The Lie Of Innovation

Innovation is one of the buzzwords we read about all the time, especially in regards to computer games. There is a general idea that in order to keep a game or genre interesting, then we need something new and innovative to generate that interest.

How often do you see development studios touting that their game has a bunch of innovative features that will make it the best thing since sliced bread?

But the concept that developers need to continue to innovate in order to keep the fun factor is a lie.

  • Aside from Star Trek chess, how much innovation has the game of chess undergone in the last x thousand years since its invention? How many millions play it?
  • Cop TV shows, doctor TV shows, lawyer TV shows. Aside from cinematographic changes (Dragnet vs NYPD Blue vs CSI) the basic format of these shows haven’t changed since the first. They don’t make these if noone watches them.
  • Monopoly the board game. No change there except for different cities. It still sells pretty well.

Blizzard didn’t innovate very much at all with WoW. They took a bunch of mechanics from existing MMORPGs, made some improvements and a ton of polish. World of Warcrafts success was entirely due to the fact that the game was fun and easy to get into. How many million subscribers still play WoW?

Rift is not much of a change from WoW. There are some new features, the Rift mechanic in particular, but I find it hard to call that innovative. But Rift is fun to play, and easy to get into. And it is successful, perhaps the most successful MMORPG since WoW was released.

It’s pretty clear that innovation isn’t the key to the MMORPG genre.

Give people a fun, easy to play game with a decent level of polish and you will be successful.

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1 Comment

  1. afk5min

    I would agree for the most part. I think there are certain core gameplay mechanics that really bring people in. A little polish, as you say, is what can make a game stand out amongst the rest. Innovation is important though, but it’s better served in small bites. A gradual evolution of gaming if you will.

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