Forums - Gaming Discussion - Are first party games less risk-averse creatively than third party games?

AAA games these days are known for being very risk averse. The sheer costs it takes to make today's high-end games means that Publishers have turned to relying on safe-bet franchises over everything else. If there is a New IP being made, it's usually cut from the same Live-service, Open-world mold as those are what's hot right now apparently. In a sea of franchises and Copy-Cats, The 3 platform holders, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft don't seem to fall into this trap nearly as much. In fact, first party games from these three, also happen to be the most original and unique games of this generation, some even surpassing a lot of today's third party blockbusters.

Sony Interactive Entertainment, has been gaining critical and commercial acclaim unlike anything its ever seen with its PS4 output. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Astro Bot, God of War, Spider-Man, Until Dawn, Dreams, and upcoming games like Ghosts of Tsushima have captured caught the industry's attention for their scope, ambition, and overall quality. I know it's become sort of a meme to label Sony's recent titles as the same Cinematic third-person, action game. And while it's true a lot of first party games on the PS4 feel like that, not many publishers these days would even bother releasing something like Gravity Rush 2 or Concrete Genie. Even in the "Cinematic" games, there's often stories and content most third party games of similar production would avoid like the plague. So while it's true, most of Sony's games tend to be somewhat formulaic, they still bring something interesting to the table.

Microsoft's Xbox Game Studios has struggled the past few years. Many of its studios have closed, Games were tragically cancelled, and the Big 3 Xbox franchises have long since overstayed their welcome. It's easy to argue they've been the weakest of the three first party wise this gen, but lately Microsoft's been trying to fix that. They've acquired several studios over the past year or so, and not only that, they're promising to give them an unlimited budget, and large degree of creative independence. Considering the length of Game Development, we'll have to wait until next generation to see where this goes, but even ignoring that, Microsoft was still able to finance some interesting titles this generation. Insomniac Games' Sunset Overdrive was well received, Rare's Sea of Theives had a less than stellar launch, but from what I've heard, has gotten better with each update. And Ori and the Blind Forest is considered one of the best games on the system, and its sequel is arriving very soon. There's also Ninja Theory's upcoming Bleeding Edge, which seems like an interesting take on the Overwatch style multiplayer game.

Finally, there's Nintendo, Co. Ltd. Of the three, Nintendo is the most dependent on its IP and homemade software. They're the "Sanrio" of gaming, using its iconic Mascots like Mario, Kirby, Pokemon, Link, Yoshi, DK, and more to fuel often critically acclaimed Software, along with licensed merchandise and media. But even with it's IP-driven business model, Nintendo is still committed to games and ideas that nobody really has seen before. There's Splatoon, a multiplayer shooter that focuses on ink and territory control with a distinct style all its own. ARMS, a 3D arena fighter where you play as combatants with Stretchy ARMS. Nintendo Labo, a series of Cardboard based Construction Toys using the Switch and its Joy-Con in new ways. And their newest creation, Ring-Fit Adventure an RPG played entirely using a Pilates Ring and Leg Strap to do fitness moves and actions. There's also smaller titles like Snipperclips, 1-2 Switch, Astral Chain, Sushi Striker, and even Brain Age that very few, if any publishers have a recent equivalent to. Even in established franchises, Nintendo games often ooze with ideas and creativity. Even when you play a game in a long running series like Luigi's Mansion 3, you feel like you're playing a game that the developers wanted to make, not a game that was simply made because of corporate mandates.

I think the reason the Platform holders aren't as creatively stagnant as most big third party publishers is their need to make their consoles stand out, as game development and hardware gets more and more standardized, there's more preasure on the platform holders to try and make games that make their console stand out, and that means touching games and ideas that other publishers wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole.



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Maybe Nintendo's, but not Sony's.



No doubt about it.

That is their responsibility as a platform holder. They earn royalties from every other software and service that graces their platform, and in return, they invest in the medium like no one else can.

