I mostly ignored E3 this year. With each passing year I find myself less glued to the games media coverage and flood of announcements. To be honest, I've also begun to find the grinding gears of the industry hype machine less compelling and - well, less digestible.
When I finally sat down yesterday to catch up on what happened at E3, I was struck by the intense focus and sheer amount of coverage devoted to shooters and other games about basically killing anything that moves. I know the typical IGN or Gamespot visitor is likely very interested in news about Gears of War 2 or the mysterious as-yet-unannounced Halo game from Bungie, and who can blame these sites from feeding their readers news they want to read?
Game footage, screenshots, "exclusive" playthroughs, and lengthy (often fawning) interviews with developers like Cliff Bleszinski and Todd Howard reveal lots of tasty tidbits and drum up publicity in ways that serve the interests of both developers and the games media that cover them. Gamers eat this stuff up, and who am I to begrudge them their fix? Truth be told, I watched the Fallout 3 trailer several times myself, and my interest in that game is now successfully piqued. Well played, Bethesda.
I do think the often chummy relationships between game makers and journos is a bit worrying, but I'll save that for another post.
The question that kept popping up for me after plowing through all the announcements and game demos was simply: how many more shooters do we need? So-called hardcore gamers clearly love these games, but how much industry focus and development resources will finally be enough? And at what point have we simply gone over the edge?
I'm as interested as the next guy (gal?) in a brand new next-gen Fallout game or a follow-up to Bioshock, but do we really need so many developers devoting so much time to an apparently endless flow of shooters, most of which will not evolve the medium or the genre in any significant way? Which of these games can truly justify their existence and budgets in the current gaming environment?
Borderlands, RAGE, Far Cry 2, Resistance 2, Resistance: Retribution, God of War 3, Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Wolfenstein, Killzone 2, MAG, Gears of War 2, Just Cause 2, Mercenaries 2, Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, Too Human, Alpha Protocol, SOCOM: Confrontation, Saints Row 2, Left 4 Dead, Project Origin, and Whatever Halo Game Bungie is working on.
Believe it or not, this is actually a selective list.
In an industry with a finite set of resources distributed among all sorts of games, do we really need this many shooters? And what sorts of games might we dream up if we didn't focus so much energy on shooters? With games like Little Big Planet and Spore coming down the pike (both of which are big budget games), one might argue there's plenty of room and resources for imaginative alternatives to shooters. And E3 revealed other promising titles like Flower, Fat Princess, and PixelJunk Eden that suggest the industry fixation on shooters isn't quite debilitating.
But compared to most shooters, these PSN games require significanly fewer people and less money to make - which may be one reason they look so fresh. I can't help but wonder if we spent just a little less time building one shooter after another, what other fresh and innovative games might emerge?