I am posting this thread in order to address a contention within the community, as well as generate some discussion around the question. The contention I am addressing is: "A game needs to change in order to be successful and/or stay relevant."
This is a common motif amongst the arguments of those who do not belong in the “competitive” (for lack of a better word) community. Before we discuss this idea, we should first ask ourselves how we measure success, as I am sure there are several definitions amongst the Halo community. I believe that success in this case is mostly either argued as initial sales or long term population.
Halo enjoyed its greatest initial sales with the release of Halo 4, which “grossed US$220 million on its launch day and $300 million in its opening week, a record for the franchise.” (wikipedia) Yet, in under a year, its population had plummeted dramatically, struggling to maintain at least 20,000 players or so. Thus, should we consider Halo 4 a successful game? Indeed, many would, and they would even argue: “343 got your money, so who cares?” However, I would disagree, and I would argue that people with this mindset are very much part of the problem.
I would argue that a successful game, which is not only profitable through consistent income from long term dedicated fans, is both memorable and enduring against time. Competitive games such as LoL or CS:GO, I would argue, are successful games. Without having to release annual sequels with constant changes to core gameplay to retain the short term attention spans of its community, both these games have maintained a booming community and population (which far exceeds Halo’s) for several years, without having to change much at all.
So what is TOXIKK, and what is its purpose in this discussion?
TOXIKK is a PC arena shooter currently in development under Reakktor, and available to play with Early Access. I found the premise around Reakktor’s design philosophy rather inspiring: “If arcade shooters were never created, what would the games on the current gen fps market look like now?” I found this a really interesting concept, but since this game is only in Early Access with no visible indicators of success, it’s purpose is purely to offer context to this thread and maybe inspire some interesting discussion.
Whilst TOXIKK shares its similarities with that of Unreal Tournament and Quake, it is also similar to that of vanilla Halo: competitive map design uninfluenced by sprint, vehicular combat etc. For me, TOXIKK shows that you do not need to change or update gameplay in order to be relative or fun.
Time and time again, we hear “all these competitive players want is an updated version of Halo 2.” And I’d argue that, if Microsoft and 343 are interested in the success of the Halo franchise, that is exactly what they should do. Indeed, people often say on these forums “the competitive are the minority, so don’t listen to them.” Yes, they are, but lets go back to what we discussed earlier about definitions of success: Should the developers listen to a majority consumer that will only abandon them in the short run for the next shiny toy, or the dedicated minority who would potentially offer them years of patronage that would only continue to grow?
Unfortunately, the prevailing line of thought that dominates the console fps market amongst consumers is “if it doesn’t change, it will get boring”. This “Shiny Toy Syndrome” has caused Halo to regress into a generic shooter in order to please the masses that make up initial sales. Halo now does not offer any significantly new experiences on the console market, and therefore no long fills a niche. I could just as easily play COD:AW and Titanfall, as I would play Halo.
What is Halo’s model?
Unfortunately, 343 is so desperately trying to create a competitive Twitch.tv eSport, without it actually playing like one. In word, their model and vision for Halo is confused. What I am trying to argue is that they do not need to shake under the pressure of a supposed need for change. Halo 1-3 were far more successful in the long term, than their latter counterparts ever were, and guess what? There was no change between the core gameplay between them. Is this a coincidence? I leave that to discussion.
Since I am no expert on video game marketing and business, I’d take my final words with a grain of salt: If effort is relative to potential outcome and long term success, then surely it would require little effort to create a single dedicated vanilla Halo arena multiplayer game for PC and Xbox. I have no doubt that would be far more memorable and successful in the long run, than this current trilogy of forgettable games. Yes, this thought is based mostly on assumption, but so is the counter argument that Halo would be unsuccessful if it stayed with its vanilla gameplay roots.
This post is not meant to serve as a definitive argument, but merely as an opening for a much larger debate amongst everyone. I have given an incomplete string of thought, full of holes, in order to generate questions for discussion and debate. And so, I leave you with this question:
Which is considered to be more successful: the franchise aimed at initial sales, with a model to push out annual releases with gimmicky, but significant, changes to core gameplay, in order to maintain the short term interest of it’s majority shallow/semi-dedicated playerbase?
A franchise that invests in the long term on one game, with a focus not on change but maintaining its unique gameplay and building its passionate community over the years?
Thank you for reading. Remember that this is all mostly subjective, so lets all be civilised in our discussion and have fun