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Talking Point: What Will be the Next Big Craze in the Video Game Industry?

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Talking Point is a weekly series that posits a question concerning the gaming industry. We encourage readers, as well as our writers, to offer their thoughts on the topic. Hence the name: Talking Point. Feel free to join in below.

Trends come and go, be they clothing, music, books, films, or even video games. The video game industry, like any other, tends to shift the focus of its products to meet the demand of consumers, which often results in a saturated market. Not long ago first person shooters were all the rage. Then came God of War (2005) and all its clones. In recent years we had interactive adventure games (with Telltale Games leading the front), retro-looking indie games, and open world titles filling the shelves of retailers or cluttering Steam’s storefront.

The open world craze is still fresh. Triple-A publishers seem to favor this gameplay approach in order to meet the demand for a title that justifies its premium price tag. While most of these games present stellar graphics and smooth mechanics, the public has started to notice they follow safe patterns to guarantee over 30 or 50 hours of content. Such patterns include a massive open world in the likes of Grand Theft Auto or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a multitude of repetitive optional objectives that hardly add to the game’s story, and contained exploration—meaning there’s little to no incentive to stray too far from the main course.

Image provided by Oliver Rebbeck.

As much as I enjoy the freedom provided by open worlds, I have to agree with anyone who says there’s just too many of them out there. It seems like every other big release is an open world game and at this point, we already know what to expect from those. The formula is stale and the public is starting to ask for something else, preferably linear. At this rate, it’s difficult not to wonder what the next big thing will be, yet just as difficult to accurately pin it down.

Considering the cries of hardcore gamers and critics, could we start seeing more linear games such as Resident Evil 7? Or perhaps a bigger focus on branching storylines, an approach the industry has been leaning towards for some time now? Can virtual reality finally take off or will we see platformers making a huge splash once again? eSports (be it MOBAs or team-based shooters) became a powerful genre over the past few years, so could it dominate the industry in the near future? Have your say and let us know what you think.

Born and raised in Northeastern Brazil, Gabriel didn't grow up with video games as many of his colleagues did. However, his dedication and love for the industry make up for his late start in the gaming world.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Ricky D

    March 24, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I don’t have time to play many massive open worlds games but The Witcher 3 and BOTW are among my favourite games of this decade. That said, I think the market is over-saturated at the moment and I wonder how long before studios stop spending so much on games that take forever to make and are incredibly expensive to produce? How many open world triple titles can companies release and still relatively make a good profit on?

    I think one of the reasons why indie games are so popular at the moment is because they are cheap and don’t eat away at too much of your time as a player. For example, I don’t mind spending an extra ten dollars on an indie game that I can play in between my long sessions of Breath of the Wild. But I’m at a point where I no longer want a backlog of games that I spend money on that just sit there and collect dust because there just isn’t enough time in the day anymore to play them all. I honestly think the video game industry makes more money on impulse buying and on games that people don’t play. I mean how many people do you know say they have a backlog of about 50 games they haven’t had time for. It is as if everyone has this obsession in having to buy every game even though they know they don’t have time to play them all. I see this changing in the next five years.

    I don’t think virtual reality will ever be as huge as the industry hopes it will be. I see it playing a bigger role in other fields (medicine, live concerts) but not in gaming. If I had to place a bet, I would say the next big craze will be eSprots … which sounds like an obvious answer but I think it hasn’t even met 10 percent of its full potential. If a company like Nintendo uses games like Splatoon and Smash to their full benefit, eSports will be the number one focus of gaming period. I see a future in which we have a channel dedicate solely to eSports. That is the future and that is where most of the money will be made.

  2. Michael J. Riser

    March 24, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Procedural Overwatch shipping simulators. This is our dark future.

    In all honesty, I suspect we’ll see further iteration on the open-world concept. More procedural with much larger and more complex simulations, both tied to gameplay and more as immersion window dressing. Whether VR really takes off or not remains to be seen, but whether it does or not, people are clearly becoming more and more interested in virtual spaces with lives of their own on some level. I think you’ll see more systems like Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System: things that attempt to infuse more lively, interesting frameworks on bigger worlds.

    • Ricky D

      March 24, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      I honestly don’t see VR taking off. Like i said below, it is making more of an impact outside of the video game industry. It’s all about eSports!

      • Oliver Rebbeck

        March 24, 2017 at 11:17 pm

        VR has come and gone once again, it was a talking point for a about a month until people realised all the problems with it still basically exist as a gaming platform.

  3. Oliver Rebbeck

    March 24, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    This month alone I’ve played Horizon, Zelda and Mass Effect and each one varies in degree of success. Horizon and Zelda are two open world games from studios who have never dabbled in the genre and both have seemingly nailed what the draw is. Bioware however has not, Mass Effect Andromeda is plagued by the optimism of bigger equals better and has decided to riddle its open barren worlds with dots where you go back and forth collecting what might as well be garbage. Open worlds come at the expense of character development, narrative cohesion and expert level design, when there is no defined pacing there are no peaks or troughs, everything exists on a straight line. The buzzwords of ’50 hours of content’, 12,000 voiced characters’ or ’50km to explore’ are vacuous when you can’t fill that with meaningful experiences and stories worth telling. The best stories told in games are expertly paced and controlled experiences with little filler….. there’s a reason why.

    • Ricky D

      March 24, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      where do you find the time?

      • Oliver Rebbeck

        March 24, 2017 at 11:28 pm

        Well I’ve only finished one of those games and even then I gave up on doing the side content at a certain point.

