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Forums - Sony Discussion - Creative freedom, bravery, and risk in games development/publishing

IcaroRibeiro said:
Mnementh said:

Sony has the PSVR, it's along with the Switch the most innovative thing in console gaming last decade, but Switch is just hardware while PSVR is both hardware and new software experiences.

However I think PSVR still far too expensive to be a mass market product, plus their games needs to be designed exclusively for it, making very hard to create AAA games for such niche market, that's why I can't see VR gaming gaining much traction. Innovation per se isn't exactly something to be celebrated if don't make it accessible, at least in entertainment industry

What about Kinect that MS released the last two gens? I find Kinect more innovating than VR interms of risk and tech. I dont see anyone patting MS on the back for those risks.

I really enjoy my VR Quest 2, games like Half Life Alyx blew me away. However VR, like Kinect are expensive accessories that have to be brought separately. The reason the Wii motion was ao successful was they were bundled with the console at launch, pushing devs to utilise it. MS tried bundling Kinect 2 and failed and Sony has yet to Bundle VR. They are the true risks taken.



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Geoff's first awards show in 2003 had Madden 2004 win Game of the Year and Tony Hawk win best Sports game.

2018 Octopath had the best soundtrack that year but RDR2 won it because they were more popular and paid to be there with a concert or whatever. GOTY awards are a joke. It's a popularity contest, not actual best. Typically games the appeal the the masses win. You will never see a visual novel win even tho a VN has the highest Meta score of any game ever made this year.


You don't really find true creativity in almost every AAA game these days. They're almost always two sides of the same coin. Same kinds of games and often the same franchise over and over. Similar UI, Gameplay, mechanics even if old and tired and can be improved. Are not. People in mass buy it so little reason to make them better. People, in general, don't like to reward truly creative works. People want more of the same in any media. Creatures of habit. Always exceptions. Just as a general rule. Publishers are risk-averse and audiences generally seem to not mind. I think this is why Platinum Games don't sell well. Media Molecule games don't do that great. Housemarque games like Nex Machina or Returnal but still don't really succeed. Why I'm so jaded. 80s-early 2000s in gaming companies made all sorts of new IPs and new ideas. Always trying something new.

SNES launched with 1 est series in Mario and some new IPs like F-Zero and Pilotwings. Now a console launch is, here is this cross-gen 3rd party games..so more of the same.I miss the industry that actually gave a fuck about trying new things.

Side note. VR is about as old as gaming itself.

Last edited by Leynos - on 27 June 2021

Bite my shiny metal cockpit!

Leynos said:

Side note. VR is about as old as gaming itself.



...to avoid getting banned for inactivity, I may have to resort to comments that are of a lower overall quality and or beneath my moral standards.

IcaroRibeiro said:
JWeinCom said:

I'm not sure how PSVR is the most innovative thing in gaming considering how long VR tech has been around, and that Sony was not the first one to market a home version (Oculus and Samsung Gear VR preceded it). 

Never heard of any of them. Which console used either?

Welcome to the 1990s

These were used in VR Cafes. Yes VR Cafes.

SEGA and Atari had some attempts in the 90s. "but VR now is better" yes and and a PS5 is more powerful than a Genesis, So?



Bite my shiny metal cockpit!

Jaicee said:

 I hope that Sony can continue to support developers even when the bold risks they may take with their creative freedom under the PlayStation umbrella don't succeed commercially. I guess that's all I really wanted to say.

I think while this may be great for Sony to do this, it's clear that they won't if commercial success is not being met. And I'd say that your examples don't show commercial incompatibility either:

  • Druckman has announced that the story for a potential TLoU has begun. There is the HBO show and a remake of the first supposedly in development. This expansion and continuation wouldn't be happening with a series in decline.
  • Returnal is made on a smaller budget than other Sony title. Housemarque only had +- 80 employees in 2020. Contrast that with the new deal Sony announced with start up Deviation: they already have over 100 employees and are still hiring. Returnal doesn't require a massive sales number to be profitable. But it's clear that Returnal's performance will indicate whether Sony continues to invest in the studio or not.
  • Death Stranding has a PS5 directors cut coming. Sony wouldn't be sinking more money into an unprofitable game with a next-gen only release.

Take Days Gone: it appears that a sequel was not greenlit (for reasons we might never know), so Sony does expect something from their studios. Creative freedom can only go so far before Sony rightfully reins in the studio.

That said, risk taking is definitely something that is great about Sony. And they appear to be taking the stance even further with partnerships. Going back to Deviation games, they stated that Sony was giving them the same support and access to help that they give their own studios. And Deviation is making a game they want to make. It's an exciting time for PlayStation. But at the end of the day, continued support will only come with some commercial success. 



