Orignal video games and sales numbers

If you're a member of any video game message board, you've certainly seen your fair share of gamers complaining about the lack of originality in today's games. There's a reason for it. Here's a stat from the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly:

Number of original intellectual properties (console or handheld) that finished in the top 10 of games sold during 2004 in the US: 0

In the top 50: 1 (Fable)

In the top 100: 4 (Fable, Rise to Honor, Red Dead Revolver, True Crime)

Why would any game company release a new franchise with sales as they are? Some of the best games imaginable simply aren't selling. Is the same group that's clamoring for originality not buying the games? What's causing this in the first place?

Price drops are certainly a factor. $50 is a lot of money to throw down, especially on an unknown, unproven title. Now, games regularly drop their prices quickly, usually within a few months or so. It's simply smarter from a financial standpoint to wait.

Games also seem to mirroring Hollywood, as the big budget, over advertised titles start taking over more shelf space. Two of those IP's in the top 100 are certainly questionable purchases (Honor and True Crime), so even the some of the ones that are selling don't seem to be doing so based on quality. Smaller, independent titles will likely soon form their own fan base (and they already have, actually).

Even worse, games are going up in price, from $50 to $60. If people aren't willing to spend $50 on a new title, who in their right mind is going to think they'll spend $60? Maybe it's time to completely borrow from Hollywood.

To justify that massive cash drop, games come in (on average, give or take) around 10 hours. Why not trim the games down to three or four hours? This has a double benefit. Development costs are cut, prices at the counter are slashed, and someone is going to be more likely to pick up a smaller, yet still high quality title, at $25-$30. They also have time to experience multiple titles.

There are simply too many casualties as it stands now. Katamari Damacy was one of those quirky games to find an audience last year, and while it didn't crack the top 100, it's $20 price point certainly pushed it into the hands of gamers who might not have given it a second look. However, there's no excuse for Beyond Good and Evil and Oddworld: Strangers Wrath not to be massive hits (the latter did so poorly, it could have very well put the company out of the industry).

It's great that game companies are pulling in huge profit margins. It makes people look at the industry seriously, but those billion dollar figures that are tossed around are deceptive to say the least. It would almost be disheartening to see what percentage of that is made up of yearly sports titles. Take those away, and it's not so impressive.

None of this is meant to say the high profile titles are bad. Only a non-FPS fan can look at Halo and miss the quality. Some wonderful titles do very well for themselves, and for all the right reasons. Others, well, not so much. That's not helping draw a bigger, or even a new audience in. It's also not helping the gamer who is not just stuck with 200 first-person shooters, but 200 World War II first-person shooters. It's time for a shift, and hopefully, that can come soon.

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