Everyone knows that Mirror’s Edge 2 just got canceled. If you don’t, then surprise! EA’s scrubbing the game seems to say a whole lot about the current attitude of the game industry, and it’s not flattering. The game industry is becoming too similar to Hollywood.
Mirror’s Edge was a big risk. A first person action game with minimal shooting and a whole lot of running and leaping? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. But with nine out of a sample space of twelve professional reviews giving the game a score of 80% or higher, I’d say it was a critically successful game.
The game sold over a million copies within its first few months of release – sales figures that are similar to Dead Space, which of course did get a sequel. Apparently this wasn’t enough for EA, though, since they cite low sales figures as a reason for canceling the sequel.
They, along with most of the big players in the game industry, just don’t want to take risks. I’m surprised the original game even got a green light. Like Hollywood, the game industry wants to only make sure-fire hits. Making only a 500% profit is not an option for these companies; they want a 800% net. Just like there’s a new sequel to Saw each year, there’s going to be a new Call of Duty every 12 months. Publishers aren’t in it for expression or games for the sake of games anymore. Granted, games have always been a commodity, but now it’s all about the money. However, there are a few exceptions where CoD has released great game content, and Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War Hacks are available to help the gameplay to be even more enjoyable. It is a shame that game developers are not putting in a lot of effort in developing their games and are just releasing the same thing but with one minor change. In games like Call of Duty, the basis of the game is similar but with key features and different features added within, which make an enormous difference when you are playing the game.
In terms of other games, it’s getting to the point where we’re playing the same few games over and over again. Literally. If a new IP can’t be made into a multi-game series (usually complete with merchandise and iPhone versions) it will almost always be rejected by a publisher. How are games like Shadow of the Colossus, Killer 7, God Hand, or even Heavy Rain supposed to avoid extinction when decisions like this are being made? Just like the movies, everything needs a sequel.
“There were issues with the learning curve, the difficulty, the narrative, and then there was no multiplayer either.” [EA’s Frank Gibeau]
Even certain modes in games are now requirements. EA also attributed Mirror’s Edge’s lack of multiplayer as a reason for canceling the follow-up. How would you put multiplayer into Mirror’s Edge? It just wouldn’t work. Why put in features that aren’t exciting or even serviceable? For an industry that squeezes every penny, spending resources on unnecessary and unwanted modes sure sounds like a bad idea.
But I don’t think we can really put 100% of the blame on publishers. The consumers want what’s familiar. To use the example of Saw again, each movie in the series has a 40% or lower on Rotten Tomato’s Tomato Meter. Yet millions of people go to watch these movies every year. And millions of people walk into GameStop every Summer and trade in last year’s copy of Madden for $5 so they can spend another $55 the latest version. Even if a better football game came out, most people would still go with Madden. Marketing and brand name is everything.
The narrative of Mirror’s Edge was about the oppression of communication and expression – the videogame analog to Fahrenheit 451. Only the privileged are allowed to communicate via the written word. Isn’t it fitting that the series is being put in its grave? The game’s world mirrors the hegemony that’s present in the industry itself.
Not only did the narrative of the game stick out from your average Space Marine series, but it’s main character was shockingly realistic. In an industry full of female characters that either have to be saved by a male, or female protagonist whose naughty parts are exaggerated (which all mirrors Hollywood), Faith was a breath of fresh air. A strong, independent female protagonist who isn’t over-sexualized or objectified? From EA? Well, they took care of that pretty quickly.
The canceling of Mirror’s Edge is a reminder of the sorry state of gaming. I for one, will be hording games from the ’90s and early to mid 2000s. Hopefully where EA lead, Marvelous and other publishers who foster creativity will not follow.