Class versus Hardcore/Casual (BrainHex)
2D Or Not 2D

Endangered Games

Endangered games seal.blueback If we treat the marketplace for videogames like the ecology of wild animals, which genres of games are endangered? Which are extinct?

For the purpose of this slightly frivolous piece, a game genre is considered “extinct” if publishers are not investing in making more games of this kind. The genre may well survive on a smaller scale, via indie programmers and the like, but then nothing would be extinct and the metaphor this piece is based upon would fall down. Also, the genre list provided is not intended to be exhaustive or definitive – every genre taxonomy is highly subjective.

Here are the ratings used to assess each genre:

  • Extinct: no publisher funds development of games in this genre.
  • Endangered: publisher funding may stop within the decade.
  • Vulnerable: publisher funding severely cut in this genre.
  • Threatened: publisher funding for this genre significantly reduced or risk of reduction..
  • Least Concern: no risk of extinction.


Simulation Genres

  • Racer (Threatened): the racing game is suffering quite badly in the marketplace right now. While the games continue to sell, the sales figures are significantly down when compared to the previous generation, and although publishers continue to commission racing games, they are becoming wary of the genre.
  • Kart Racer (Threatened): while Mario Kart continues to do excellent business, selling upwards of 16 million on both the DS and Wii, other publishers have largely given up trying to compete with Nintendo in this genre, rendering this genre effectively under threat despite a lead title with incredible sales figures. Other publishers just don't want to try and compete with Nintendo in this space for some reason.
  • City-based racer (Threatened): the high cost of developing city-based racers is making some publishers nervous. While in the previous console generation games like Need for Speed Underground and its sequel were pulling in 6 million, no-one has yet capitalised upon this in the current generation of machines, and the general feeling seems to be that if you're going to build a complete city, why stop at racing gameplay?
  • 2D Racer (Extinct): there was a time when games like Super Sprint were setting the arcades on fire. Now, the 2D racer is not taken seriously by any publisher, and to my knowledge no publisher is funding this genre any more.
  • Flight (Vulnerable): while there are still a few flight games in production, most publishers avoid this genre. Most players can't handle the complex three dimensional controls, which make them a decidedly niche market.
  • Sim (Vulnerable): remember when SimCity and Tycoon games were setting the sales charts on fire? Those days have passed. While publishers are still bankrolling sims, they occupy a much lower priority, and budgets are a fraction of what they once were.
  • Life Sim (Least Concern): while it's just EA's monster The Sims franchises and Nintendo's hugely popular Animal Crossing games that are pulling in the big numbers (Animal Crossing: Wild World sold 11 million, The Sims 2 sold 13 million), the sales figures are brisk and the life sims are out-competing the older style sim games by several orders of magnitude.
  • Sports (Least Concern): again, it may be EA's giant bucket of sports licenses where most of the money is concentrated, but major sporting franchise remain a licence to print money.

