Whether video games are getting worse or not comes down to everyone’s personal preferences.
That said, I will be stating just another opinion (mine) in this article, and I will be sharing some thoughts about the matter from the game development perspective.
Are video games getting worse?
No. Video games are actually generally getting better. Compared to many years ago, video games these days have insanely better graphics, better audio quality, larger worlds, more complex stories, better multiplayer options, and so much more.
Again, this is just an opinion. All of the mentioned improvements might not mean anything to the players who only care about the core game play experience.
But even if you only consider gameplay as the deciding factor, I would still argue that there are a lot of new video games with some excellent game play experiences that come out every year. You just have to look for them.
I mean… Have you played “Hades”? The Horizon games? They’re brilliant.
While I think that we are still getting some great video games every year, there are a lot of reasons for why one might assume that video games in general are going downhill.
Here are some of the reasons that may have contributed to the bad reputation the new video games have.
1- Many video games are targeting wider audiences than before
A lot of game development studios these days have to plan their games in a way that fits all of their player’s expectations.
The more gamers there are out there, the more people you have to take into account when designing your video games. That is if you are planning to widen the target audience of your game.
That said, game designers are having to find ways to keep their games fun for all people, and that can have some negative effect on the overall quality of these games.
Getting that balance right is one of the most challenging parts of game design.
2- Hardware is getting better
You might ask, how can this be a bad thing? Well, it’s definitely not a bad thing, but the huge rate of improvement in computer hardware has introduced endless possibilities when it comes to making video games.
Graphics can be hyper realistic these days with a constant frame rate, games can be huge without worrying about memory size compared to 10s of years ago, audio is enhanced, and so on.
Back in the old days, game developers didn’t have any of these fancy technological advances to impress their audience with, so they were forced to focus their efforts on providing the best “game play” experience possible because that was one of the only ways they could impress their players.
If the game play wasn’t right in the old days, the game didn’t have a lot to offer.
This is a bit different these days where many game devs are spending more time focusing on the graphics and less time focusing on the actual game play experience, and these games may end up being just another generic and forgettable video game with some flashy graphics.
Note that I totally believe that there are some fantastic new video games with insanely good game play experiences as mentioned earlier, but there are also a lot of crappy video games with insanely good visuals that might trick you into believing that the game is good, and all of this is because the hardware allows it.
3- Game development costs are very high
Running a game development studio is very costly. Some indie games can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make and AAA games can shoot up to several million dollars.
On top of that, the sales of a certain video game generally fade away after a certain amount of time, unlike running an app that has a monthly subscription for example.
That said, game development studios will have to keep producing new video games on a regular basis, and they have to get it right almost every single time or else they might not be able to survive the losses that they get from a failed launch.
All of these reasons are pushing many game development studios to do what “already works”, and leave innovation aside.
I think this is why many AAA games feel the same. It is because large companies are using the formulas that are known to work, and try to stay away from experimenting with major changes to game mechanics in between their games.
Since a single failed game can ruin a reputable game development studio, these large studios are being more careful with what they want to put out, and they put out what works. Many of them are dropping originality in fear of their ideas not working, and then just going back to the same old ideas that are proven to work.
Other studios are opting in for the “pay to win” model where you constantly have to keep making purchases to see significant advances in your progress, and that is definitely affecting the reputation of today’s video games.
4- Making video games is getting easier every year
The barrier of entry when it comes to the video games industry is getting easier as more tools are being accessible to people.
There are tons of tutorials online on how to make video games, there are game engines that make things much easier for you, and there are large communities online that are willing to help game devs from all experience levels.
That doesn’t mean that game development is very easy now (Spoiler alert, it isn’t). This just means that game development is “easier than it was before”.
That said, more and more video games are being made, and most of them are not going to be great.
All of this is making it more difficult these days to hand pick the best video games out of the huge piles of options.
Even though there are a lot of factors that might make you think that video games are actually getting worse, I do believe that you can still find excellent video game releases on a yearly basis.