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Jaicee said:
JWeinCom said:

Your response to MZuzek doesn't really address what I said. It just continues to assert that GOTY is somehow relevant to the point of creative freedom. And apparently, also to artistic achievements. These are assertions that need some sort of demonstration.

And if we're saying TLOU2 is risky because female led games don't win overall GOTY too often, then that really makes no sense. Assuming that being female lead lowers your chances of being overall GOTY, then all Sony risked was not getting the overall GOTY. In that case, was Animal Crossing a huge gamble? I mean, how many past GOTY nominees have been village building sims with an animal cast? How about Mario Odyssey? How many overall GOTY winners feature a chubby italian plumber? Or are platformers? Looking solely at past GOTY winners is a really bad way to determine risk (again, unless you're speaking of the risk of not being overall goty).

As for Returnal...

1. You are assuming this is the reason, but there are many other potential reasons. I would say the biggest reason is because there is much more incentive for a smaller dev to make rougelike games, as they allow you to create games that can be played for a long time while minimizing the the amount of resources you need to create. At any rate, this genre has become well established. Taking something that is already fairly popular and boosting its budget is not what I would classify as highly risky, nor is making a difficult game, as there is a decent market for those as well.

2. Yes... but new IPs aren't all that uncommon. 

3. And that's not all that uncommon either. Metroid, Control, Tomb Raider, TLOU2, Resident Evil (around half the time), Mirror's Edge, etc. Less common than male lead games, but still not something that unusual. I would say virtually every major developer has some female lead games.

4. I don't know the story that well, but the core concept doesn't seem too far out there. Hades, Death Loop, and even now in movies like Boss Level. Kind of becoming a thing.

5. Ehhh... selling a game at standard price is now considered risk taking? Nintendo's selling 1-2 Switch, a five year old mini game collection with virtually no actual assets, at 50 bucks. Those daredevils. 

Basically, it comes down to, this is an AAA game (maybe) in a genre that is more popular among smaller devs, and it has a female lead... which really doesn't scream "RISK! BRAVERY! CREATIVE FREEDOM!" to me. Since you singled out Nintendo, I'm not sure why something like Octopath Traveller (new IP, unique narrative structure, sprite based classical JRPG being sold for full price), Codename S.T.E.A.M. (new IP steampunk SRPG featuring steampunk versions of classic literature characters and aliens being sold at full price, for the 3DS at least), ARMS (new IP, motion controlled 3D fighting game with bizarre deformed characters), Ring Fit (New IP that is controlled with a Pilates ring), LABO (games played using DIY cardboard controllers), Splatoon (new IP, new spin on team based shooters with tons of new game modes), or so on wouldn't count. If having a female lead is enough to qualify, what about Bayonetta 2 and 3? If anything, a female led sequel to a game that sold around a million copies across 2 consoles is WAAAAAAY more risky than a female lead sequel to a game that sold 17 million copies (17 times more risky to be precise, assuming budgets are equal). Or Bayonetta 1 for that matter.

It kind of feels like we're working backwards starting with games you intrinsically feel are risky and then creating a set of unintuitive rules to justify that (i.e. looking at GOTY winners which I still have no idea why we should do).  So, again, how are you determining which games are risky and brave and which aren't? Is there any objective criteria we can use? Why does GOTY matter if we're talking about risk? Cause otherwise, all anyone can say on this matter is...

I'm not a man, bruh.

In my response to Mnementh, I addressed the good point you make about the risks involved in marketing more casual and just plain clever and quirky games in the console business today like Arms and Splatoon and gimmicks like Labo that are fair enough. No need to get all hysterical on me. I'm not an unreasonable person and you should know that by now.

But on Returnal though, we're going to disagree.

1) The genre is an established niche in the indie market. It is not so much within the cultural mainstream of gaming. I mean I don't run across all kinds of roguelikes on store shelves, I don't know about you. I typically have to download them.

2) New IPs are rule in the indie market. They are definitely the exception in the AAA landscape, NOT the rule, and that's even more true for games that sell large numbers of copies and manage to turn a profit.

3) It's uncommon enough that there are like five times as many games released in a given year that use male-only lead characters. Pointing to a handful of exceptions that didn't sell half as well doesn't exactly make much of a case. Seriously, Horizon Zero Dawn and the 2013 Tomb Raider remake are the best-selling female-led games of all time and they've sold like 11 or 12 million copies. This is the basis your argument here stands on. You don't have one, in other words.

