Here are five experiments this generation that simply did not work for various reasons. In retrospect, you might wonder why some were attempted at all.
These are my observations, in no particular order, and may or may not reflect the opinion of PSXE 🙂
Survival/Horror: A Horrific Transformation
Some gamers say Resident Evil left survival/horror behind with part 4; I am not among them. The soul of the game was still there, it was still more horror than action and it took serious attention to stay alive and not run out of ammo or health before that next typewriter. Resident Evil 5 was a pretty fun action game, but it was an action game that was hampered by trying to have one foot in the survival/horror genre, which it had abandoned everywhere else. People didn't like that. But all in all the game sold pretty darn well so you almost can't blame Capcom for thinking they should go down the same road.
So we got a spinoff that abandoned all pretense in Operation Raccoon City . It was not good, but for a game with scores so bad it sold decently due to a strange fascination with the multiplayer. But the Resident Evil name wasn't holding up and the quick time action extravaganza of RE6 got mixed reviews and didn't pull in half the sales of RE5. What's next? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the response to Resident Evil: Revelations on PS3 and 360 will tell them something useful.
Those keen on the older style attached themselves to Dead Space , and rightly so. It was a dark and tense journey through the Ishimura, and I loved every minute of it. Dead Space 2 got some early flak for being action-y and I felt like it had gone from one side of the survival/horror fence to right on top of it. Then with Dead Space 3 it stepped over. There were technical problems that helped it nab some low scores, but I think it lost some sales for becoming an action/set piece game. Plenty of fans are still happy with Dead Space 3 , but like Resident Evil 6 , it failed to deliver on the hopes of nervous survival/horror fans and on reviews.
Straight-up survival/horror titles haven't done so great, though. So while we can be sure nobody has found the right formula for keeping the genre alive, we can also be certain that formula does not consist of turning them into action games.
Motion gaming for the hardcore:
I'll ask you not to trouble me with sales figures on this one because they don't matter. Kinect and Move sought to cash in on the success of the motion gaming gimmick while providing something a bit different from what the Wii already had. Move wanted to be very accurate; Kinect wanted to be… something. I think. But both wanted to bring something extra to the hardcore market in addition to the inevitable sports games, kids games and shovelware that was in the pipe. We got some voice interaction in Mass Effect 3 with Kinect, and Move offered a different experience with games like Killzone 3 and Heavy Rain .
As the masses ate up the advertising and bought these things for their kids or for a fictitious future hope of exercise, we waited for the killer apps. They did not come. And they won't. These technologies will get better and be used in supplementary roles in the next generation but they will stay where they belong: out of the hardcore realm as a main interface. As well they should.
DmC: Reboot Rejected
It was a daring move to reboot a series with such a devoted fan base and plenty of story left to explore. It was sacrilege to change the main character's hair. To try to appeal to a newer generation of gamers, Dante and pals got a modern facelift from western developer Ninja Theory of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved notoriety. While the game turned out pretty great and garnered high review scores, it sold like a blanket laced with smallpox, which is also how fans saw it. Sources tend to agree it didn't break the 1 million mark and I don't see a surge of later interest making it some kind of inverse sleeper hit.
So what does this mean? Is it worth trying to build a franchise from a fan flop? Devil May Cry 2 wasn't all that great and the series survived so maybe Capcom can pretend this never happened and go ahead with part 5. Although it's easy to see how the end to the reboot could launch right into the stuff fans already love, it's just as easy to conclude that Dante won't be returning any time soon, especially now that everybody has a bad taste in their mouth. I honestly feel bad for Ninja Theory. But they keep surviving somehow and are onto something else that most likely is not DmC2. I don't think people should blame them for this failed experiment, they delivered exactly what Capcom asked for and it was a great game to boot.
Final Fantasy: Flash, Trash, and the greatest insult to fans ever perpetrated.
It wasn't that Final Fantasy could do no wrong. Of course we'd had some problems in the past. Dirge of Cerberus is best left unmentioned, some people had a problem with the girl power behind FFX-2 , but for the most part you could always rely on those main entries. So when we all happily plunged into FFXIII and found out it was a game on autopilot inside a slim hallway we fans were… displeased. Despite the controversial move of going multiplatform, this game still did not push the numbers FFX had on PS2 alone.
But things happen right? It wasn't a horrible game, just not what anyone wanted. And hey, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was on the way soon and it looked fantastic. Then FFXIII-2 came and promised to fix all the things wrong with XIII. And they sort of listened, but like a mythological genie they took our requests and twisted them into a kind of mockery, which was poorly crowded into a disconnected experience with a storyline that was downright insulting to the intelligence. It sold less than half the numbers XIII pulled in. Then Versus became vaporware and the MMO Final Fantasy XIV became a rolling calamity that nobody could master or stop.
Then they announced Lightning Returns , which appears to be headed down another rabbit hole of poorly realized western ideals. In short, Final Fantasy has become unrecognizable, bereft of its legendary status, and a testament to the legacy of disgraced former Square-Enix CEO Yoicha Wada. It's actually still a mystery just what they were up to. Whether it was trying to get a whole new audience, appeal to westerners, or a case of some bad puffer fish we may never know. All we know is it didn't work and it doesn't seem to be over yet.
3D Gaming: A Stereoscopic Bespectacled Headache
With apologies to those few friends of mine who still think 3D gaming was some sort of advancement this generation I will not miss this trend now that it is on the wane. Don't get me wrong, I had my fun with 3D WorldRunner on NES back in the day but let's face it: This was never going anywhere this generation. Sony pushed it pretty hard for a while there. That made some sense what with their line of 3D TVs and all. Microsoft kind of tried to catch up but there really wasn't any need; the fad never had legs. It cut frame rates, required expensive and annoying technology, and gave many people raging headaches.
Some support will continue but it's clear that 3D gaming won't be on anybody's priority list in the next generation. I think Playstation Executive Shuhei Yoshida said it best to IGN:
" 3D was a big thing a couple of years ago — we made it a big thing because it was lead by the consumer electronics side of Sony and we liked what we could do on PS3 using 3D stereoscopic. But now the consumer electronics side of Sony, or all of the companies have shifted focus from 3D TV to something else, so if they're not talking about it, why would we? ”
One of the great things about a new generation is that there is an opportunity to put mistakes like these behind us. I just hope everybody learned something. So, what else hasn't worked this generation?