Why studios are taking fewer chances now
Today, risks happen on a smaller scale. Mold-breaking games are crafted by lone developers in their bedrooms, rather than labored over by a team of hundreds. Even original intellectual properties tend to feel safe. Earlier this year, Warner Bros. found success with Dying Light, a zombie parkour adventure that plays as much like an amalgam of geeky trends as it sounds. Otherwise, it was a year of more of the same. There's a new Batman, a new Star Wars, a new Mortal Kombat, a new Halo, and a new Battlefield -- all functional, all extensions of an aging risk. The shelves look like they did in 2007.
The only truly extraordinary intellectual property released this year is Bloodborne. Developed by FromSoftware and released to PlayStation 4 by Sony Computer Entertainment, the project's developer, Hidetaka Miyazaki, is something of an auteur in the gaming world. Revered fans of Miyazaki's cult role-playing game Demon's Souls helped Bloodborne sell 2 million copies in its first six months on the market, numbers that "exceeded expectations," according to Sony. It holds a 92% on Metacritic, making it the second-highest-rated game of the year. The risk of an untested property paid off in critical and commercial spaces. The lesson ought to be that gambling pays off. Instead, early reports say Sony is actively working on Bloodborne 2.
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Calum Marsh is a critic and essayist whose writings have appeared in the Guardian, the New Yorker, and the New Republic. He tweets badly about the world of arts and letters: @calummarsh.