4) To counter my point, you highlight a smaller, indie game of different thematic material, a game that hasn't been released yet, and a movie I've never heard of before. *shrugs* I think you're just going out of your way to be disagreeable rather than even trying to make an honest argument because you don't have one. There's no one video that can explain Returnal's entire story because it's a little bit subjective, but here is what most of the internet (including me) feels is the single best Returnal story explainer out there.

5) $70 is the price tag that was charged, and it was a stupid decision to make, particularly given all the other risks the game already takes. It was also just the wrong decision.

Okay, it's past midnight here and I didn't get three hours of sleep last night. I'm headed to bed.

I don't think my response was hysterical.

As for Returnal...

1. Yes, and there are plenty of niche games. Like I brought up, Octopath Traveler. Not a whole lot of classic JRPGs like that, even among indie games.

2. Yes, but still there are plenty of new IPS, and a fair number of them are successful. It is more risky than using an established franchise, but it's simply not something that's so rare that doing it should elicit gasps of awe.

3. No... because your argument was about risk. Just because male games tend to sell better does not mean that any time you make a game with a female character you are taking a risk. It simply means you are not using the most common path to success, and there are reasons for doing so beyond simply taking a risk. We'll stick with Octopath Traveler. For every old school sprite based JRPG there are at least 5 shooting games that will sell more copies. Does that mean any this was a brave risk that demonstrates how much Nintendo values developer freedom?

4. 

I just gave a few recent examples. I'm sorry, I didn't know I was supposed to list every one. But... Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Source Code, The Endless,

Spoiler!
Astro Boy and the Omega Factor

, Majora's Mask,

Spoiler!
Bravely Default

, Christmas Everyday, Happy Death Day,

Spoiler!

Spoiler!
Hickman's House of X and Powers of X

, Xena Warrior Princess,

Spoiler!
The Good Place

, Buffy the Vampire.

Time loops are not a new idea in fiction. Kind of based off Nietzche's idea of eternal recurrence. Those are the pieces of media I've seen that invoke the idea of time loops in a pretty direct way. There are others that sort of do but not as directly (Naruto, Harry Potter, South Park, and Mass Effect or Dr. Strange for instance). I'm sure there are many other examples I didn't name (I'd be shocked if there isn't a Star Trek or Simposon's episode of that). https://www.imdb.com/list/ls069145438/ I'm sure it might add some other quirk (not watching the video cause I may buy it), but the timeloop aspect is the main one they've advertised to potential buyers, so (unless there is something so divisive in the story that it would turn people off when word of mouth spread) that's the part that would be relevant to how risky the game is.

More importantly though, even if all of these examples of time loops in media didn't exist, so what? Why would this make it risky as a narrative element? Are there people that are just would hate the concept and would not buy the game because it has time loops (even though as demonstrated it's actually pretty popular in narrative ways). The fact that others have not done this exact story in this exact way doesn't mean it's exceptionally risky. More broadly, doing things that are not the norm is not inherently brave or risky.

As for your assessment of my personality and motivation, you can keep those to yourself. If the argument is flawed, explained why it's flawed. I am addressing your arguments and not making any statements about you, and expect the same in return.

5. I guess charging full price for games is brave and risky now...

Really the argument boils down to the fact that this is a new IP and a style of game that is popular in indie gaming but hasn't been tested in the AAA space. And sure that's a lot riskier than GTA VI will be, but to me it's not so exceptionally rare that it is noteworthy or it says something significant about a publisher willing to publish it.

Which leads me again to the point that you're claiming I don't have. My point is that you have given no intelligible way to identify what counts as risky. Without that, you cannot support your claim that Sony is particularly noteworthy in their commitment to risk, bravery, and freedom, and no real discussion can be had.

So, can you explain how we tell when a game is brave and free? If so, how did you determine that Sony produces more of these types of games than other developers?

Last edited by JWeinCom - on 27 June 2021

Leynos said:

Geoff's first awards show in 2003 had Madden 2004 win Game of the Year and Tony Hawk win best Sports game.

2018 Octopath had the best soundtrack that year but RDR2 won it because they were more popular and paid to be there with a concert or whatever. GOTY awards are a joke. It's a popularity contest, not actual best. Typically games the appeal the the masses win. You will never see a visual novel win even tho a VN has the highest Meta score of any game ever made this year.


