Opinion: Eight Greatest Success Stories Of This Gaming Generation
While the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii generation is far from over, we do appear to be getting close to the end of their lifespan. The Wii U is widely-expected to be released by the end of this coming year, and though we’ll definitely have to wait a little longer for the Playstation 4 (or ‘Orbis’ as it’s been rumoured to be called) and the ‘Xbox 720′, many reports are saying they’ll be with us by 2013.
With that in mind, it seems appropriate to take a look at the franchises and consoles that have defined this generation. There have been many great games, sure, but the titles included here are the games people are most likely to identify with today’s systems.
With Tom Clancy not the force it once was and Rayman seemingly dying at the start of this console generation, Ubisoft were in desperate need of a defining franchise. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, the original Assassin’s Creed was released to mixed reviews in 2007, and despite its obvious potential had seemingly failed to become the killer-franchise Ubisoft needed.
And yet, two years later, the game’s sequel was selling like hot-cakes and scooping Game of the Year awards left right and centre. Ubisoft had found the winning formula of creating a graphically flawless open-world game with a lovable protagonist in the form of Ezio Auditore, and with just one release they had found their defining franchise.
While it’s possible to criticise Ubisoft for failing to innovate in the last few Creed releases, one has to admire what the series has achieved in this generation. They’ve created a sustainable franchise that will surely outlive the consoles it made its name on, and for that reason Assassins Creed will be remembered as one of this generation’s greatest success stories.
Just like with music and film, some of the best games out there aren’t developed, or published, by big names like Sony or Rockstar. With this generation of video games being the first to full harness the power of digital distribution, and its ability of the web to share pretty much anything, the best indie games are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Just look at the success of games like Minecraft or Angry Birds. New platforms, like Steam and the App Store, have allowed the best game’s to shine regardless of whether or not they have a big publisher behind them, and we’ve therefore been able to play some incredible games that, if released during a different generation, would probably have gone unnoticed.
Of course, indie games aren’t exactly a ‘franchise’, but they’ve managed to establish themselves as a kind-of-genre amongst gamers, and have had great success in doing so. This will surely be just the start of the rise of indie games, but this generation will surely be remembered as the one where the indie game scene really kicked off.
Call of Duty
Love it or loathe it, you certainly can’t deny that Call of Duty has been a colossal success during this generation. As a series it may have started (and had moderate success) during the last generation of consoles, but Infinity Ward struck gold with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which quickly became the most popular online experience available on consoles.
The online military shooter was nothing new (in fact Counter Strike: Source and Battlefield 2 are probably best credited for establishing the genre last generation), but Call of Duty managed to bring that high-octane online experience to consoles. Since the release of Call of Duty’s fourth outing, the series has become a behemoth in the industry, and can perhaps be credited for bringing gaming as a medium into the mainstream.
The game may receive criticisms aplenty, and many of them are perfectly valid, but it’s difficult for me to see how anyone could argue that the best-selling franchise of this generation doesn’t deserve a place as one of the success stories of the same time period. You just can’t argue with the franchise’s sales…
One thing games as a medium had failed to do prior to his generation was re-create the heart-wrenching action, and intelligent, gripping narrative, of a summer blockbuster. Naughty Dog managed to change that with the release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, an epic eight-hour adventure with an intriguing plot, likable characters and big-budget set-pieces good enough to rival the likes of Indiana Jones and Bourne.
Since then the PlayStation 3 exclusive has improved with each new release, with all three games picking up ‘Game of the Year’ awards from several major publications, including our own. Nathan Drake, the game’s protagonist, became the face of the PlayStation brand, making it perhaps the most important Sony-owned franchise around.
Uncharted therefore became more than just an excllenet series of action games. It became an interactive experience above anything we’ve ever seen before, and raised the bar for what we expect from games in general. The future of the franchise may not yet be known, but the series’ overwhelming success cements its place as one of this generation’s defining franchises.
Once one of the most popular genres in gaming, survival-horror seemed to have faltered at the start of this generation. Both Resident Evil and Silent Hill, the former top franchises of the genre, had quickly become more action-orientated and all together weaker experiences, leaving a once massively popular type of game in disarray.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Dead Space came along. It not only boasted some excellent third-person shooting mechanics, but brought back the chilling terror that made games like Silent Hill 2 classics within the industry.
Visceral Games managed to find the perfect balance between action and horror, and therefore created a product that was a hit with consumers and saved the survival-horror genre in the process. With rumours recently highlighting a third game in the Dead Space series, it’s clear this is a franchise with incredible staying power.
The success of Mass Effect this generation could probably be credited to two things. First of all, the series managed to build-up an immersive science-fiction universe with infinite ways to create new storylines, along with strong action-game shooting mechanics that made the game a blast to pick up and play. However, for me the reason Mass Effect will stand out as a defining franchise of this generation is the choices it gives the player during the game.
The real genius of Mass Effect is that the choices you made throughout the trilogy affected not only the game you were playing, but moments in all the games after it as well. BioWare therefore built perhaps the most personal experience available in video games, that made you feel as if your decisions had a genuine impact.
While there have been many complaints about how the trilogy was ended, Mass Effect remains a franchise that flourished this generation and brought something new to the table.
Mario On 3DS
Mario has been an important part of pretty much every console generation, but the deceptively athletic plumber did something pretty spectacular to turn around the fortunes of a once struggling hand-held platform: the Nintendo 3DS.
The new system from Nintendo started off very poorly, with underwhelming sales and few strong launch titles. It appeared that the console was down-and-out, but two new Mario releases in the shape of Super Mario 3D land and Mario Kart 7 helped sales of the system to flourish, proving the importance of Mario games still remained.
With some clever marketing, the Nintendo 3DS is now out-selling rival handheld the Playstation Vita significantly, and the success is very much down to the Mario games that arrived on it months after the 3DS originally launched. And so, once again, Mario manages to be a success story of another console generation.
Anything By thatgamecompany
Can games be art? That’s the question thatgamecompany appear to be trying to answer, and this generation they’ve led the way in terms of what a downloadable experience can deliver. Their games have risked being pretentious, but managed to be genuinely uplifting experiences like no other.
Some games from the previous generation managed to be artistic experiences, the most notable being Shadow of the Colossus. However, thatgamecompany have created games this generation that broke boundaries, and offered gamers something totally different. The recently released Journey is a game considered to be the best downloadable game in existence by several critics, including our own Jonathan Szafran.
Not only have the three games released by thatgamecompany during this generation (flOW, Flower & Journey) been unique, innovative experiences, but they’ve also revealed the demand for cheaper downloadable experiences that have only come into play in this generation’s home consoles. It’s for that reason that they will be remembered as defining experiences, and thatgamecompany will be remembered as one of this generation’s greatest success stories.
Do you agree with these choices? And if not, what games would you would have chosen? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.