A trend has emerged in 2017. Have you seen it? There is a new pattern in regards to the kinds of games people are pursuing. Think about it for a moment. Which new releases seem to be doing the best? Give up? It’s the games that have simple premises. In 2017, people are embracing games that aren’t as complicated and convoluted. Many of 2017’s most successful games are ones that offer a rather basic, but enjoyable experience.
Let’s start with Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. This early access PC game is already one of the year’s biggest titles, and it isn’t even finished yet. When its Xbox One port was announced at E3 2017, people went wild. And right now, it is one of Steam’s biggest sellers. At its height, it had over 480,000 concurrent players. That means this in-development indie has been doing better than Fallout 4, a AAA major release, did at its best. It currently is only surpassed by CS: GO and Dota 2, two Valve games that hold the top spots.
And what makes Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds unique? Its gameplay. This is a simple battle royal game. People head in and try to be the last man standing in an area that is gradually decreasing in size. That’s it. There are no complicated mechanics. You find some weapons and items, attempt to hide away from other players, and shoot anyone you see. People adore it. It delivers a solid multiplayer experience that people can’t help but enjoy.
But it isn’t just indies that are tapping into more simple experiences and succeeding. Big name companies are doing the same thing. Let’s look at ARMS. This is a new IP from Nintendo. It’s a simple fighting game that is at its best when using motion controls. You use your right and left arms to punch your right and left arms in-game. There’s a rock-paper-scissors system, regarding standard attacks, throws, and charged attacks. Anyone can play and adapt to this intuitive interface.
This formula has led to ARMS outperforming both Street Fighter and Tekken in certain areas. Over 100,000 copies of ARMS were sold in its first week. By June 2017, that meant it already outsold Tekken 7, which also released in 2017 and had reached over 76,000 lifetime sales by the time ARMS had been out for a week. Last week, we learned ARMS is likely to beat Street Fighter V’s lifetime sales, as it has sold over 1.18 million copies since its June 2017 launch and Street Fighter V has sold 1.7 million copies since its February 2016 launch. Again, we see a simpler game beating out more complex entries in the same genre.
But it’s not only about new IPs. It’s also about returning to familiar styles and characters. Crash and Sonic come to mind. Both are icons that are reminiscent of a simpler time. And this year, each has found major success. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has been one of the PlayStation 4’s best sellers this year. People were clamoring for those three games again. Sonic Mania launches this month, bringing back classic, 2D Sonic the Hedgehog action. It’s a much anticipated return-to-form for the series. In each case, developers went back to simpler sorts of platformers. Both times, people are embracing the idea.
Perhaps developers and publishers are realizing people don’t always need the most elaborate and intricate games possible. Sometimes, we need a solid foundation. Something that is less complex, with high replayability can become as beloved and successful as something that has taken a decade to make and months to understand. Maybe we’ll see a greater balance between games that require time to learn or can be picked up and played as a result.