You don't really find true creativity in almost every AAA game these days. They're almost always two sides of the same coin. Same kinds of games and often the same franchise over and over. Similar UI, Gameplay, mechanics even if old and tired and can be improved. Are not. People in mass buy it so little reason to make them better. People, in general, don't like to reward truly creative works. People want more of the same in any media. Creatures of habit. Always exceptions. Just as a general rule. Publishers are risk-averse and audiences generally seem to not mind. I think this is why Platinum Games don't sell well. Media Molecule games don't do that great. Housemarque games like Nex Machina or Returnal but still don't really succeed. Why I'm so jaded. 80s-early 2000s in gaming companies made all sorts of new IPs and new ideas. Always trying something new.

SNES launched with 1 est series in Mario and some new IPs like F-Zero and Pilotwings. Now a console launch is, here is this cross-gen 3rd party games..so more of the same.I miss the industry that actually gave a fuck about trying new things.

Side note. VR is about as old as gaming itself.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

I feel the exact same way. When gaming was in its infancy. It was all about companies trying new things to increase sales, to win people over. That was when Nintendo and Sega battled it out. Now that the industry has been built, companies don't need to try new things anymore, they know that there are paying customers (consumers) out their now. Unfortunately for us, the business directions have changed due to this. The current mentality is "Why build a new IP or create new gameplay designs, when you can easily use an already existing IP or its formula which is cheaper and easier and still sell" 

Last edited by Azzanation - on 27 June 2021

I can see where you're coming from but I disagree on many things here. Sony is among the least risk-friendly companies, they hardly take any risks in general. All their blockbusters follow the same formula and innovate little to nothing. So TLOU2 has a female protagonist, cool but that's not very risky when female leads have been around for 30 years now. That said, yes, there are more male lead characters by far, nobody denies that, but still having a female lead is nothing innovative anymore and deserves no special recognition.

Sony, Microsoft, EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Take 2, basically all big western developers/publishers hate taking risks and rather churn out one predictable formulaic game after another. Granted that exceptions exist everytime but they are just that. Exceptions. Very rare ones even. I'd argue Capcom took a much greater risk with the perspective change in Resident Evil VII than anything Sony did in the past two decades. Don't even get me started on Nintendo.

And to some extent there is a valid reason behind this because it makes the management behind the curtains predictable. If publishers know that certain types of games usually achieve certain amounts of sales then they can easily extrapolate how much money and resources they need and therefore assume predictable business outcomes and therefore are able to maintain stable jobs and work environments for their employees. On a company level you would want to maintain job security for your workforce, wouldn't you? So basically, many blockbuster games that customers buy in masses are one major reason why this industry keeps being healthy. If you want to be creative you have every means to be so but you shouldn't expect high sales. Creative and/or innovative games are more like prestige projects.

Now I don't see why you put so much weight on game awards because they are a terrible metric. Other users have already said how useless they are so I won't repeat.



Gameplay > Graphics

Substance > Style

Art Direction > Realism

It's hard to spot creative game development in Sony's first party lineup when their recent string of hit games mainly consists of the same approach - third person open world game with RPG elements - packaged into different settings and themes. It is only somewhat brave to make something like Returnal, because it falls into a genre that has been highly popular in recent years; it doesn't take a genius to figure out that there's a market for roguelike/roguelite games, so taking the chance to throw money at it is not that risky. Its commercial failure is most likely the result of the miscalculation that gamers would be willing to pay the AAA price for randomly generated content rather than an unattractive female lead.

Game journalism has shown to possess an inherit bias against what Nintendo does over the course of the past 15 years where only few Nintendo IPs count as an exception, such as 3D Mario and 3D Zelda. When GotY awards are determined by such a group, then the result that many Nintendo IPs get regularly snubbed isn't surprising, but rather expected. That player's choice awards lean towards the same games as the journalists do isn't a surprise either, because the inherit bias curates a general stance among the readership of each individual outlet. That's why we commonly see such a disconnect between awards and overall game sales.

Probably the best way to judge bravery and risk in game development and publishing is to ask the question how many other publishers would devote as much money to the type in game in question. This does not only concern the investment in game development, but also the commitment to marketing dollars.

At some point of writing this post I am wondering why I bother. Might as well cut it short and say that Jim Ryan has a habit of saying things that are supposed to sound good, but commonly ends up with contradictions, either immediately or sometime in the future. The PS5 is deliberately designed to deliver the same old things, but of course people want to hear that it's a beacon of innovation.



Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

A Biased Review Reloaded / Open Your Eyes / Switch Shipments

Agree but in saying that I believe gamepass will allow developers more freedom on creating that risk in order to create something that's different from what everyone is used to, instead of worrying whether it will make profit. That's only because every member on gamepass will try the game at least once. I am. Hoping to see more devloeprs taking more risk this gen