So today looking at some news headline, the Syndicate reboot is news. A FPS you say? Yeah.
I find it entirely too tiresome to whine about it. I spent all my bile on the Fallout sequel (and while the game is relatively compelling, it just isn’t as fun–it was simply a different game). So instead I will whine about whining about it with a bit of applied knowledge from this weird book I read a few years ago.
Take one of the few TV channels I put on these days: The Food Network. Coming to America as an Asian immigrant, I find the entire dearth of food culture in American popular culture really pathetic and pitiful. Which is not a huge surprise considering what Americans eat, I suppose, but over the past 10-15 years it is very heartening and delightful to see the development of food culture in both urban and suburban settings, especially in the midwest and the south.
I suspect things like the Food Network helped in the slow growth of concepts of food culture in America, along side with “organic” or “green” or “free range” or “localvores” and what have you. I largely despise foodies, but I admit that it is those economic trends and fads that enabled more purveyer of, say, free range pultry, so that you can find such a food with some ease. Free ranged chicken makes the most delicious broth that middle-class Americans are deprived of but are plenty to lower-middle class Asians. And you can do a lot with chicken broth. Among other free range benefits.
Using fresh, quality ingredients is the very first step for a healthy and delicious meal.
Anyways, the Food Network was founded in 1993, and you can wiki its history. I mention this mainly to just correct myself: there were always and there will still be tons of people who love to cook, to eat, to study culinary cultures and sciences. That’s why we have culinary institutes that give out BA’s, that’s why moms cook delicious foods, and grown men crave that stuff. Food is necessary for life, after all. It is not poems for the soul but chicken soup. America is not really that different than any other country or culture in that regard.
So in this weird book I read, the idea is while culinary programming on TV is great stuff, it will not draw all your viewers. Say everyone loves to watch (I don’t know), the Simpsons. The logical thing for a TV content provider to compete with the Simpsons is to produce a similar program that appeals in the same way. Let’s say 150 million people watch TV on Sunday nights in America and there is only one TV station. If you have two similar programs for that 150 million people, odds are something like 75-75 will be split between the two shows. Let’s say only 10 million people will watch Iron Chef America instead of Simpsons at any given time. This means it makes a lot more commercial sense for a competing TV network to air Simpson-clone-family-comedy-#3 if it is the third channel competing for that 150m viewership, because now it would be split 50-50-50. And 50 is bigger than 10.
The logic goes, when cable and satellite TV became in rogue in the late 80s and early 90s, people start to get hundreds of TV channels. This means hundreds of TV programming channels are competing for that 150 million viewers. Which means like, 150 / 100 = 1.5, which is a number less than 10. Which means TV channel like the Food Network can now exist and prosper.
There are other issues to the hypothetical logic I’m running with there, but the mechanism between the increased diversity of television programming and the increase of channels is precisely this. Once the market for murder mystery TV dramas (or reality TV shows or day soaps or news programming or whatever) is saturated, you just have to look elsewhere.
How do this have to do with the Syndicate reboot?
I think it’s the same thing. FPS as a sales genre is rich. It moves millions. People crave that immersive narrative doohicky that you can find in a latest Call-of-Duty game. That’s why we care about games like, say, Heavy Rain or some such. But what about other video game genres?
Turn-by-turn strategy game is now the food network kind of thing in the larger scope. It also doesn’t help that due to the evolution of video game tech, less-demanding categories of games are very much saturated today.
So in order to really stop people from reviving our favorite franchises into FPS and then throw it into the ground like used and overdosed prostituted, they just need to make more FPS games, sell more FPS games, and do it all within a shorter period of time.
There needs to be more commercial competition in the genre. The way to victory is through compete, utter defeat.
The other take is simply that the game that was Syndicate (or Fallout or X-COM) were different. They were made for a different business model. It may be better stated that this kind of grandstanding game production that is characterized by the CoD games today is more like a movie adaptation. Viewed through that lens, it feels a little better justified comparing the differences between the old and the new. Hey guys, it’s a cross-media promotion-production!
Because the most important matrix to measure its success is on how it is faithful to the original. I think Fallout 3 scored maybe a 6 out of 10 on those grounds, but from what I can tell of X-COM or Syndicate, those are not likely going to be the case.