Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adventure games are back ... are they ?

Adventure games ... remember them ? We used to play them a lot: Myst, The Curse Of Monkey Island, Syberia, Gabriel Knight, the Seventh Guest, Broken Sword, ... I am sure it brings fond memories to some of you.

Adventures games used to represent a large share of the market but over the years, they have slowly but surely faded away from our scopes. There are a few studios who make good point-and-click adventures but they are struggling to make them as cheap as possible to produce. No publisher today is ready to support ambitious adventure games.is

The reason is simple: Publishers don't make money with them anymore. There are just not enough buyers. Interest for adventure games seems to be gone ... but is it really the case ?

An adventure game delivers two promises to a player, two benefits: 1) It takes him or her along a compelling and mysterious story and 2) it challenges his brain. To summarize, a good adventure game must bring a story and puzzles.

Recent successful development has shown that there is a strong interest from the public for at least one of those two components: Puzzles. Machinarium (www.machinarium.net) is a successful well-crafted flash games that relies on very smart puzzles. The first few levels are free and once you have completed them, the urge ot buy the full game is strong. The game costs $20 or 14€. It is not cheap but it good value for your money. Another well-known example is Professor Layton on DS. More expensive to develop, this game has been hugely successful. An older example on DS is Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney.

Now, what about the other component of successful adventure games, the story ? Can we build a successful game with just that ? I see one example: The Hysteria Project on the iPhone. Developped by the french studio Bulky Pix, this game offers little puzzles but is quite immersive. It has been quite successful and follow-up episodes are in the making.

Who could say there is no money to make in adventure games ?

Hence my conclusion; The traditional format of adventure game is probably dead but there are still players out there who are looking for their specific thrills. We have to offer them in new formats and we have to brush up design concepts in order to renew their appeal.

What are your thoughts on this topic ? Do you believe, as myself, in the future of adventure games ?

7 comments:

  1. Adventure games aren't dead, they're just a niche. In the 80s, when physics was really hard to do on computers, adventure games were a huge part of the market, but as physics got easier, other markets grew rapidly when adventure games grew more slowly. Publishers abandoned them in favor of money that was easier to make from other genres.

    However, they still exist! The Adventure Shop keeps selling games right along at a regular rate. I really enjoyed A Vampyre Story. Different countries seem to have slightly different expectations of their games, and adventure games are more popular in Europe than they are in the USA. A Vampyre Story was made in Germany, I think, although the English-language writing is 100% idiomatic. (I can't speak for any other languages.)

    Bottom line, adventure games used to be expensive to make when games cost $100,000 to develop; now that they routinely cost $10,000,000 to develop, adventure games are cheap to make by comparison. I think we'll still be seeing them for the foreseeable future. They're like an especially fine calvados: the people in the know, know where to go to find them.

    -- Ernest Adams

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  2. I don't think adventure games are dead ! The just released Runaway 3 is a success, and it's quite a classic adventure game. Quite a number of adventure games have sequels (Still life 1 & 2, Syberia 1 & 2, Runaway 1,2 & 3, the Nancy Drew serie, the Dark Fall serie...). It looks like they are fewer and fewer because it's a kind of game that is not easily playable on a console, for gameplay reason, just like RTS. The mouse control is the most confortable and for a long time, there was no mouse-like control on console. But now Wii and DS do have this kind of control, and see Runaway 3 : they are releasing it for Wii and DS. I'm sure adventure are going to progress on these plateforms.

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  3. Hello Cassandre. The truth is that adventure games represent a tiny fraction of the game market today. For many publishers, it is a dead market but my point is that there are still opportunities there.

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  4. Hey, Pascal, congratulations for your new blog. I just wanted to add my 5 cents. I'm missing publishers willing to risk money on niche games such as adventures, tycoons or even RTS. I keep thinking there is a huge market for all of them, only it's divided among different countries. Maybe digital distribution would help with this.

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  5. Hello Truman, thanks for your comments. I think you are right. There is a market out there for adventure, management and RTS games. The problem stems from the fact that traditional design templates are out of favor among players. New design templates must be invented. That means taking risks and many publishers (not all fortunately !) shy away from them.

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  6. Hello!
    I think it depends of what you call "adventure game". The old Lucas/Sierra style is dead, even if they released runaway, tunguska etc... they are not bad... but those times have ended.

    On the other side you have Proffessor Layton on Ds, also all the Phoeny Wright series, wich have been killing in terms of sellings.

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