Do you know what happens when you stare at numbers long enough? You start seeing patterns “A Beautiful Mind” style. Welcome to the 2010 edition of Coming Soon The Reckoning! This is where I tally up the video game releases and paint a pretty graph. The best part is that this is my second year doing this, which means I finally have something to compare these numbers instead of just aimlessly making conjectures. Now you’ll be able to amaze your friends with specific numbers in your discussions concerning the number of mini-game collections that came out last year or the number of music games or even the number of pet sims that came out last year. Before that though, let’s start with the big picture.
The Big Picture
The most glaring trend here is that less games came out in 2010 than it did in 2009. What’s worst is that my 2009 numbers are actually incomplete. I didn’t start tracking games releases until the second half of February, so my number for 2009 is less than it should be. Suffice it say that the number of titles being released dropped by at least 100. It’s hard to truly discern the reason for this. The two most likely causes are the cooling down in popularity of the Nintendo consoles and maybe, just maybe, the recession itself.
The DS has the greatest decrease in releases compared to the last with 228 releases versus 310. Anecdotally, I noticed this trend as I was writing my articles in the past year. Each week is almost always flooded by DS games if 2009 is anything to go by, but their general downward trend was hard to miss in 2010. Their downward trend is probably attributed to the general fact that the DS market is absolutely crowded. In both years, the DS has the highest number of releases. With such a crowded market, it’s a wonder that publishers ever get their money back on their DS games. Perhaps that’s exactly what happened in 2009, and we see them throttling back on the number of releases in 2010.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
The Wii is also experiencing a similar downward trend as well with 217 in 2010 and 269 in 2009. Around the time the Wii launched, many publishers came out in support of the Wii. They were attracted by the lower development cost and, as the Wii’s popularity grew and continued dominance in the NPDs, its install base. It was only recently as the system’s popularity cooled and the realization that 3rd party Wii games generally don’t sell that publishers decided to back off from the Wii. These numbers definitely proves that.
As for the PSP, well, it’s the PSP, and this ain’t Japan. That pretty much covers that. The fact that it’s even still around is probably a testament to its popularity over in Japan, or possibly with the pirating scene. Had it flopped over there as well, Sony would’ve abandoned this system years ago.
It also doesn’t help that the industry is just as affected by the recession as everyone else. The recession may have started around 2008 or so, but game developments are planned well in advance taking into account previous sales and whatnot. In 2010, we start to see some of its effects by how publishers decided to tighten their belts and take less chances with publishing a game.
That doesn’t explain why the Xbox 360 and the PS3 saw a rise in the number of releases though. The PS3 only recently found their groove since the release of the Slim model, so it makes sense that developers and publishers only recently gained some faith in the console and decide to make games for it. The Xbox 360 saw a slight bump in releases as well. This could be attributed to the systems overall popularity and perceived as a safer bet than the other consoles in these harsher times.
The Not So Big, But Interesting Nonetheless, Genre Picture
Despite the Wii’s and the DS’s decline in releases, the mini-game collection genre is still the most prolific genre in 2010 coming in at 51. It’s still a slight decline from last year, but that’s probably more attributable to the general reduction in releases between the two systems. What’s funny is that this number is somewhat buoyed by the Kinect and Move. Before, the two systems have been safe from the mini-game collection genre, but since the two peripherals have entered the fray, that’s no longer the case.
Red Dead Redemption
You might be wondering why I’m not calling the Adventure genre the most prolific genre. The reason for that is pretty simple. The genre is just too broad. It encompasses so many different types of games from games like Club Penguin to Red Dead Redemption. It’s hard to read too much into it. As for why the big drop between years, that has more to do with methodology. I separated action games and platformers from adventure games in 2010, but not in 2009. Games like God of War 3 and Kirby’s Epic Yarn is slotted under their respective genres this time around.
The more notable drop-off is also the bane of my writing my articles for nearly every week back in 2009: the pets and jobs sims. Not a week would pass where I didn’t write about at least one pet simulator or one job simulator somewhere in the article, but come 2010, they became fairly uncommon. Each dropping by nearly a half of what used to come out, game publishers must’ve finally realized just how flooded the DS and Wii market is with these two genres. All I can say is, “Hallelujah!”
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Despite the FPS genre’s popularity, coming in at only 19, it’s by no means the market-flooding genre we tend to associate with the FPS. In fact, it’s actually kind of low with RPGs at 40 games and action games and racing games both coming in at 30. So why does it feel like the FPS genre is all there is in video games sometimes? My guess is that that has more to do with where publishers dump their marketing money. Activision marketed the hell out of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Microsoft isn’t going to let Halo: Reach come out in relative obscurity. Despite gaming news outlet’s best attempts to highlight other games that don’t involve bullets, FPS games are about the only thing we see that reaches outside the gaming sphere. Remember those Black Ops TV ads with Kobe Bryant? Even ESPN talked about that ad.
If you stare at these numbers long enough, you might just hit upon the same epiphany I had last year when I did this. Video gaming hasn’t even scratched the surface of its true potential. A lot of the genres I listed simply didn’t exist a decade ago. The pet sims genre didn’t exist back in the nineties, but now it’s practically a foundation of the DS library. Until Resident Evil 4 came out, the third person shooter genre was only hinted at in games like Syphon Filter. Every genre needed to start somehow somewhere, and here I can see it blossoming and even spawn new ones from it.
Mass Effect 2
As these numbers fluctuate from year to year, I can almost see how video gaming is still evolving and learning trying to figure out what sells, what’s fun, and hopefully what’s both. It’s most evident when I was trying to categorize some of the games. Do I put Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep under Action or RPG? Is Mass Effect 2 an RPG or is it really a Third Person shooter? And don’t even get me started on Final Fantasy 13. These games are trying to break the mold of the genres we’ve become comfortable with and may one day become so prominent that they deserve their own category, whatever that may be, on this list. I look forward to the year I add new categories to this list. It excites me more so than seeing any one genre, even my favorite ones, dominating the market and choking out new ideas and innovations.
As always I look forward to your comments and questions as I have no doubt my methodology is probably put into question by now.