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Why is Innovation Not Selling Games?

I recently watched the latest episode of Game Theory and it got me thinking hard enough to write another piece here on TAY. The episode covered innovation in the game industry, specifically whether or not gamers actually want innovation.

You can watch it here if you like, but the basic argument in the video is that we gamers don't really want innovation. Host MatPat backs up his claims with sales figures of various games, showing that cookie cutter sequels sell way better than games that try to do something different.

Why is this? MatPat basically boils it down to the fact that making a sequel similar to previous installments or incorporating ideas from other successful games is less risky than trying something new and therefore means more money for developers and publishers. But I think there's more to it than that.


This episode shows that the less innovative games are selling more than their more risky counterparts but it doesn't explain why they are selling more. Are we gamers afraid of change? Do we just want to keep replaying the experiences we already know we enjoy?

Other factors may be at work here. Games like Call of Duty appeal to a wide range of players, many of whom we gamers look down upon as the "Bro Gamers" and the casuals. Other companies want to cash in on that huge market. This explains why games abandon their roots to include generic FPS elements but not why the cookie cutter sequels do better than the more innovative ones. As I stated before I think it could be because we want games that closely capture the experience we expect from a given franchise.

Now let's look at the hardware side of things. For the past couple of console generations Sony and Microsoft have taken the more traditional console approach, releasing consoles that don't change much from generation to generation while Nintendo has been trying new things. They struck gold with the Wii but struck out with the Wii U. Nintendo was able to cash in on a wide casual market with the Wii but it didn't really resonate as well with more hardcore gamers and The XBone and PS4 are just crushing the Wii U. Why is this?


As I've mentioned before, more innovative control methods used on the Wii and Wii U can alienate certain audiences but there are other factors at work as well. Developers can have a difficult time figuring out how to design games with these innovations in mind for one thing. This can lead to games that feel clunky. These control methods can also make things more complicated than they need to be when we can get complex experiences out of the simplicity of a controller or a mouse and keyboard. The types of hardware innovation Nintendo is going for are not really necessary and end up seeming gimmicky.


These are just my thoughts on the matter. Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments. Why do you think innovation in the industry is not selling? Do you prefer new things or more of the experiences you know you enjoy already?

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