    • Mike Worby

      March 25, 2017 at 12:49 am

      I like that you used the word vacuous. The only context I’ve ever seen vacuous used in up until now is with Rom the Vacuous Spider.

  4. Oliver Rebbeck

    March 24, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    The future craze as short lived as it might be is Episodic content. With development costs skyrocketing more publishers like Square Enix are pushing releaseing their games in chunks such as Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Hitman. Considering the pushback on both of those releases due to how compartmentalised they were it might be reigned in to just the experiences it makes sense with like Life is Strange.

    • Gabriel Cavalcanti

      March 24, 2017 at 11:38 pm

      Oh! Indeed! How didn’t I think of that? And Square also wants the FFVII remake to be episode, albeit not like Hitman. I see a lot of smaller studios doing the same, with several episodes stacking up to a full game.

  5. John Cal McCormick

    March 24, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    I think the next big craze isn’t going to be a specific genre, but a distribution method; I think the next few years are going to see more and more AAA games going episodic/existing as a platform rather than a standalone release. The success of Destiny (which bears little resemblance to the game that shipped in its original form) and the latest Hitman game will, I think, spur on publishers to try similar things with upcoming games.

    Invariably, some will get it right, some will nickel and dime consumers, and the bad ones will ultimately turn gamers off the idea.

    • Ricky D

      March 25, 2017 at 1:07 am

      I think you are spot on actually. I remember a while back wanting to discuss this on the show. I actually kind of like the idea minus one big problem. I like buying physical copies and the reason why I haven’t played some of the newer Telltale games is because I’m waiting on a physical release. I bought Life is Strange digitally as they rolled them out and later bought a physical copy which I haven’t had a chance to play yet. I figure one day I’ll play it again but right now it seems like I wasted my money.

      • John Cal McCormick

        March 25, 2017 at 6:43 am

        Physical is, unfortunately for those who like it, going the way of vinyl, I think. There’ll still be physical copies made for the hardcore collectors but the business will primarily shift to digital and shops like GameStop will be gone. Once digital becomes the primary distribution method of console gaming I expect we’ll see more games going the platform route.

        We don’t really need a FIFA, or a Madden, or a WWE every year. It’s the same game with a few tweaks and some roster updates. Imagine if those games were a platform. They could probably get people to pay monthly subscriptions for constant updates or something if they wanted. They could certainly ship roster updates once a year for a fee and then only have a new iteration when they have something new to peddle.

        Other things like Gran Turismo or Forza would work as a service too. Just add some tracks and some cars periodically for money.

        There’s lots more too.

        • Izsak “Khane” Barnette

          March 30, 2017 at 2:00 am

          I personally welcome the idea of NBA 2K as a platform. Much better than paying for glorified roster updates every year.

  6. Andrew Paul Vandersteen

    March 25, 2017 at 12:18 am

    I think big, overly long open world games is just the gut-reaction to the movement against shorter games we saw spring up a few years ago. Gamers decided they wanted more bang from their buck and being sold a 5 hour experience at $60+ dollars just didn’t cut it for them any more. Writing a longer narrative is hard, but if you force the narrative to be longer by stretching an entire world over it you can make a 10 hour story take 100 hours.

  7. Mike Worby

    March 25, 2017 at 12:54 am

    I truly feel that the off the cuff success of both Horizion and Zelda will be a turning point for how open world games are designed from this point on. As for what’s gonna be the next big thing, it’s hard to predict but whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t take as much time as BotW to complete :p

    In all seriousness, there’s bound to be some kind of scaling down on the scope and size of games to a certain extent. I would also expect to see more throwbacks like the upcoming Yooka Laylee and Bloodstained.

  8. Brent Middleton

    March 25, 2017 at 1:29 am

    Huge open world games always feel like they’re worth the money, but they can also be somewhat daunting. For instance, I was really excited to play Xenoblade Chronicles X and even pre-ordered it. But when I started playing, I was just completely overwhelmed by everything I could do. Mind you, I’m the type that spent a half hour on the character customization screen. There was so much to do and see–especially in that game, where the whole draw is exploration–that I always ended up playing Splatoon instead because it was just easier to pick up and play.

    Something that I’m hoping will be a trend going forward is the creation of polished short experiences. Games that cost less than half that of a AAA release, but are still quality and provide good value. Snipperclips comes to mind as a $20 game that comes with 60 levels and a couple bonuses. You get in, get out, and have your money’s worth. The same goes for something like Snake Pass, which is also $20 but considerably more complicated and offers 15 large levels with a bunch of collectables in each. Even rogue-like games like Isaac and TumbleSeed that offer insane replay value through randomized runs fit into this category.

    It’s nice to have a deep, immersive game or two, but it’s also really nice to be able to buy several quality smaller games for the same price as one massive experience. Indies have obviously been leading the way with this, and I’m looking forward to seeing more in the future!

  9. Ricky D

    March 25, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Following my comment today about how there are too many expensive triple A titles and so sales would drop across each platform. Well Polygon released an article today saying that 150 GameStop stores are closing down since not enough triple A titles are selling. Could be because more people are buying digital and/or could be because there are too many triple a games that require too much of our time and so people are buying less.

  10. Izsak “Khane” Barnette

    March 30, 2017 at 1:39 am

    I feel like the push for open-world experiences has really hamstrung developers ability to make modern, cinematic experiences. I think of a game like the original Xenoblade Chronicles and wonder why more developers don’t take a similar approach to the open-world genre and marry great worlds with even greater stories. Xenoblade gave huge, open areas that, while cordoned off from each other, allowed the player the chance to explore without ruining the narrative in the process.

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