I write this introduction only a few short days after the colossal event in London, that revealed the next iteration of the fighting game phenomenon that is Mortal Kombat. Throughout the event, IGN threw articles up to its homepage like they were going out of fashion and you couldn’t browse your social media without coming across an event livestream. Such is the power of a mega-successful gaming franchise backed by a massive publisher like Warner Bros Entertainment with a multi-million dollar marketing budget.
This post isn’t about adding to the Mortal Kombat hyperbole, but it is about highlighting how our attention can be bought, and our focus influenced by triple-A publishers with big pockets. The sheer amount of coverage of this event across gaming websites is no coincidence. It is part of a well thought-out and calculated marketing strategy, and judging by my social feeds and the fact that I have skewed the opening paragraphs of this article, we are all influenced by it.
Of course, topping the list was Resident Evil 2, a remake of a game released 20 years ago. If this release proves to be successful, then we can surely expect the games industry to follow Hollywood in their obsession with remaking old content. The remake of Final Fantasy VII is already in development at Square Enix, with many of us already onboard the hype-train despite the lengthy journey.
Creating a new IP is a lot of work; there are no guarantees, there is no existing audience, it’s more difficult to market and it probably won’t be what the developers want it to be until the sequel. It’s no surprise that publishers are willing to take less and less risks with original content, and we can’t blame publishers for preferring the guarantees that come with appeasing an existing fan-base over gambling on new intellectual property. (We can blame them for crappy loot box tactics or overpriced DLC but that’s another blog post).
If we dig a little deeper, we can find a couple of gold nuggets of originality; Anthem, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are both titles scheduled for release during Q1, 2019. However, although we can class them as such they are both obviously catering to pre-existing fan-bases. Electronic Arts hopes to capitalise on the floundering Destiny fan base whilst Activision, if they have any sense, will leave well alone and let FromSoftware cater to their ‘SoulsBorne’ fanbase with Sekiro.
Of course, there are many other titles scheduled for release over the next couple of months, but to unearth anything truly original is difficult. I wonder if we might reach a point where the only big-budget releases we see are the ones propped by a franchise with a proven record? And so, with a games industry so afraid to bet on originality, we need to look elsewhere…
Indie game afficionado @Jupiter_Hadley recently asked people to share their #indiegames projects on Twitter and add their one-line elevator pitch. It seems mightily appropriate for me to end this article by digging through the HUGE list of responses and highlighting a few, alongside a couple of others that have peeked my interest.
Let’s lend our support to the smaller teams in this industry, developing projects because of their passion for games, rather than board room demands. I’ve added Twitter handles to make it super-easy to follow these devs, and if you’re a developer not featured, post your pitch and link in the comments!