That is why I have great respect for Sony, Nintendo, and more recently Microsoft, while I have/had very little respect for Steam, Google, and Apple. If a platform holder is not investing back into their platform, then they don't deserve to be a platform holder. No one has infuriated me more than Valve when it comes to this. After they found success with Steam, they completely abandonded creativity, and just sat back and let the cash flow in.

I whole heartly believe that it is the job of a successful platform holder to try new things, constatly improve the old, and beyond all, Create, Create, Create.

Right now I am mostly happpy with the state of the industry. With Microsoft serious about creating, Apple and Google beoming invested in the market, and Sony and Nintendo continuing to do what they have done for decades, things are looking great. If anything, I only expect more new and exciting software as Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Google, and Apple all fight for our time and money next generation. With things like Streaming and VR playing a much bigger role next gen, there should be no shortage of first time and platform exclusive experiences based on the tech each company has in its ecosystem.



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10/03/2010 

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Short answer: Yes. 

Long answer: Yes, well, obviously, as you yourself point out, since console manufacturers benefit from whatever prestige/critical acclaim their own games can get they invest plenty in the flagship games of their own consoles. Their formulaic (so to speak) franchises are very much over-studied and the risks they take are "calculated" so to speak. They can be creative and to certain degree and they'll still sell well (Not Sega tho). Not to mention they get more visibility and marketing than other games do. Most third party developers cant make that kind of investment. With the cost of manufacturing games as it is today - Again, as you yourself note - and with games like Battle Royale multiplayers being the cash grabbers they are, you gotta assume that third party developers would wanna minimize risks, costs or simply go were the money is. Creativity becomes a luxury. Ni No Kuni (ps3) a new franchise made by a 3rd party developer and an overall good game with a gorgeous art direction sold 1.5m and that was basically considered successful. Meanwhile, Fifa18 sold almost 12m only on the ps4. Yay creativity. 

As far as first party developers go, I'd argue that Nintendo is the one that takes more risks creatively (clearly) but I'd also say that games like Splatoon, Pikimin and specially Arms  wouldve been received very differently if done by a different developer, even if they stay the exact same games and release for the exact same console. These developers are not held to the same standards even by their core audiences - more to your point I guess. Dont quote me on this, I wont bother having this discussion. 

But I do not understand what you mean with Sony and Ms- Specially Ms-  The games you mention from Sony are nothing alike (and only 1 of them really qualifies as "cinematic") and arguably they have the best (at least currently) 3rd party support, which has been (arguably) extensive enough and with lots of variety. In the case of MS - My personal and completely subjective perception - is that its probably their first party games that screwed them up, isnt it? Their own franchises have had a very non-eventful, low key life this gen. Even Gears which I personally havent played but I hear Gears5 is pretty good, came and went without much noise. I imagine it sold well, but It wasnt as much of an event as it used to be. If anything MS arguably did not take enough risks this gen or didnt invest enough in marketing perhaps? I dunno. That'd be a discussion worth having. Not today tho. If you bothered to read all the way to here, heres a porn recommendation: Kiera Winters. 



Jpcc86 said:

But I do not understand what you mean with Sony and Ms- Specially Ms-  The games you mention from Sony are nothing alike (and only 1 of them really qualifies as "cinematic") and arguably they have the best (at least currently) 3rd party support, which has been (arguably) extensive enough and with lots of variety. In the case of MS - My personal and completely subjective perception - is that its probably their first party games that screwed them up, isnt it? Their own franchises have had a very non-eventful, low key life this gen. Even Gears which I personally havent played but I hear Gears5 is pretty good, came and went without much noise. I imagine it sold well, but It wasnt as much of an event as it used to be. If anything MS arguably did not take enough risks this gen or didnt invest enough in marketing perhaps? I dunno. That'd be a discussion worth having. Not today tho. If you bothered to read all the way to here, heres a porn recommendation: Kiera Winters. 