Combat Genres

  • FPS and other 3D Shooters (Least Concern): publishers bankroll more first person shooter (and third person shooter) titles than any other genre. Most fail, and even the biggest two franchises (Halo and Call of Duty) are only just pulling in 10 million units, which other genres beat effortlessly. Third place and below pull in a quarter of this figure, and many titles flop badly. Nonetheless, developers love them and the simple design considerations make them low-risk in the eyes of most publishers.
  • Fighting (Threatened): although there are still some very popular franchises, this is another genre which Nintendo has seized control of with its hugely popular Super Smash Bros. franchise (9 million on the Wii). Soul Calibur IV managed to clear 2 million, but other than this fighting games are rapidly becoming a niche market.
    Update:
    Bob points out that Street Fighter IV cleared 2.5 million and is thus another modestly successful title.
  • Brawler or Beat-em-up (Threatened): the old scrolling beat-em-up genre has had a new lease of life in the form of God of War, but even this sold just 3 million units, which is small for the top franchise in an expensive to develop genre. The third title will almost certainly sell fewer units, because of the smaller PS3 installed base, and this genre is only really surviving because so many film license adaptations lend themselves to the format. Expect publisher interest to wane.
  • 2D Shooter (Endangered): if it wasn't for the vert shooter's tiny but loyal fanbase this genre might already be extinct. But there are still some Japanese publishers willing to bankroll games of this form which at least benefit from very low development costs.
  • Rail Shooter (Extinct): Does any publisher make on-rails shooters any more? The form still appears as sequences embedded in other shooting games, but as a commercial genre in its own right it appears to be dead.
  • Lightgun Shooter (VulnerableThreatened): were it not for the arcades, this genre might already be extinct. As it stands, the continuing decline of arcade revenues puts this genre severely at risk. Fortunately, arcade units still appear in cinemas and elsewhere, where only racing, gun and dancing games survive. In this niche form, the genre ekes out a tenuous existence.
    Update: Sparky and Nels points out that light gun games also survive on the Wii. Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles seems to be the front runner of the titles Nels mentions at 1.3 million... not bad, but not great either. The real winner on Wii is Link's Crossbow Training at almost 4 million. Reclassified to "Threatened" in light of this oversight. 
  • Space Shooter (ExtinctEndangered): remember when a new Wing Commander was a major release? This genre is now gone, surviving only in the form of Massively Multiplayer offshoots such as EVE Online.
    Update: Ryan notes that Deep Silver (one of Koch Media's labels) recently released X3: Terran Conflict, so this genre isn't quite extinct yet. 
  • Battlefield combat (Vulnerable): whether it's Omega Force's Dynasty Warriors (regular million sellers) or Pandemic's Star Wars Battlefront (3 million on PS2), this niche market sits uncomfortably in a space which is not profitably enough to warrant further expansion. That a new Battlefront game has not been confirmed leaves the future of this genre in doubt.
  • City-based combat (Least Concern): the Grand Theft Auto mega-franchise remains strong (18 million for San Andreas, 12 million and counting for IV), and publishers are not shy in producing knock offs like Saint's Row which sell a few million. Since city-based racing can be build-into this form has hurt that genre, but the city-based combat genre remains highly significant to the videogames market, despite the incredibly high cost of development.

Environment Genres

  • 3D Platformer (Vulnerable): yet another genre where other publishers are afraid to take on Nintendo, whose Mario franchise still sells from 8 million (Super Mario Galaxy). But no-one else makes this format, which just a few years ago was one of the most common genres in production. The problem seems to be that developers prefer to play platform shooters and “high stakes” platformers, two genres which are radically less mass market friendly than the traditional platformer. Until publishers work this out, this genre will remain vulnerable.
  • 2D Platformer (Vulnerable): in classic 2D, Nintendo do even better – New Super Mario Bros. sold an astonishing 20 million units on the DS. Do the publishers see this as an investment opportunity? Nope. They continue to ignore this genre.
  • Platform Shooter (Threatened): Insomniac, once market leaders in 3D Platformers with titles such as Spyro, moved to platform shooters with Ratchet & Clank and have enjoyed lower sales ever since. Their good friends Naughty Dog sold more units of their platform game Jak & Daxter than the original Ratchet & Clank sold, yet for some reason decided they too would switch to platform shooters. Sales of the franchise fell. But developers are too addicted to gunplay to give it up, even when it's a market loser.
  • High-stakes Platformer (Least Concern): the “high stakes” platformers, such as Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia, are more “hardcore” friendly, but severely lack mass market appeal. Tomb Raider once pulled in 5 million players, now it's closer to 2 million. Prince of Persia started at 2 million and has fallen ever since. So are publishers cautious about this genre? No, they continue to fund it quite heavily.
  • Stealth (Threatened): whether its Metal Gear Solid, which regularly clears 4 million unit sales, or Ubisoft's hugely successful “social stealth” game Assassin's Creed at 8 million units, this genre seems healthy, even if once popular franchises Splinter Cell and Hitman appear to be declining in importance.
  • Survival Horror (Endangered): it might seem strange, given that Resident Evil 5 just sold nearly 5 million units, to say that Survival Horror is endangered, but lets be honest: the changes made to the franchises in 4 moved it a long way from its roots and clearly into the conventional 3D shooter space. Meanwhile, Silent Hill declines, Project Zero never shifted good numbers, and trailblazer Alone in the Dark flounders. The classic Survival Horror genre is very nearly extinct.

