Over-saturation in Gaming
Over-saturation happens when there are too many games of a genre at once, causing people to get tired of those types of games.
Whenever a game or a genre becomes extremely popular in gaming (and other forms of media for that matter), others see the success and attempt to make similar games to capitalize on it, sometimes to the point of making direct rip-offs. While this is normally harmless, and there is nothing wrong with having more options on a genre, this can get to the point where everyone is trying to make the same game, resulting in there effectively too many of the same type of game while other genres are left ignored.
Usually, this also has to do with which game type represents the formula for a game which requires the least effort to produce and is hardest to mess up. For example, first-person shooters with regenerating health were very popular in the last generation of consoles because as long as there is enough junk in the environment to hide behind, it is almost impossible to mess up the campaign to the point it cannot be finished. Such shooters were also popular because any game engine that can handle raycasting (a simplified form of ray-trace rendering) can be used to make a hitscan weapon.
Over time people will start getting bored of seeing the same type of game over and over usually with little variety and often get disappointed by the rip-offs. Likewise, the massive number of games in an over-saturated genre get eclipsed because there are so many other options and competition that they fail to stand out and get lost in the crowd. This generally leads to poor sales of copycat games and eventually can even lead to rejection of the games they are copying: when this happens, the genre will drastically shrink, are reduced to obscurity, or even die off entirely while the copycats look for something new to imitate.
Examples of Over-saturated Genres in Gaming
- The earliest examples would be the huge number of single-game consoles which could only play some knock-off of Pong.
- During the late 80s and early 90s, a significant part of the PC game library consisted of "realistic" flight sims (as in their controls took up two-thirds of the keyboard), many of them more or less just asset flips "starring" a different aircraft. The image of the PC as "the thing you bought to play flight sims" didn't change until the release of Doom.
- Around the same time there was an enormous wave of scrolling shooters that were knockoffs of R-Type, Gradius or preferably both, along with an equal number of on-foot Contra clones. This largely died out in the PS1 era when non-3D games were barely promoted, and now it is very rare to see a non-indie developed scrolling shooter.
- A lot of games tried to capture the spark of Tetris with a similar setup of having to stop descending things from building up. These tile-matching games found their big break in copying Dr. Mario and exploded around the time Puyo Puyo came out. There was a later resurgence of the genre on mobile devices ("Match-3 games") due to the success of Bejeweled (causing a wave of clones that peaked in 2005) and later Candy Crush. Heck, new Match-3 games are still being made to this day!
- Even before the mascot platformer craze, the platform game was already the go-to genre for developers with no ideas. The standard was usually a multi-directional scrolling game viewed from a side-on perspective, with doors in the background leading to other rooms, with the player character either jumping on heads, using an appallingly programmed punch attack or having an extremely mediocre projectile weapon. The character is often tasked with searching the level to find enough things to open a thing, with occasional interruptions from bosses. A huge number of movie licenses were made on this template, usually adding a few "gimmick" levels involving something the player character does in the movie (driving, flying, climbing, skiing, etc). One of the "best" examples of this sub-genre is the invincibly awful Doctor Who game Dalek Attack.
- Light gun arcade machines got big with Operation Wolf and at one point practically monopolized arcades, although at least one gun was always broken. They became so common that it took really gimmicky machines like Gunblade to stand out.
- After the massive success of Sonic the Hedgehog, there was a mass outbreak of uninspired rip-off platformers with attempted mascots like Bubsy or Awesome Possum. Almost all of these games missed two key mechanics from the Sonic series (i.e, that Sonic is invulnerable to most sources of death as long as he has at least one ring and levels properly telegraph incoming obstacles while running fast): since this was the mechanics that made going through levels quickly in Sonic a feasible idea, they were filled with frustrating sections where you get hit by obstacles you couldn't see.
- The next major genre to become over-saturated was fighting games, starting with a string of scrolling Final Fight knockoff brawlers before switching to one-on-one fighting games. The popularity of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat back in the 1990s caused the fighting game genre to be overrun with various clones to the point where it almost died out during the late 1990s.
- During the era of early CD-based consoles there was a fad for FMV games, most of them glorified QTEs in the vein of the earlier Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. Gamers quickly realized that pressing buttons to move along hideously compressed video wasn't a lot of fun, and most of the consoles in question soon faded into memory.
- First-person shooters: these went through several phases, starting with knockoffs of Doom and Quake, then multiplayer-only arena games ripping off Quake III, followed by WW2 shooters copying Medal of Honor and the original Call of Duty and Battlefield, a brief fad for Vietnam games after Vietcong and Battlefield Vietnam, another fad around the same time for "tactical" shooters, often squad-based, sci-fi Halo knockoffs, and then finally the endless wave of Call of Duty 4 knockoffs that collectively formed the Modern Military Shooter genre.
