in an open-world setting, you have to believe that the minds behind the game will look at their other reboot, DmC, and how it performs. While Crystal Dynamics may not weigh as heavy on their decision, it will likely be discussed pending the reception of the game by consumers.
Gamers love new IPs and creations that take bold chances and develop new, meaningful sagas for all to enjoy. Many people are pegging games like The Last of Us as upcoming releases for 2013 in which they cannot wait to get their hands on. But when looking at the industry, the development process, and the funding that’s needed to back games such as these, you begin to see why Tomb Raider and DmC are vital to their respective developers and the health of their companies. In this past calendar year we have seen studios either close or announce their closing. At least 20 different game studios closed in 2012 including the likes of 38 Studios (Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning), Zipper Interactive (SOCOM, Unit 13), and Sony Liverpool (Wipeout). And let’s not forget that THQ also liquidated all their assets.
With quality studios closing, a picture begins to form as to why new games are a risk to a company and its longevity. If a company has a franchise, such as DmC or Tomb Raider, that have been staples in the video game lore and well regarded among gamers, bringing something to the series that can give it a jump start or make it prevalent again is a safer bet than something that has no brand recognition. As mentioned above, gamers like new experiences, but these games provide that as well as breathe new life into established titles. They take something that created excitement at once but have lost its luster, and give us something that we ask for: a fresh idea. For a company that is creating the game, it’s a smoother surface; the game already has a meaning to gamers as it is something recognizable which brings a certain swagger and appeal to the title.
Games are not cheap to develop and many budgets soar as high as big-budget movies. That’s why in many cases, we see things such as the sixth Resident Evil or the fourth game in the original Devil May Cry series. If they can take something that people know and love, the scale is tipped much more in their favor.
DmC and Tomb Raider may or may not wind up on the tongues of those who discuss games with others, and they may not receive a game of the year award. They should, however, be talked about as important benchmarks going forward. Whether we like it or not, video games and their development is a business and the point of a business is to make money. Companies will continue to take risks in the years ahead with new games that will keep gamers salivating. In the same breath, with new systems on the horizon from Sony and Microsoft and more complexities going into games, developers will look to cornerstone titles and their heavy hitters to provide funding for their new visions and franchises.
Game companies will look to each other as well. The success of these projects will be dependent on other companies taking similar approaches in the future. I am by no means asking individuals to support shovel-ware. However, neither of these games fit that label. They are quality, polished titles that will provide plenty of memorable moments. If we cannot support games simply because the skin looks different, more companies will follow suit, failing to survive. The core of a game is where the true beauty lies. If we cannot find the true beauty of the experience then video games are destined to be a dying breed, eventually becoming extinct.