Quest Genres

  • Text Adventure (Extinct): despite the enthusiasm of the Interactive Fiction community, the text adventure is long dead as a commercial form.
  • Graphical Adventure (Endangered): were it not for DreamCatcher, the point-and-click and other such classic adventure forms would already be gone. With JoWood's acquisition of DreamCatcher, they may soon be extinct.
  • Japanese-style RPG (Least Concern): the delay of the latest entry in the Final Fantasy mega-franchise has hurt the performance of this genre commercially in the current console generation, but it remains the most popular genre in Japan, and the lower development costs with respect to other upper market videogames keep it a thriving niche. And if you consider Pokémon in this bracket,you have at least one franchise that is shifting tens of millions of units.
  • Western-style RPG (Least Concern): although only two companies are doing big business in this space, both BioWare and Bethesda are comfortably selling enough units to turn a tidy profit. Few other companies will break into this space, because of the severe design challenges facing any RPG project, which means the genre remains fairly stable.
  • MMORPG (Least Concern): it may be dominated by the incredibly popular World of Warcraft, but the gigantic returns of the most successful titles have publishers drooling. Even while most titles in this space fail miserably, publishers have not given up dreaming of getting a slice of the big money.

Strategy Genres

  • Turn-based Strategy (Vulnerable): Creative Assembly's Total War series may dip into real-time, but it remains the success story in an otherwise declining genre. Fireaxis' Civilisation brand is in decline, as is Advance Wars, and little clears the million unit mark nowadays.
  • Real-time Strategy (EndangeredVulnerable): when once-proud franchise Command & Conquer Red Alert is reduced to download-only, you know the writing is on the wall for the RTS genre.
    Update: In deference to StarCraft II (as mentioned by Nels) I have reclassified the RTS to "Vulnerable" - the popularity of StarCraft in Korea is helping to keep some money flowing into this otherwise unpopular (with publishers) niche market.
  • Tower Defence (Least Concern): cheap to develop and absurdly compulsive, the Tower Defence genre even lured in Square Enix for a try with their Crystal Defenders title. It's not clear what sales these low-budget titles are pulling in, but while interest in this niche is high it's not at any risk.
  • Strat RPG (Vulnerable): another niche market, but Japanese developer Nipponichi (who make the Disgaea games) are thriving on the lack of serious competition. Don't expect publishers to put much money into this space, though.
  • Strategic Quest (Endangered): remember Heroes of Might and Magic? It's still kicking thanks to the Russian market's unique tastes in videogames. But it's not the world's healthiest genre by any stretch of the imagination.

Casual Genres

  • Puzzle (Least Concern): the venerable puzzle game, of which Tetris is the biggest success at 70 million units, keeps ticking, and has finally found its own marketplace in the form of the Casual market. A great many of the titles in circulation are “match 3” games (modelled upon Bejeweled, which has sold 25 million units and had 150 million downloads).
  • Time Management (Least Concern): typified by Gamelab's successful Diner Dash franchise, and rooted in the classic arcade play of Bally Midway's Tapper, these “plate spinning” Casual games remain popular.
  • Hidden Object (Least Concern): one of the biggest success stories of the Casual games market are franchises like Big Fish's Mystery Case Files, which offer a Where's Wally/Waldo? style visual puzzle wrapped up in a simple adventure-like structure.
  • Mental Puzzle (Least Concern):another of Nintendo's big success stories, the first Brain Training/Brain Age title sold 17 million units. Other publishers have attempted to get a share of what looks like easy money when you consider how small a budget is required to make such a game.
  • Puzzle Adventure (Least Concern): it may only have racked up 3.5 million units on the DS, but the Professor Layton franchise has shown that simple mental puzzles structured in an adventure-like structure can succeed were classic adventure games failed. Expect other publishers to try and cash in.
  • Rhythm-Action (Threatened): Dance Dance Revolution was a surprise grass roots success, and its regular million plus sales secured a genre previously looking shaky. Then, when Harmonix took their unsuccessful abstract rhythm-action game format (first seen in Frequency and Amplitude) and added a plastic guitar controller, they pushed the format to more than 4 million unit sales. However, there are now signs this niche market is saturated, and publishers may curtail their investment in this space in the years to come.
  • Mini-game Collections (Least Concern): the Wii is saturated with mini-game collections – perhaps because it's all that publishers can think of that makes use of the Wii Remote but is still cheap to make. The odd well-made, successful title such as Cooking Mama (2.6 million on Wii, 4 million on DS) helps keep the dream alive and there are currently few signs of investment slowing in this genre.

