Better games, please!

By Erin Bell |

Chock it up to growing pains – maybe. Some great games have come out over the past couple of weeks, but at the same time, it seems like Gamezebo’s writers have handed out more sub-par scores than we have in the entire history of the site. And trust us, that’s not because we’ve just arbitrarily decided to get tougher on games. It’s because so many of the new games being released are just not up to the standards we’ve come to expect.

Hidden object games are by far the hottest thing around these days (sorry to all you time management and match-three fans), and recently it has seemed like almost every day there’s a new hidden object game being released on some portal or another. If you love the genre (like we do), this is great news – but you may have also noticed that not all of the hidden object games released lately are created equal.

In fact, some of them seemed, to put it bluntly, half-finished – like they were rushed to market. While we understand that casual game budgets are small, and we don’t expect the kind of lavish, cutting-edge production values that some of the multi-million-dollar games in the hardcore industry display, nevertheless we expect game-makers to at least be able to hit the basics:

  • Games should be as free as possible of bugs and glitches, BEFORE they launch.
  • Games should go through some kind of feedback/quality assurance phase BEFORE they launch. It is not up to the gaming community to provide feedback on how to fix broken games that they have already paid for.
  • Game text should be coherent and properly translated into the language of its intended audience.
  • Art should look like it was created by professional artists; music should sound like it was created by professional musicians.

    Maybe it’s that our standards are just getting higher because games like Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate, Build-a-lot and Virtual Villagers have raised the bar on what casual games have the potential to be. Whatever the case, that a significant number of new releases just seem downright amateurish is an alarming development that the casual games industry does not need.

    It’s a critical time for our industry. This past Casual Games Summit was the most well-attended in the history of the Game Developer’s Conference; more hardcore gamers are starting to wake up to the fact that there are a lot of great casual games out there; and investors are realizing that casual games are a legitimate and thriving industry. What we don’t need at this critical juncture, when more eyes are on us than ever before, is to start flooding the market with a bunch of sloppy, rushed titles.

    There’s another danger here too: that of burning out. Five years ago, it wasn’t time management or hidden object games ruling the roost, but match-threes. The bottom fell out of that genre, though, primarily because so many developers started releasing mediocre clones of Bejeweled that the game-buying public got sick of them. Could the same thing happen to time management and hidden object games? Perhaps it has started to already.

    In 1983, the fledgeling console video game market in North America crashed and was nearly destroyed, thanks in large part to a similar glut of poor titles flooding the market. These bad games not only alienated customers, but tarnished the image of video games as a quality, artistic and respectable form of entertainment – a perception that lingers today. Sound familiar?

    So please, on behalf of the people who love to play games as well as us, the people who love to write about them, let’s make sure that every new game that comes out is the best that it can be. And heck, if you want some great feedback on your games before they launch, Gamezebo’s team of beta testers would be happy to help. Send us an email to learn more about our beta program.

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