There are basically two big things that drive a lack of innovation in games.
The first of them is risk minimization. The second of them is risk minimization.
The reason I say “two” is because some forms of mitigating risk are undertaken with intentionality: purposely making a game that is a clone, for example. This isn’t always a bad thing — sure, sometimes it is done in order to capitalize on a market trend, but other times it’s done to learn how a given genre works, and in that scenario it’s a common and vital tool in a designer’s toolbox.
But this post is about the second sort of risk mitigation, which primarily centers around the fact that as games get more ornate, they get more expensive to make. High upfront costs push you naturally and inevitably towards incremental changes, with the biggest risks being taken on content rather than game systems. This is a pattern that leads inevitably towards “genre kings” — and the stage after genre kings tends to be stagnation and loss of audience reach.
So how can we as an industry keep costs down? Well, here’s my take, somewhat more elaborated from my now long-ago presentation on “Moore’s Wall.”
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