What do you think? Are Survival Horror and RTS games really on the brink of extinction? Are publishers getting wary of Wii-based mini-game collections? Share your thoughts in the comments, but please remember that all genre taxonomies are subjective.

Comments

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One problem with this post is that your taxons lack any consistent meaning. In some cases you identify the taxon by content ("Survival Horror") and in others by mechanics ("Light Gun Shooter"). Moreover, some of these taxons may not be genuine: aren't Light Gun Shooters a subset of Rail Shooters? This makes it difficult for me to point out that you seem to have forgotten Capcom's (and soon EA's) relatively popular rail/lightgun shooters for Wii, all of which could arguably be placed in the the "Survival Horror" taxon also.

So, what I'm saying is, you need to reconsider your cladistic analysis. This is a problem for games discourse in general, not just for you, of course. What we mean by "genre" in games is often indistinct and should requires more thought than it has been given.

The link over at Only a Game is busted. : )

In fighting games, you forgot to mention Street Fighter IV which has sold quite a few copies. SCIV isn't the only fighting game recently to have done well...

Sparky's observation about claiming rail/light gun shooters are nearly extinct given Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, House of the Dead Overkill and Dead Space Extraction is something I noticed as well.

Similarly, saying the RTS is one step from extinct seems really bizarre. There's, of course, Starcraft II, Dawn of War II (and Relic's earlier games), Sins of a Solar Empire moved over 1 million units, etc. I'm not sure it's accurate to say there are less of these being sold than Disgaea-esque games.

It's still a good experiment for sure, but some of the categorizations seem a little off.

Woot genres I like are mostly not in trouble! That said, I agree with the guy above me about RTS, I mean with Starcraft 2 on the way that alone should mean least concern :P

I think DDR,GH and RB will no doubt continue to be sold for years - even if only to allow purchase of downloadable extra tracks. Sure, it's not as a great situation as it was in 1999 or 2000 in terms of maraca action, but RB/GH alone allow for 3 (genuinely) different ways to interact. And though the name escapes me, isn't there a forthcoming (musical)keyboard-based rhythm game? It seems to me that they'll still be exploring every possible input.

And what of puzzle games that don't involve eliminating all shapes within an area? What of the Lemmings, Troddlers, Push-Over, Kablooey or Brainiacs that we had in the 16-bit era? I would say that at least one form of puzzle game is either endangered or extinct.

Bob: You're right - Street Fighter IV sold 2.5 million+ - my bad! I have corrected this.

DML: fixed -thanks!

Sparky: you answer your own question here - the meaning of the term "genre" in the context of videogames is inconsistently applied. No attempt has been made here to attempt a coherent taxonomy, the point was to engage in discussion about the relative "endangerment" of different genres, not to engage in an infinite regression over genre taxonomics. That was the not-so secret meaning of the phrase "but please remember that all genre taxonomies are subjective." :)

However, I dispute that survival horror is a classification by content and not by mechanics - the properties that distinguish survival horrors (as the term is used here) are indeed mechanical, and not merely cosmetic. A shooting game with a horror gloss is not a survival horror game to me.

