As our team was discussing the poor performance of Syndicate and Ghost Recon in India (decent sales on Xbox, poor on PS3 for the latter) compared to ROW (Ghost Recon is currently the top selling game in the UK for example). I ventured that I preferred Ghost Recon to both Modern Warfare 3 & Battlefield 3. And there it was, the whole GamesINC office turned around towards me with a look of shock and horror. Before my open minded colleagues could confiscate my PS3, I ran out of the office and to the safety of the Delhi streets (well…).
What is it about shooters that divide everyone’s opinion so much? And why, in India, are some games such as Battlefield 3 nearly impossible to find whereas others such as Ghost Recon suffered in sales. Let’s start with a walk down memory lane…
The First Shooters: One Choice Only But What a Choice
Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. These defined the shooter genre. Playing Wolfenstein for the first time was eye opening– you’d never seen or experienced this before. Tearing through Nazi officers with an unseen array of weapons and finishing off by taking on Hitler! Beat that!
And then Doom arrived and did that the very next year. Adding diversity to the levels which was limited in Wolfenstein, a much longer single player mode, much better visuals, mutant aliens and deathmatches (where do you think the term comes from?).
At the time – the choice was limited to these two games for the vast majority of gamers, but it really didn’t matter – these games were so good and revolutionnary. Doom & Wolfenstein created the shooter genre & even industry (most shooters afterwards were called Doom clones).
The Diversification of Shooters: The Following Waves
It’s impossible to cover shooters from the mid-90s to mid-2010s without writing a dissertation – so let’s keep it high level. Once Doom had engrained the genre into video gaming – shooters started slowly branching in different directions. Quake took on the multiplayer mode, Half-Life took it to the next level and had an actual story line (a darn good one at that), Golden Eye wrapped them both into one awesome pack. Half-Life and Golden Eye helped popularize the genre on consoles.
As the industry evolved, games such as Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, Max Payne, Syndicate, Deus Ex (to name a few) started taking shooters into different directions offering a variety of games reflecting the varied demands of gamers (as well as the diversity in creative juices among development houses). The diversification has even lead to different sub genres: First Person and Third Person. Some would argue that the games above, especially Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid are not really shooters. You do shoot in them, no? And this leads us to today…
Today: A World of Choices
There are two uncontested big hitters today: Modern Warfare 3 & Battlefield 3. They keep the same fundamental as the originals – unadulterated action. Sure – there’s a story thrown in there for good measure, but it’s all about blasting your way through levels or through online opponents. And boy does the formula work: Modern Warfare 3 hit $1 Billion in sales in 16 days, more than any other release across all digital entertainment genres (it reached $1 Billion before Avatar and Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows – Part 2). There have been a number of similar style games over the last twelve months which haven’t quite hit the same standard this year such as Homefront and Bodycount to name a couple.
For those not so much into the spray and pray – there’s a myriad of additional choices, some different by degrees (Max Payne 3, Black Ops, Crysis), some offering completely different experiences (Deux Ex, Ghost Recon, Uncharted). There’s also been a merging with RPG which has given us some absolute classics such as Red Dead and the GTA series.
The multiplayer has also really taken to the fore – even games such Max Payne & Uncharted 3 offer multiplayer modes. Development houses have kept gamers hooked for tens if not hundreds of hours of gameplay with awesome multiplayer modes. For example, one of our regular customers wanted to trade in Max Payne 3 – we called him up and suggested he try the multiplayer before he made his decision. He hasn’t traded it in, he likes the multiplayer too much – not a good business decision, but we’re gamers and we want people to get the maximum enjoyment. In addition to the multiplayer, new DLCs appearing all the time mean that there’s no need to get a new game – as developers are constantly adding new maps, challenges, weapons to your game.
The Future: What does it look like?
Developers will keep trying to keep gamers hooked into their games for as long as possible. This year does not see such a heavy hitting line up as the end of last year (2012 actually might be a lighter year between big line ups in 2011 and 2013). Modern Warfare fans might make the jump into Black Ops 2 in the winter when it releases, whereas Battlefield 3 fan boys seem a loyal bunch, and might stay away from a Call of Duty game – from observation, they could be playing Battlefield 3 for a while (I nearly got lynched on Facebook too for suggesting Ghost Recon is better than BF3). Medal of Honor: Warfighter might be the big surprise as they are timing their release to perfection – jut when the market might be looking for a new traditional shooter.
Does that mean the end of diversity in the gaming industry? By no means – sales of Max Payne 3 have been good, and gamers are always looking to get into new games – so while the multiplayers will keep fans occupied, it won’t stop them buying the latest games on release. Over the last twelve months, games like Uncharted, Deus Ex, Saints Row The Third and L.A. Noire have entertained even the biggest BF3 or MW3 fan.
And this year, well next year actually – there’s a lot of interesting games in proposition which could take a lot of genres to the next level. Crysis 3 in particular looks stunning, and seems to be bringing a lot more options to players. Tomb Raider seems to have reinvented itself into a grittier more real game. The Last of Us just looks like something we haven’t before. And finally we can’t wait to get our hands on WatchDogs, which looks like a Deus Ex on steroids. The last 3 in particular promise so much in terms of the evolution of shooters. Check out our preview of what’s coming in our E3 round up.
Will it look any different in India?
In India, the reason that games such as Ghost Recon and Syndicate struggled even more than internationally is that they were not hitting the spray and pray demand of the market – as well as not having the multiplayer following that will allow you to play against your friends. The stealth and cooperative modes that these games offered do not appeal as much. If you can shoot a thousand enemies per minute, why settle for ten? Especially if those enemies are not your friends…
And in the case of Syndicate – the Indian market’s dynamics, a younger average age of gamers meant that the emotional attachment that us old timers had with the title did not push them to buy it. If anything – the Indian market is going to heavily go for the heavy hitters and less likely to go for the offshoots in the shooter genre. With time – as the market keeps growing and ageing – things might change…but for the moment, we expect Black Ops 2 to perform well. Medal of Honour is a bit of an unknown quantity for the Indian market, it could do very well as gamers look for a new shooter and it’s timing is perfect…or it could suffer the same fate as Ghost Recon and Syndicate. We’re not expecting too much from Halo 4…but you never know, Halo fan boys might come out of the closet for the latest one.
2013 should be interesting – the popularity of such the reinvented Tomb Raider, the widely expected Last of Us and Watch Dogs will tell us a lot about the preferences of gamers in India.
What are your thoughts? Did you choose Max Payne 3 or Ghost Recon: Future Soldier? Why?
We offer all the latest and greatest shooters on our Web site. If you wanna pick up some shooters at unbeatable prices, check out our high quality used games for Xbox here (includes Mass Effect 3, MW3, Black Ops & many more) or our PS3 collection (includes MW3, Syndicate, Deus Ex & many more).
Disclaimer: Some people will have objections to the classifications of shooter, especially for games such as Tomb Raider, GTA, and Deus Ex. I’ve taken the “if you shoot something, it’s a shooter” perspective. Controversial, I know…
And apologies to PC fan boys for not covering your platform in a lot of depth (except for the early days). You’ve accused us of being too console oriented, and that’s true – we write on what we know. We’re actually looking for PC bloggers if you’re interested…