With Sony, many of their bigger games all follow the same kind of template. Realistic Graphics, Action-gameplay, heavy emphasis on spectacle and set pieces as well as Story. It's fair to argue that their biggest games are somewhat formulaic. But even then, you still get stuff like Concrete Genie and Gravity Rush 2. If we take PS VR and PlayLink into account, then you also have things like Erica and Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Even within the "PlayStation Exclusive Template" of their AAA games, Sony's First party games still take more and bigger creative risks than the majority of AAA third party games.

With Microsoft, their problem is that they simply haven't been releasing enough games. They've shedded many studios this generation, and have cancelled several highly anticipated games. With a few exceptions like Ori and Quantum Break, they just having been putting out anything that catches the industry's attention the way Nintendo and Sony do. Which is why I'm hoping the step it up with Xbox Scarlett. They need more unique games, and more innovative IP than the aging Halo/Forza/Gears trinity. Microsoft has said going forward, they want XGS to publish 3-4 games a year. That's nothing compared to the 20 or so games Nintendo publishes, but it'd at least be better than the 1-2 games a year they're currently at.



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1st party games take from the limitless marketing budget, so there is no risk involved. Publishers without their own platform don't have that luxury.



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Metallox said:
Maybe Nintendo's, but not Sony's.

Yes. Sony's games are quite formulaic these days if you know what to look at. That doesn't necessarily mean they're bad. Pixar does the same thing, for instance.



 

 

 

 

 

TheMisterManGuy said:

With Sony, many of their bigger games all follow the same kind of template. Realistic Graphics, Action-gameplay, heavy emphasis on spectacle and set pieces as well as Story. It's fair to argue that their biggest games are somewhat formulaic. But even then, you still get stuff like Concrete Genie and Gravity Rush 2. If we take PS VR and PlayLink into account, then you also have things like Erica and Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Even within the "PlayStation Exclusive Template" of their AAA games, Sony's First party games still take more and bigger creative risks than the majority of AAA third party games.

With Microsoft, their problem is that they simply haven't been releasing enough games. They've shedded many studios this generation, and have cancelled several highly anticipated games. With a few exceptions like Ori and Quantum Break, they just having been putting out anything that catches the industry's attention the way Nintendo and Sony do. Which is why I'm hoping the step it up with Xbox Scarlett. They need more unique games, and more innovative IP than the aging Halo/Forza/Gears trinity. Microsoft has said going forward, they want XGS to publish 3-4 games a year. That's nothing compared to the 20 or so games Nintendo publishes, but it'd at least be better than the 1-2 games a year they're currently at.

Bold -> But thats my point tho. Those are very general aspects and you applied them to put together very different games that I personally think have almost nothing in common and therefore I couldnt really say they part from the same formula.  "Formulaic" is a very different thing than having same/similar high/low quality standards. In the same way you say that, I could say  "Nintendo games are fomulaic because they are all colorful, cartoonish and dont lean heavily on the narrative of their story - if they have a story at all". All of those things are true, but that doesnt really represent what those games really are or how the play. Zelda, Splatoon or Mario Kart are nothing alike in the same way Metal Gear Solid, Bloodborne or Crash Bandicoot are nothing alike. I feel this is more about the perception people have rather than the actual reality of what these companies do. 

I agree with your point on MS tho, they absolutely haven't been releasing enough games - in general. Add to that what I said that I do feel their marketing is lacking. When they do release something new very rarely does it have enough attention like Cuphead did. They cancelled Scalebound and whatever your opinion of that game was, I remember it being HIGHLY anticipated. The disappointment with MS was a big conversation at the time. 



haxxiy said:
Metallox said:
Maybe Nintendo's, but not Sony's.

Yes. Sony's games are quite formulaic these days if you know what to look at. That doesn't necessarily mean they're bad. Pixar does the same thing, for instance.

something trees, or something



Yes. Or at least, they’re much more interesting for whatever reason. Which is why the amount of third party games I buy on any modern system is slim.