Ever play a video game that seems like it’s trying too hard to be a different video game?
Need for Speed Shift, I would have liked it if only the game was focused. Had it been entirely arcade or entirely a simulation (like Forza), I might have actually enjoyed it instead of getting my money back.
One of the first things we tried to do in the game was drifting and man was it disappointing. Instead of making players understand how to control a car they simplified the process of drifting so that it was more animation than it was driving which would have been fine if not for the games efforts to appear as though it is a simulation style game.
My theory about why these changes exist is because EA want’s Turn 10 / Polyphony’s audience. However, just like when they try to make Battlefield appeal to the Call of Duty audience, they tend to shift the intended market without making a new product.
It’s an extended symptom of the idea of the “Safe Game”, continually under-serving markets for the sake of making something that’s guaranteed to produce something recognizable as a profit.
Every Game Has its Fans
Call of Duty fan’s play Call of Duty not Battlefield, and there isn’t much gained by trying to appeal to both. The result is normally a game losing its sense of identity and becoming the “Not So Great” copy-cat.
It’s also worth noting that the “Not So Great” Copy will start to fade in profit as well given the encroaching free to play market, which can easily mimic popular titles and steal fan’s with only the slightest innovations (See BlackLight: Retribution in comparison the Black Ops 2).
Annual releases should lead up to larger more creative titles, not minor improvements that can be included in the original game. Building something that is recognizable as part of a franchise doesn’t mean you can just slap in a dog and suddenly the “vocal minority” will happily resume purchasing your product.
So let’s stop pretending there will ever be a “Safe Game.” In this new age of potential permanent digital ownership and near identical consoles it’s going to take more to stand out and succeed.