It’s Not So Bad in the Niche


Time Enforcer Anubis here with some thoughts on the gaming world!

It’s not hard to see that the current gaming climate is warmer for certain gamers. Those looking for shooters certainly don’t have a hard time looking for something to play. The climate is colder for gamers who play games in genres that might have been bigger in the past, but aren’t as big now. This has sparked some dissatisfaction and animosity from those who are looking for less contemporary genres, and it’s not hard to understand why.

The recent announcement of XCOM, the reboot of the cult classic strategy game series, has lovers of the franchise up in arms. 2K Marin, the developers of the reboot, have turned the game into a first-person shooter, citing that “strategy games are just not contemporary.” Understandable from a business perspective, but as far as serving the gamers goes, it’s a slap in the face to the devoted X-COM fanbase.

Players of “non-contemporary” genres aren’t being catered to but by only a relative few developers, and even then, many aren’t as well-known as those developing bigger-name titles. However, is this so bad? Sure, it’s bad when a developer of a non-contemporary franchise changes the game to cater to a different audience, or when a developer making a more niche title is unable to deliver for one reason or another, but while the games some of us want to play are a lot less common, they tend to be a lot more pure in terms of their gameplay.

What I mean by that is, while more popular games in more “contemporary” genres are specifically designed to appeal to a very wide range of people, niche titles are designed more to appeal to their target audience, and only their target audience. Some efforts may be made to widen a niche franchise’s appeal, or to make the gameplay more similar to contemporary games, but more often than not, they remain faithful to their own gameplay, without changing anything drastically to appeal to a broad range of players, in exchange for abandoning their core playerbase.

It does happen, however. Franchises have, both in the past and in the present, changed major elements of their gameplay in order to appeal to a broader audience, in the process losing touch with their roots and becoming much more similar to contemporary mainstream games. The Rainbow Six franchise is a good example. What started out as an in-depth tactical simulation FPS, became, with time, a cover shooter with some tactical elements. The same can be said about the Ghost Recon franchise. Indeed, to a lesser extent, Ace Combat is attempting to do something similar with Assault Horizon, and upcoming indie mech game Hawken is looking to be simply more of a glorified FPS than a true mech game, but it’s not all doom and gloom for the niche.

Gamers looking for less contemporary genres and titles just have to look a little bit harder. Many established studios still develop and publish more niche titles, an example being X3, which I reviewed back in June. In addition, many indie developers and studios have taken it upon themselves to create unique games, not bound by the same hang-ups as more contemporary genres. And even still, contemporary genres aren’t all that bad. Even in the FPS genre, nonstandard games can be found. It just takes some seeking-out. There certainly aren’t going to be as many players, but the players you do find will often be dedicated and competitive.

It’s not so bad in the niche. Sometimes, it takes a little more effort to find the right games, but players of “non-contemporary” genres are alright with expending that little bit more effort. That’s what a lot of our games are all about, after all.


‘Till next time!





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