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.

They are, but it's less to do with 1st party companies and more to do with the stagnation of 3rd party companies. Eradicating AA games has a lot to do with that, too.

It's all about the budget and not about how much risk you're taking. A ton of 3rd party Japanese stuff still is in that mid budget area, not just indies but not quite as big as AAA games either. Take Monster Hunter World, a game which eagerly flaunts its complexity and difficulty on its biggest release, but which is celebrated for doing so. It even gives you a ton of free dlc to keep you engaged over time. There's no reason why western games can't do this too.

It's mostly because 3rd party publishers are a bit like an octopus and have more of a "bottom line" philosophy in where their tentacles reach, whereas 1st parties have a brand and reputation to also think about. They have to be more aware of the "innovate or die" mantra in order to distinguish themselves from the competition, which is where exclusives come into play.

It's ironic as one would think it'd be more the other way around where 3rd parties can afford to take more risks, but 1st parties quite simply have more reason to care about where they end up because there's less to fall back on.

I believe they are. But for one easy to see reason.

Third Party Games can take all the risks, and the First Party Game that Capitalizes on the rare Third Party Game breakaway success the best will become the richest.

Weird concept? Sit with me a spell and we'll talk.

Let's start with a little game called Team Fortress 2 to ease us in. While not strictly 3rd party, it wasn't barking with the big dogs like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty at the time.

I couldn't tell you how much I was in love with 2Fort. There were days I literally played it from Sun Up to Sun Down. And as some of you know, I HATE online games. But I loved it. I could plan my way, help my team, and we could score intel like it was no tomorrow. It was brilliant. And then... the weirdest thing happened. The game updated with hats.

Just hats.

And it opened the door like no other did for game cosmetics. Remember how much crap Bethesda was given because of Horse Armor? Just 3 short years later, The world went crazy for hats. Then emotes. Things that really never used to matter that much today drive video game economy.

Fun Fact, the first Hat Update for TF2 was May 21st 2009. It's been over a decade since that one move changed the video game landscape forever.

But let's go to a real 3rd party game. Hell, a game that was just cobbled together by essentially one guy. That game made that man into a billionaire. His name is Notch. The Game was Minecraft. And again, even a decade later do we still see the Crafting Mechanic present in games like never before.

Hey, do you know what some people find to be fun? being dropped into a buggy game with 99 other players, scrambling for a gun, and being sniped half way across the same map every single time. The Battle Royale mode from Player Unknown's Battlegrounds is currently fizzling out, but think about how powerful it was.

The original Fortnite was an upscaled rip off of minecraft. And it failed. But PUBG came about just at the right time and made so much noise for itself that anyone who was anyone tried to make their own version. The creators of Fortnite saw that their game wasn't doing anything, said why not, and became the Gaming Force of the last Two Years.

And speaking about shooters, there was a time when the idea of having a first person shooter on a console was straight up laughable. Yet, one company stood up and said that they could do it. And they created a military shooter that no one thought was possible. That at the time seem so realistic and accessible that gamers flocked to it.

No. It was not Call of Duty. The First Call of Duty game came out in 2003. And you're forgiven in thinking it was Halo. In truth, that game came out in 2001 The game I was talking about was Medal of Honor, which came out in 1999. And while Halo and Call of Duty are still putting out games to this day, people forget Medal of Honor was a thing.

I don't blame them. The last game was Medal of Honor: Warfighter in 2012.

There's no need to create any more if you're a First Party Game. All you have to do is sit, bide your time, look at the next current thing that takes off, and adapt it with more designers and a bigger budget than the smaller guys can hope to have. Instant hit.

ObsidianJones:

And speaking about shooters, there was a time when the idea of having a first person shooter on a console was straight up laughable. Yet, one company stood up and said that they could do it. And they created a military shooter that no one thought was possible. That at the time seem so realistic and accessible that gamers flocked to it.

No. It was not Call of Duty. The First Call of Duty game came out in 2003. And you're forgiven in thinking it was Halo. In truth, that game came out in 2001 The game I was talking about was Medal of Honor, which came out in 1999. And while Halo and Call of Duty are still putting out games to this day, people forget Medal of Honor was a thing.

You w0t m8?

Medal of Honor was a knee-jerk reaction game that tried to marry the look and feel of Saving Private Ryan with the gameplay of Goldeneye. It succeeded spectacularly, but the N64 had been doing console shooters successfully for over two years by that point.

MOH was a great game for the PS1, but don't you dare try and suggest it solidified the FPS genre on consoles.

hanselthecaretaker:

It?s ironic as one would think it?d be more the other way around where 3rd parties can afford to take more risks, but 1st parties quite simply have more reason to care about where they end up because there?s less to fall back on.

Not to mention, First parties also get revenue from Hardware sales, Subscription services, and System selling franchises that leads to a larger budget for software development. Third party publishers meanwhile, rely almost entirely on Software sales, so there's more to loose for them.

 

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