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The makings of a successful video game – a short introduction

The makings of a successful video game – A short introduction

Credit: Matt Henry

Clemence Chia – “Despite all the controversy, “The Last of Us Part II” still managed to sell 4 million copies during its opening weekend and has become the fastest-selling Sony game for the PlayStation 4. Sales have been attributed to being the spiritual successor of the beloved “The Last of Us”.”

For the past 40 or so years, videogames have been used as a medium to escape from reality. With over 2.6 billion gamers and global gaming markets earning $165 billion dollars, this begets the question: “Does making good videogames even matter anymore?”

When defining a good game, it usually has a few distinct features; captivating storyline, characters that players would empathize with, stunning visuals and of course, amazing gameplay. One such game fits the bill: the atmospheric, survival horror videogame, “The Last of Us”.

If you are not well acquainted with “The Last of Us”, it was a game developed by Naughty Dog, back in 2013 and was released on the PlayStation 3 and 4. The story unfolds during the early stages of a zombie apocalypse; where you play as Joel Miller, a carpenter turned smuggler after losing his daughter, Sarah, in the early stages of the game. Joel is best described as ruthless and cynical, and thus became the perfect candidate to smuggle and protect Ellie, a little girl that was the key to mankind’s survival. As the duo set out across post-apocalyptic America, they start developing a strong familial attachment for each other. “The Last of Us” quickly became a fan-favourite as it delivered a narrative so powerful that it questioned the morality of players, the decision of sacrificing humanity at the expense of Ellie’s life. 

In contrast, a bad videogame has the following characteristics; difficult User Interface – i.e. clunky game and camera controls, conflicting player-story ideals and in some instances, when a game does not live up to its “hype”. Coincidentally, the sequel to “The Last of Us” has been labelled by the community as a bad videogame.

Back in 2016, “The Last of Us Part II” was finally announced. Pre-orders flooded in anticipation of the next masterpiece produced by Nick Druckmann, the creative director and established writer of the game’s prequel. Its plot, on the other hand, has remained as one of gaming’s most closely guarded secrets. In early 2020, an extensive demo was released for “The Last of Us Part II”, fans were thrilled when they learnt that the game will include better artificially intelligent enemies alongside a realistic and interactive environment; enemies are smarter and have more voice-lines, searching for the player at their last known position and realistic environmental damages.

A month before the game’s release, spoilers for “The Last of Us Part II” surfaced the internet, devastating fans as they caught wind of intricate story-details, backed-up by gameplay footage and the baffling ending. In an attempt to salvage, Sony Interactive Entertainment, the parent company of Naughty Dog, quickly responded by removing the leaks and announced a concrete release date for “The Last of Us Part II”.  As social media blew up, some fans cancelled their pre-orders of “The Last of Us”, the ruling being: “the sequel was the failure of storytelling”. On the week of Fathers’ Day, “The Last of Us Part II” was launched and, lo and behold, users hated it. Despite the detailed work on aesthetics, the studio had failed to deliver what was shown in their demo, the dialogue from enemies were not extensive and the environment was not as interactive as promised; even the character models in cutscenes tweaked. This case of false marketing, along with the leaks holding true, had led users to leave largely negative reviews on the game.

Despite all the controversy, “The Last of Us Part II” still managed to sell 4 million copies during its opening weekend and has become the fastest-selling Sony game for the PlayStation 4. Sales have been attributed to being the spiritual successor of the beloved “The Last of Us”. 

However, this isn’t the first time a company has managed to disappoint users yet sell plenty of copies. Controversy has arisen for other large projects as well. Memorably; “Pokémon”, “FIFA” and “Call of Duty”. Despite dissatisfaction within the gaming community, these titles still managed to sell well. This showcases the clout of large, successful franchises; and how they are able to attain a strong following and sell them rehash after rehash. 

With more than 1.2 million videogames in the saturated gaming market, it is impossible to complete all of them given our finite resource: time. As such, players turn to positive game reviews before deciding on playing that specific videogame. On the contrary, overwhelmingly negative reviews sometimes attract players to find out how terrible the game really is. Afterall, the gaming experience is subjective for everyone and as it stands, making a good videogame is no longer necessary, what matters is the buzz it generates.

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