- One of the reasons behind the disappearance of many arcade racing series (such as Burnout, Motorstorm, Ridge Racer etc) is due to market over-saturation killing off consumer interest. You know there's a problem when just one franchise (in this case Need for Speed) can over-saturate the market just by itself (there are 22 NFS games made over the past 20 years).
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is generally credited with being the start of the "Metroidvania" sub-genre, which was extensively copied.
- Following the release of Super Mario 64, consoles were overrun with attempts to bring other traditionally 2D games to 3D, with developers dusting off everything from Earthworm Jim to Lemmings to receive often ill-conceived 3D makeovers. This largely faded as 3D games became so common that 3D in itself was no longer a selling point.
- The success of Metal Gear Solid heralded the start of a wave of stealth-action games, with most of the lesser examples frustrating due to broken spotting mechanics.
- Many games from other genres began shoehorning unneeded stealth sections as well.
- The release of Grand Theft Auto III led to a long string of copycat open-world games with a combination of driving and on-foot combat mechanics, which itself led into the wave of on-foot open-world games that started with games like Assassin's Creed.
- As mentioned in #15. It has started to appear more GTA clone games or open-world games with driving and on-foot combat mechanichs with game franchises like Just Cause, Saints Row, Sleeping Dogs, Watch Dogs, Mafia, Gangstar, Crackdown and Red Faction.
- The JRPG genre has often been accused of producing samey turn-based games with ridiculous stories and boilerplate characters, something not at all helped by an explosion in examples of the genre when RPG Maker became popular.
- Guitar Hero and Rock Band caused the rhythm game with instrument controllers to become extremely popular, but they were followed by countless games that were being released constantly, as well as both Guitar Hero and Rock Band releasing multiple games each year. Now rhythm games are considered a fad and therefore are rarely released. Though you can still find and play these games in arcades.
- As gaming consoles become more and more graphically powerful with each new generation, zombie games became capable of having massive numbers of zombies on the screen at once, leading to way too many zombie games and even other games having zombie modes.The fact that zombie AI is notoriously easy to program (since all you have to do is make them home in on the player character's location) contributed to the sheer amount of zombie games.
- It has joked that there are now more zombie games than there would be zombies in a real zombie apocalypse.
- Cover shooters became excessively popular following the release of Gears of War, with most early clones copying the cover mechanics of that game wholesale, while later examples had developers try to make copies without the "attach to cover" button, all but the best of these ending up extremely frustrating due to the character routinely failing to react to cover.
- Survival crafting games took over Steam and mobile phone download services, and most of them are poorly made games with no new content.
- After World of Warcraft's massive success, there were countless MMOs with monthly subscriptions released. Most died out as their creators realized the incredible cost of maintaining MMO server infrastructure, with survivors and later examples eventually switching to free-to-play payment models. Most of the MMOs were World of Warcraft clones and most of them were very samey and ended up flopping as a result and many players ended up sticking to WOW instead.
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, aka MOBA. Originally created as a mod for Warcraft 3 in the form of Defense of the Ancients (aka DotA), one of the mod's developers (Steve "Guinsoo" Feak) later made a spiritual successor to DotA called League of Legends, released in 2009, which has since become the most played game of all time. Dota 2, a proper sequel to DotA, was released by Valve in 2013 and is also a massive success. These two games have since inspired countless developers to create their own MOBAs, those of which were mostly League of Legends clones, many of which never received widespread attention. Additionally, this genre has also led to the near-death of the once-popular Real-Time Strategy genre.
- The shooter genre spawned a sub-genre of "hero shooters", which are multiplayer-only shooters with fast-paced combat where the player picks a distinctive character with their unique weapons, abilities, stats, and personality similar to picking a character on a fighting game, often referred to as a hero, hence the name of the sub-genre. The genre was created as early as 1996 through Quake mod Team Fortress, but only recently became a major go-to for copycats following the success of Overwatch.
- Another example of an over-saturated genre is the Minecraft-like game. While some of the Minecraft-esque games are still good, many of them (especially the Google Play and App Store ones) are generic.
- The "Battle Royale" genre exploded in popularity due to Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Now, dozens of developers are making Battle Royale games or shoving Battle Royale modes into their games as seen with Call of Duty Black Ops 4 with its "Blackout" mode and Battlefield V with its "Firestorm" Mode. Most of the cash grabs die out very quickly since they never retain player attention for long and result in the games become unplayable due to not being able to get enough players to even start one match, as seen. Battle Royale is considered to be one of the fastest trends to become a saturated fad.
