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Innovation in Gaming is Rewarded

Innovation for any entertainment medium is a necessity for growth. There is a common phrase “you’re either growing or you’re dying, there is no third direction,” and it absolutely holds true for the video game industry. Possibly the most criticized games are the ones that make no strides forward within a genre and just play it safe. Innovation spans all genres of games from sports, to shooters, to strategy. Some companies and development teams are able to adapt and create quality products and are rewarded for their hard work and ingenuity.

Of all the genres and types of games where innovation is most challenging, sports titles are arguably the toughest. With a guaranteed yearly release date it is far to easy for developers to rest on their laurels and be content with past products. On the forefront of sports innovation is the FIFA franchise. There has not been a year recently where the FIFA team has rested and released more or less the same game two years in a row. Many people may argue that point, but players who are familiar with the game can tell you all about the changes made from year to year. New physics engines, improved AI intelligence, and brand new game modes never before created within sports games were all implemented within the FIFA franchise within the past five years. It is this continual dedication to progression and innovation that has led FIFA to become one of EA’s two most profitable franchises. FIFA 13 sold 7.4 million units within the first four weeks of its release which made it the largest sports title launch of all time. It is nice to see that consumers are able to recognize innovation within the sports genre and reward them for pushing the envelope.

As I said, sports games are not the only genre where innovation is a key issue. Innovation is tied so tightly to first person shooters that is often times the go-to argument for many gamers who dislike a particular franchise. The argument of progression within the FPS genre will almost always conjure up thoughts of Call of Duty. Critics and consumers alike seem to bash every installment for the lack of new additions to the franchise, even though the games are still entertaining and clearly profitable. The hot button issue of 2011 was the innovation of Battlefield 3 versus Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Battlefield 3 offered gamers a different opportunity within military FPSs. This is not a discussion of which title is better, but Battlefield 3 did implement some new game strategies and play styles that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 did not, and that progression was rewarded. In addition to FIFA, Battlefield was named one of EA’s two most profitable franchises. Consumers recognized what Dice created within that game and rewarded them with strong sales numbers.

Regardless of what type of games you are a fan of, innovation is required within the industry. The most successful games in history are the ones that change the landscape of gaming and create something never before seen. This is extremely relevant now with the release of Halo 4 less than one week away. In an interview with Polygon, Eric Schuh, Halo’s lead in Microsoft’s Studios User Research and Central Analytics department, stated that Halo 4 is by far and away the most expensive game Microsoft has ever made. This is a different type of innovation within games, however. Instead of progression within the design of the game, Schuh watches consumers play through the game and tweaks the game according to player’s responses. This immediate, hands-on feedback is a crucial piece within innovation – listening to consumers. Microsoft has worked hard on that for the release of Halo 4. The development firm Valve is notorious for play testing their games and hardware systems before release. They meticulously test their material through consumer volunteering in order to deliver a quality product – which has consistently worked successfully.

There are creative innovations that come from the minds of the designers and developers and others fueled by consumer input. When both of these are fused together, a truly great game is created. In this day and age it is extremely rare whenever a game comes through and revolutionizes a genre, but with proper innovation and progression, it is inevitable that are more great titles to come. The natural flow of the industry is that consumers reward innovation within games with strong sales numbers… so hopefully consumers continue to recognize certain developers and games for their progress.

Lucas has evolved in his video game preferences. With a foundation in predominantly sports game, action adventure games are now his favorite to play. He is a competitive swimmer and likes to play volleyball, basketball, and golf.

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