FFD: Has the AAA gaming industry stopped innovating?

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Innovation! It’s one of the great big buzzwords that that’s bandied about when big blockbuster games are on the horizon. Innovative new mechanics, innovative new story-telling, innovative this and that – but has there been any real innovation?

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw doesn’t think so. In an article on The Escapist, the vocal games critic and humourist argued that the only real innovation in the AAA games space has been of the graphical persuasion.

“And I don’t know about you but Halo 5 has brought on something of a melancholy for me, as it brings to sharp relief the fact that the triple-A games industry has, on balance now that the dust has settled, gone precisely nowhere for three whole years,” he says.

“Nothing to show for itself but slightly better graphics and an increased fondness for micropayments. And I know damn well that triple-A isn’t everything, that there’s plenty of innovation in the indie circles, but triple-A stubbornly remains the public face of the industry, and the divide between it and independent development didn’t used to be so abysmally, apocalyptically deep.”

He asks a pretty important question. Has there been any long-lasting, worthwhile innovation in the AAA space? In an article with a similar take-away message, Engadget says that “Innovation in the AAA space doesn’t always mean “different.” Sometimes, it just means “more.”

I asked the rest of the staff if innovation actually happens within AAA blockbusters (most of which are sequels anyway!) and it was surprisingly difficult to come up with anything. Shadow of Mordor’s bit of emergent storytelling with its lauded Nemesis system stands out, and Titanfall’s exquisite take on player movement has now been copied by just about every similar game since – but it’s hard to pinpoint innovation that isn’t beyond the technical, or graphical.

That’s not to say there’s a lack of creativity, or great games – just that they’re not quite pushing any boundaries.  Is the AAA space built on nothing but iteration, or is there genuine innovation to be found? Let us know.

Last Updated: November 20, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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