- During 2010 - 2014, a lot of "Simulator" games has been created and published by a lot of publishers, these games is usually a machine operating simulation games based on whatever the developers can think of, they're also well-known for using the same font (Helvetica Ultra Compressed) on their titles regardless of their contents. These games were spawned after the success of well-known simulation franchise such as Farming Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator.
- The major success of games like Slender: The Eight Pages, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast resulted in the flood of horror games which follow the "Run, hide, walk, no combat, read, talk, explore, etc." road. While there are good exceptions, around 95% of these games do nothing but put the player in a dark room with a flashlight and/or use the same themes and style over and over again. The peak of this fad was between the late 2000s and the early 2010s, but even nowadays these games are made and posted mainly on Indie DB or Game Jolt.
- The Just Dance franchise has been releasing a new game every year to catch up with the latest Billboard Top 100 singles. As a result of it, the rhythm market has become oversaturated and this had killed off the Dance Central series, which had the same premise as Just Dance but is a Kinect exclusive and uses full-body detection instead of just right-hand movement.
- While not the first in its genre, the Skylanders series popularized the toys-to-life genre, after its success many others joined that trend such as Disney, Warner Bros, and Nintendo. We used to get at least one or 2 games every year for each series the past few years, now all franchises that use the toys-to-life formula are either dead or on hiatus (except Nintendo's Amiibos since they're made optional instead of necessary) or on mobile platforms while not being overly successful.
- The success of survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill spawned many other games to do something similar to it. A lot of them ended up ripping off the formula and in some ways the stories. Nowadays, there's barely any AAA survival horror games that try to innovate.
- The use of retro style "8-bit" graphics have become very popular especially among indie developers, with several very successful titles such as Shovel Knight and Celeste. However, this pixelated art style is overused by tons of indie developers (due to how it's a lot easier to make, the nostalgia factor, and it is less expensive), with many of them being just simple pixels that look nothing like the old NES games. Multiple indie developers have proven that good indie 2D games can have very good art styles and graphics without relying on pixelated 8-bit, yet many continue to go for the easy route.
- Ever since the Occulus Rift got traction and several VR games have been made for the system or included compatibility for it, developers have begun developing their own VR-focused games and shoehorning VR modes in other games and most of them have seen little to no success except for a very small few.
- In the early-to-mid 2000s, before HTML5, most non-Flash-based online games were nation simulators, like NationStates and Cyber Nations.
- Most early HTML5 games were clicker/idle games like Cookie Clicker.
- Due to the release of Gran Turismo, it has been over-saturated with motorsport racing theme for more game franchises like GRID (formely TOCA from Codemasters), Forza Motorsport, Driveclub, Project CARS, Need for Speed: Shift series, Real Racing and Assetto Corsa.
- Due to the popularity of Need for Speed, it has been widely popular of arcade racing with an open-world theme and during free roam that has been realeased by many franchises like Midnight Club, Forza Horizon, The Crew and Test Drive.
- After released many rally racing games of Collin McRae Rally, it has been released several franchises like Dirt (from Codemasters) and World Rally Championship.
- After Neopets released, it releases a blatand rip-off game called Marapets.
- A huge number of YouTube channels copied the "scarecam" format used by big channels such as Markiplier, with their content usually being some kid pretending to be mortally terrified of every single noise their computer made and whimpering "ohmygod whatisthat" every thirty seconds.
- Minecraft gaming channels flooded YouTube back in the early 2010s when Minecraft was at its peak. They focused on quantity over quality with hundreds of videos on the same game for years since Minecraft's sandbox nature allowed for limitless possibilities. There were too many of them to choose from that the audience generally just stuck to popular channels such as SkyDoesMinecraft, the Yogscast, CaptainSparklez, and DanTDM. They started dying out in the later half of the 2010s when Minecraft started dwindling in popularity. Now the same is happening with Fortnite channels.
- Trading Card Games (TCGs) saw a similar type of over-saturation. TCGs became extremely popular after the success of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon TCG in the early 2000s, as well as a huge increase in the popularity of the older Magic: The Gathering. Following these three TCGs, countless other TCGs were produced many of which were based on licensed properties, however, most of these flopped terribly. Many of the failed TCGs were Magic the Gathering clones. In recent years newer TCGs have seen successful, such as Cardfight!! Vanguard, Future Card Buddyfight, Dragon Ball Super, etc. While only in Japan, Duel Masters had managed to thrive as well. However, none have been as successful as the three original ones in Western countries.
- This now also occurs with digital trading card games following Hearthstone's success, as seen with Artifact.
- After the success of Steam and due to the fact that Steam monopolized PC gaming, many other companies created their own digital store for PC, even Discord made its own digital store, some being made exclusively for their games such as Battle.net, others being made for all games in general, the biggest problems of most of these are the fact that they launch their stores with either rushed and downgraded or with old games that many have played before.