Furthermore, I dispute that one *can* seperate game genre taxonomies without blurring the lines between content and mechanics - the platform game genre as posited here is practically comprised of cartoon content, while the "high stakes" platformer is comprised of "realistic" content, and the same distinction applies for kart racer and racer. I think the attempt to seperate the two is rather futile.

The fact of the matter is that cladistics as it is applied biologically *cannot* be applied to games, because links of ancestry are inferred and not implicit, and these inferences may not even represent a genuine link in the chain since independent development of mechanics is not uncommon.

"Aren't Light Gun Shooters a subset of Rail Shooters?"

Sure, but since I don't provide a taxonomic tree why is this a problem? At no point do I suggest that these taxons occupy equivalent positions in the overall taxonomy. One taxon used here could represent the equivalent of "species" while another could represent the equivalent of "class" - in fact, I'm pretty certain this is the case. (I did try a coherent Linnean style genre taxonomy of games once before, and it transpired to be a tedious waste of effort, frankly).

"This makes it difficult for me to point out that you seem to have forgotten Capcom's (and soon EA's) relatively popular rail/lightgun shooters for Wii, all of which could arguably be placed in the the "Survival Horror" taxon also."

Well I wasn't there when you typed this, but it seemed not that tricky. :) (If they're light gun games, they're not survival horror as this term is used here; having a horror gloss does not make a survival horror game in my eyes).

Yes - this is fair, I overlooked these. :) See my reply to Nels below for more commentary on this.

Nels:

Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles = 1.3 million.
House of the Dead Overkill = 0.35 million.
Dead Space Extraction = unknown at this time

Doesn't look great to me, I have to say, but I'd of course forgotten Link's Crossbow Training which sold a healthy 4 million. I've changed the status to "Threatened" to reflect yours and Sparky's point here.

"Similarly, saying the RTS is one step from extinct seems really bizarre. There's, of course, Starcraft II, Dawn of War II (and Relic's earlier games), Sins of a Solar Empire moved over 1 million units, etc."

Sins as an RTS? Really? This isn't what I consider to be an RTS, personally (although it has real time sections). I thought this was one of those 4X games i.e. turn-based strategy.

Haven't got sales for Dawn of War II so I can't comment, and Starcraft II is only coming out because of the popularity of Starcraft in Korea so I don't think this swings the issue much. I've reclassified to "Vulnerable".

"It's still a good experiment for sure, but some of the categorizations seem a little off."

Bah, taxonomies of game genres are impossible to construct satisfactorily but you have to knock one up to have a discussion of this kind. Try to focus on the content and not the wrapping. :)

Bezman: I only listed rhythm action as "threatened" i.e. risk of reduced publisher funding. The gold rush is over, I think, even if people are still trying to mine the seams. :)

"And what of puzzle games that don't involve eliminating all shapes within an area? What of the Lemmings, Troddlers, Push-Over, Kablooey or Brainiacs that we had in the 16-bit era? I would say that at least one form of puzzle game is either endangered or extinct."

I know what you mean - give me a genre term I like the sound of and a definitive list of genre examples and I'll happily add an extinct genre to the bottom bracket. :)

Cheers for sharing your thoughts everyone!

I may have misread the classification. I thought 'rhythm action' was supposedly endangered because of the lack of new franchises. I agree it's 'threatened'.

Anyway, unlike animals, a genre could easily spring back to life...

I'd call 'puzzle' something like, 'shape-clearing puzzlers'.

'Sequence-finding puzzlers' - puzzle games in which you must 'discover' the correct sequence of moves (or the exact arrangement of items - e.g. Pushover) to reach your goal would include Kablooey, Brainiacs and my own Exorbis 2.

I think Lemmings would be a 3rd type of puzzle game, which for now I'll call "resource-maximising puzzlers'. Although, since you're really trying to find the correct sequence of job allocations, maybe it is an extension of the previous class? Although of course, all games involve finding 'the correct sequence of moves' at some level...

