A series of titles that cannot deliver on the promise and hope sparked by trailers and interviews; writers who keep missing the mark; audiences who feel as if they’re not part of the global community, and developers playing it safe, providing the same game over and over in fear of failure. As gamers, is there anything even worth getting excited over or has the industry run its course?
The gaming industry is in a sad state. That’s the conclusion I arrived at after January 24th’s fiasco. It was the release date of Forspoken, a game I had marked on my calendar as one of those unmissable titles.
There were multiple reasons to justify the purchase. One was the interesting premise: a girl gets thrown into an unknown world to fend for herself using nothing but magic. The second reason was the incredibly talented writing team behind the game. Veterans of the Uncharted franchise all the way to Star Wars: Rogue One worked on writing the scenario for this game, so at least in terms of storytelling, I felt assured this would be a guaranteed hit, right?
Turns out my assumption was wrong.
The Red Flags
The first red flag came when publisher Square Enix chose not to lift the review embargo until a few hours before the game’s launch. If they had any faith in their game, they would’ve let gaming outlets talk about how great it was days earlier. To add further concern, it turns out they presented false information regarding the game within their own trailers.
The second red flag that I should have paid attention to was the game being delayed multiple times. There are different implications when a game is delayed, one potentially being the artists themselves not having enough faith in their own creation. The original release date was May 22nd, 2022, which ended up being pushed back by over half a year. It makes me wonder what stage the game was at in May 2022.
Finally, there was that demo Square Enix released during December’s Game Awards event, an attempt to raise hype around the game. The response from gamers was lukewarm, realizing that there was nothing novel about the game. With its battle system overly complicated, an open world devoid of all life, and a clunky parkour system, concern stirred over the quality of the game itself.
So it was only natural that when the reviews came out, this poor attempt at a “fantasy JRPG” earned its just desserts. A 68 on Metacritic seems more than it deserves to be honest. I was willing to give it a shot — putting aside my poor experience with the demo — if reviews and general opinions were more in its favour. Unfortunately, the game fell flatter than the demo itself.
Failing To Learn From Past Experiences
The team behind the game, Luminous Studios, delivered a fairly mediocre game in their first attempt with Final Fantasy XV in 2016. This time around, they had the experience; they had the assets (Luminous Engine) and an even better writing and acting team. All the right pieces were present, but still, this new game fell flat. The only conclusion I can reach is that they are incompetent.
I remember the rumours before they even announced this game. There was a “Project Athia” and “Luminous Studios was going to use their experience to create a more wholesome title compared to FFXV”. When my mind goes back to those days, I can recall all the excitement and the air of mystery that surrounded this game.
I remember the first time we saw Ella Balinska (who portrays the main character Frey Holland) appear in-game, taking on a dragon. The entire community collectively went, "Now here is something wicked."
That’s the problem. There are always promises made by publishers that developers cannot make good on. It isn’t only Forspoken. There were several games last year that faced the same problem.
Who remembers Gotham Knights, with WB Games promoting “the most dynamic and interactive Gotham City yet”? Or Pokemon Scarlet and Violet that wouldn’t allow you to go five steps without the game almost crashing? Was there a single developer/publisher to come out to the public and address those issues or apologise for the poorly advertised products delivered to the paying customers?
Intolerance Will No Longer Be Tolerated
Then there’s a whole other problem. There are developers and publishers that don’t seem to have a problem with whom they insult or who their products leave out of (what they consider should be a part of) society, so long as they can get their way and sell games. Forspoken is, sadly, part of this issue. There are writers out there who cannot understand the fact that we live in a different day and age where inclusion is just as important as any other concept of a story.
A game that is written for me but makes my fellow human feel as though they’re not part of the world — or if they are problematic — is no game at all. It doesn’t deserve to be called a game. Its developers don’t deserve to be paid for their efforts and no one should profit from it.
We have a moral obligation to move the industry forward to a point where we can all feel as though we have a place in it, no matter where we came from, what we look like, what we might feel like on the inside, or whatever changes we may go through during our lives. Gaming should never discriminate. Any person — whether they are a writer, programmer, actor, publisher, franchise owner or whoever else engages in such activities — should have their work recognised by our community. We need to do better. Collectively.
The Need For Variety
Admittedly, there were a lot of games last year that were good, featuring exceptional writing, acting, offered great overall experiences, and gave players a good excuse to spend many hours on their consoles. However, there’s one thing that was missing and it has been absent for quite a long time from the industry: variety.
I remember back when I started gaming in the late 90s, games came in different shapes and sizes: you had your platformers, such as Mario and Sonic, your fighters, like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, your racing games, like Mario Kart, your sports games, your arcade games, other games like Tetris, then Pokemon Red and Blue game out, etc.
Look at last year. What are the games you can remember more vividly? Were they sequels to already tried and successful franchises, such as God of War or Horizon? Were most of them part of a single genre (third-person action-adventure with RPG elements)? Did they all feel stale, as if you’ve already been here before? Did they give you a “things-to-do” list at the top left of your screen, as if you have to go shopping, then remember to go to that dentist appointment before you head home?
It’s no big secret to say that, when it comes to the major AAA studio market, concepts have stagnated. Companies are nervous about trying anything new, in fear of losing their audiences. So they just keep re-heating the same microwaved food and serving it up to them. No matter how great eating your favourite food is, eventually you just get sick of it.
This year we have Zelda: Breath of the Wild II: Tears of the Kingdom and Star Wars: Jedi Survivor coming out. Hell, we even have Hades II! Even Final Fantasy, a series that is known for its brilliant success in role-playing games, is abandoning its roots to follow the third-person action-adventure route.
People are saying they might be different, but really, with the overwhelming success of the originals, does anyone truly believe they’ll divert that much from the tried-and-true path? Why would they? On the other end, do we really want games we’ve already played?
It just appears the entire gaming industry is stuck in a rut, running out of ideas and unaware of what its responsibility is towards the players. Many people claim that gamers are overly entitled and complain unnecessarily. I used to agree with that opinion. However, I’m believing that as hard-working paying customers, they have every right to demand excellence and innovation from these multimillion-dollar corporations who rarely deliver on their promises and falsely promote their products.
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