What makes a game tick?

Examining actions and the myriad ways in which developers, studios and publishers work

By   |  Published: 17th Oct 2020  6:12 pmUpdated: 17th Oct 2020  2:18 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a problem; one as big as the size of Genshin Impact. Genshin Impact is a free-to-play open world Action RPG, available or soon to be available for most platforms you can imagine and potentially offers cross-platform play.

The game, clearly inspired from the much-acclaimed Breath of the Wild has enough to hold its own with a unique style, fantastic plot and progression mechanics. A game as refined and with such a high-quality of gameplay experience as this defies logic with its free to play (F2P) nature especially with a campaign that can last over 120 hours.

Similarly, the popular Call of Duty Mobile turned a year old this month and as it celebrated its launch anniversary, the game not only underwent a customary design overhaul but newer maps, modes and content were provided to players for staying loyal to the game. The last three months have seen CoD Mobile offer its players significant overhauls and modifications that have reinvented the title and almost make it unrecognisable to the game that launched in October 2019.

CoD Mobile and Genshin Impact are indicators that the player of 2020 is spoilt for choice and as games increasingly become free, players’ game time/engagement time becomes a valuable resource. In the rules of the F2P world, conversion of engagement time into loyalty and then subsequent financial investment has become the mantra as designers and developers strive to cultivate the invested/involved player.

On the other side of the spectrum we have Electronic Arts’ FIFA 21, a franchise on the verge of a monopoly that hurts simulated football as a genre. The launch of the game’s legacy editions is a contradiction in many ways in the gaming industry as ‘FIFA 21’ legacy offers the same gameplay and experience as ‘FIFA 20’ legacy which was based on ‘FIFA 19’.


In other words, for players of the franchise on platforms like the ‘Switch’ they have been playing the same game for the last three years and their loyalty has been rewarded by ensuring they pay $50 annually for a database update and a slight visual overhaul.

If a game as technologically demanding like Genshin Impact can be offered for the Switch and smartphones on Android, the offering of a stale two-year-old experience is one of the grossest violations of the principle of consumer surplus.

These developments should help gaming goliaths and perennial franchises realise that there is a thin line that separates them from megaliths and the AAA flagship game is facing an existential threat as a product if innovation and experience development stall.

If these cases are any indication, I can’t recommend games like CoD Mobile and Genshin Impact enough because a hit to the bottom line of games like FIFA might help spur them into making changes. There is a reason Game On as a column has reviewed FIFA just once in the last 4 years. Enough said.

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