I think I need to think more about this. But I like the name 'sequence-finding puzzlers'.

For an unbelievably gorgeous new space shooter check out X3 - Terran conflict. Everything that freelancer was and then some.

Bezman: Puzzle game has to stay as puzzle game because it's a term in common usage and I don't see much point trying to tack against the wind here.

Sadly, I don't recognise any of the games you've listed under "sequence finding puzzlers" - but that general description fits a number of games I've seen on the iphone.

Ryan: I get a sense that X3 is intended to be the last in the X series? Do you know anything about this?

This is a good example of what I'm talking about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzHPbo_ZPX0&feature=related#t=28m40s

And my own exorbis. ;-p
http://www.kongregate.com/games/editundo/exorbis-2

Anyway, I think that people - when they think 'puzzle games' - often think of a family of games rather than just all the tile-deleting games out there. In any case, though I don't have an iPhone and so am unfamiliar with all but a few apps, I'm glad to hear that the sequence-finding games are still being made at a higher level than Flash games.

I find this list to be pretty interesting because it shows a history of video game vogue. The extinct or endangered genres are those which were once very popular, and have since been mined to death.

Of course, Street Fighter IV, Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart and others demonstrate that these genres have not reached a creative dead end. They haven't ceased to be financially successful, either. I think the money-losing FPS and high-stakes platform genres of today demonstrate that developers don't care about the success of the genre as a whole - they care about imitating the success of a small handful (perhaps only one) genre-defining game. These games don't set out to create a name for themselves, they bank on the success of the genre-definer. Look back at the 16-bit generation, when platformers were king: Bubsy was a blatant cash-grab, banking on the success and mechanics of Sonic. I believe Alfred Chicken was another such game, although I never played it. Such games are the product of hollow marketing, depleting the public enthusiasm for the original product with their cynical copycats (Bubsy!!). The genre only wanes and dies because the public no longer cares about games similar to the genre-definer, they may not even care about the genre definer itself.

Very poorly informed marketing decisions lead to crummy games, which drive up consumer cynicism and kill the popularity of entire genres. The kicker is that most genre titles deserve to die; they're unoriginal, not terribly fun games riding the coattails of their superiors. Genres are ghettoes, the majority of all games are shovelware, and there have never been many really good games!

Maybe all of this is obvious and I've been wasting my (and your) time. But it's still a fun story, innit?

Bezman: That Pushover game looks completely nuts! :)

As for Exorbis, check out Trixel (by an old game design sparring partner of mine) - here's a review:
http://toucharcade.com/2009/05/01/trixel-a-tile-turning-puzzler/

Would Lode Runner fit into this kind of space for you, do you think?

Jum: thanks for your comment! I agree that genres get "mined out" by too many me-too titles. I'm not sure it's entirely marketing's fault, although I am sure that marketing are not blameless. :)

Certainly the platform game was mined out and badly mismanaged at the end of the previous console generations.

Thanks for commenting!

Yes - trixel is definitely a 'sequence-finding puzzler'. From what I can see, the 'puzzle mode' there again almost epitomises what I'm talking about in the genre.

I'd say that Lode Runner isn't normally, though the puzzle mode on the xBox updated version is.

I think to be part of this genre, there should be only one (or at least very few) 'correct' sequence(s) of moves or setup of 'toys', which the game asks you to find. Since the original Lode Runner seemed to have limitless 'solutions' to any given level, I wouldn't add it to this category.

I suppose that Portal's challenge mode and Pacman when played at the highest level are both sequence-finding puzzlers. Actually, maybe even Portal's main mode is as well.

And probably Sudoku as well...

I suppose that leaves Lemmings and Troddlers without classification as well as others I don't know. But then, many interesting things in any artform often defy classification...

Thinking about what links Tetris, Hexic, Panel de Pon (& derivatives), Lumines, Zuma, Bust-a-move and Critter Crunch, it only seems to boil down to "quickly deciding upon the best place for a particular element". But given the widely different rules that govern how the tiles need to be arranged, the genre does seems to be a bit more diverse (at least in the rules) than any other.

