What makes the game? A pretty big question that I'm usually confronted with while writing about games is "What makes a videogame good?" Obviously there are several easily identifiable aspects such as graphics, sound, gameplay, control, replay etc. But of these, what weighs the most heavily in determining how good a game is? Or is it any of them?
It is fairly well known in the industry that incredible graphics will sell a game. There have been plenty of games that are gorgeous on the outside, but as I like to say are a "pretty birdcage with no bird". DEAD OR ALIVE 3 is a prime example. Second best-selling Xbox game that has incredible graphics, but really not too much on the gameplay side that was new or exciting. On the flip side some games that aren't too exciting on the graphics side, but are excellent games (BODY HARVEST comes to mind) don't sell well. Heck, look at RESIDENT EVIL for GameCube. Quite possibly the most beautiful videogame to ever be released, it tripled GCN sales in its first week. On the flip side, while many critics thought that the cel-shading in JET SET RADIO FUTURE looked great, it may have actually held the game back on the retail market. Will that same effect happen with ZELDA?
But graphics don't make a game totally, and eye-candy like FANTAVISION won't always sell. There's a case to be made for music. Arguable, the music in MEDAL OF HONOR: FRONTLINE makes that game. It has decent visuals, and good gameplay, but the music and sound bring out emotion that I've rarely felt in a videogame. Remember the old game tunes that you still know by heart (and can use as a cell-phone ring)? But now... music rarely makes a game, rather it enhances it.
It would be easy to say that games are made by their gameplay. But is that always the case? Strong gameplay is the backbone of any game. It is the heart and soul that everything else is built around. Essentially it is the engine of the car that drives the game. But even with tight gameplay and good controls, it won't necessarily make the game.
In my opinion, the most important part of any videogame is if it's fun. Some of my favorite videogames over the years are the ones that are most fun to play. Nothing keeps you coming back for more than the pure joy that a game brings. Look at TETRIS, SMASH BROS., MARIO, ZELDA, or SOUL CALIBUR, not many experiences are as much fun as these games are.
Many non-mainstream games are a ton of fun, but don't get recognized. PIKMIN and MR. MOSQUITO both weren't really recognized but were both a lot of fun to play. There are people and companies in the industry (Nintendo and its star designer, Mr. Miayamoto) that still haven't forgotten that games are about having fun. To me, it doesn't matter how a game plays, sounds, or looks, as long as I'm having a good time, it's a good game.
Sony will match last year's $250 million dollar marketing and promotions budget for its Computer Entertainment division this year... Microsoft has lowered the price of several games in Europe to further itself in the tense price war on that continent... Capcom is planning 74 titles for this fiscal year... EA will purchase Black Box games... WARCRAFT III has gone gold and will be released in early July... The Game Boy Advance sold over 6 million units in its first year of availability in the US...
Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Videogame column.Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.