Game design innovation… in today’s market?


I guess a few game designers were paying attention

The game design plaint that I most routinely dispense is doubtlessly one you’re familiar with. Game design is a dying craft. Publishers have forgotten what makes great games. Sequels are the spawn of Satan.

But maybe I was wrong.

A few fresh game design ideas are out and thriving

That’s right – I surveyed the market today using regression analysis and a four-variable study of the current holiday offerings, based on SKUs shipped, sales totals, sales velocity, and foreign distribution per capita. (Just kidding. Totally unscientific, but based on media coverage, advertising, and the ol’ sales chart.)

I have to commend publishers and developers for actually taking a few real game design risks. The primary success I see, of course, is the Nintendo Wii, which demonstrates that fresh game design starts with risky hardware and a canny knowledge of the gaming audience, its potential for growth, and most of all, that elusive forgotten factor called “fun.” Nintendo game designers understand that “fun” and “gigaflops per CPU clock cycle” are not necessarily tied at the hip.

Some games that are changing the ‘scape

I’m also encouraged by these titles. Maybe there’s hope.

Mirror’s Edge. Brilliant visual design and gameplay that might actually make something out of the rooftop-hopping game dynamic that went nowhere in Assassin’s Creed.

Little Big Planet. A fresh world, a world-building approach, and not a bullet in sight. Is it possible? Don’t get me wrong. I love shooters as much as the next game designer. I just want a balanced game concept diet, y’know?

Spore. Will Wright still marches to his own drummer. Certainly appeals to me more than the Sims.

Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Sure, once you saw the game design for DDR, you probably could’ve come up with the concept for these two. But did you? And c’mon, you have to admit that rockin’ the living room with your pals kicks the pants off Jenga.

The game sales chart still says “FAIL”

At the same time, the game designs that are dominating the sales chart are indeed largely sequels. Madden. (I know, it’s football season.) Mario Kart. GT. Other Mario games. Soulcalibur IV. Tiger Woods.

Still, I’m encouraged to see some fresh blood slowly being injected into the game design bloodstream. Without new ideas, the industry will die, or become trivialized and marginalized like comic books and (shudder) the sports card collectibles industry.

Maybe someday game design will be less of a craft and more of an art.

Ah, what the heck am I saying. Set your sights low. We might get some eye candy that engages a few different brain cells than last year’s game design crop. And that in itself is a revolution.


Join the Conversation


  1. I didn’t know where to post this so I’ma post it here. I have been trying to get someone to do a story of other videogaming companies making boxing games.

    I have been trying to get the guys(I mean Steve) at Operation Sports to do an interview with these different companies(THQ, Codemasters,Midway etc; ) that have some type of fighting or boxing videogame history. Some of them made excuses about the technology and limitations of older consoles. Steve you got have insider connections. Ask questions to pc game creator of Title Bout Championship Boxing like…Why haven’t they hooked up or came together with a company that could add top notch graphics to the foundation that they have set already? or ask THQ why haven’t they even tried when they have wrestling down pat and have an interesting MMA(UFC) game coming out.This definitely would be a good story to get for the fans of this board. I’m hoping one of the writers see this blog and take this task?

    Here are some companies that would be interesting to see what say….

    Take Two- I know they endorsed that Prizefighter game(what were they thinking) I would like to know if they would make another game and put thier Visual Concepts guys on it. Venom Games did a horrible job.

    GrandPrix- Victorious Boxers creator- Ask they why don’t they make a international type boxing game with realistic looking characters. Their game is popular world wide. It would be logical.


    These are just an example of the companies.

  2. hey, thanks for the suggestion, Poetic…!

    we’re not really a reporting site here, but coincidentally I’ve got a boxing blog lined up in response to the announcement of the new Fight Night Round 4 from EA.

    Stay tuned for that, and happy holidays to all!

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