Bezman: I agree. One of the reasons I didn't greatly "explode" puzzle game was because the only thing these games generally have in common is an abstract representation and simple controls. And even these vary. :)

Genre work is very difficult, and ultimately self defeating since it's just drawing circles in the sand...

Here's one big one in the rhythm/action that you missed: Guitar Hero/Rock Band. It's been a pretty big-deal game series for a while now, and I'd think that nudges it up one.

Ryan: I *allude* to Guitar Hero and Rock Band above without mentioning them by name... these were the titles Harmonix made after Frequency and Amplitude, and other than DDR the only major rhythm-action game franchises (although Rhythm Heaven seems to have done okay).

Sorry but this looks like yet another of your rants 'developers only want to make shooter games' albeit camouflaged in a veil of superfluous form.

Each and every 'other' genre makes a comeback once in a while (see: superhero, adventure, space sim, turn-based, flight sim). Just like with the movies, the only thing that's being mass-produced are the action flicks. And they sell.

Jedeman: weird reading of this one... I go through a huge number of genres here, and the focus goes much wider than shooters. I'm scratching my head as to how your takeaway from this piece could possibly be that developers only want to make shooter games... there are 15 "least concern" genres here. Did you only read the one about shooters? :)

As for your second point, when exactly has adventure made a comeback? When has space sim made a comeback? *shrugs*

The point of this piece was to encourage some discussion about the direction of the marketplace.

As for the box office, only half of the top 10 movies of 2008 were action movies... the other half were animated feature films. In terms of movies commissioned, many more romcoms are commissioned than action movies (because they are cheap and produce reliable returns). Action movies pull in the big numbers, sure, but they are not the backbone of the movie studios income.

Update: on reflection, I can see why you would take your narrow reading, since the issue of publisher monoculture does come up tangentially in a couple of places, but it's not the purpose of the piece. That it bleeds through is a testament to what I'm going through at work at the moment, which I can't mention because of NDAs. If I have become repetitive, it is only because of frustration. :(

IMO it would be more practical to divide the whole thing into 'mainstream' and 'niche'.

There's nothing wrong in being in the latter category. Not every movie should be ambitious and intellectual.

For example by a comeback of the adventure games I mean the recent interest in new (and remade) Monkey Island titles or the Sam & Max episodic releases. Agreed, they can't even stand on the same continent as Modern Warfare 2 or Guitar Hero. Still, they're critically acclaimed, make it to the 'front pages' of Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 1 industry media.

That's quite good in my opinion. Sure, having more of those on the market *would* be fun but I can accept the realities of the market. I'm glad that ESDs, especially Steam, make shopping for those odd little titles so easy.

As for space-sims.. The 'X' series really has everything. Then there's EVE Online which has the most loyal fanbase and steady subscription growth of all MMOs. Jumpgate Evolution, much more sim-ish than EVE is nearing completion. Star Trek Online is another AAA title incorporating space combat.

I may cry myself to sleep wishing for Wing Commander/Star Lancer to return but it's not like there aren't enough games to play.

The box office example was meant to point out that some genres are bound to be coming and going (see: western, hard sci-fi) while others are always in demand (shoot'em'up, police drama, romcom).

Jedeman: I take your point here of the distinction between mainstream and niche. In fact, I use this distinction all the time professionally, distinguishing between a mass market and a niche title. But of course, even this isn't the full story, as a hidden object game can be mass market (in terms of its audience) yet still be a niche.

Truth be told, Tetris and Wii Sports not withstanding, pretty much *all* game genres are niches. Think about it: if the highest selling console sets the high watermark for the audience for games (PS2 = 140 million) then even the FPS is a niche (highest sales: Cod: Modern Warfare at 13 million = 9% of the market!) A typical successful FPS title only sells about 3 million = 2% of the market.

So I think realistically all videogame genres are niches in some sense.

Cheers!

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