Popularity doesn’t always mean quality. Many things have gone “viral” over the past decade that are widely considered to be lacking quality. The easiest example I can think of is McDonalds. McDonalds is by far the most popular fast food restaurant around the world and at the same time offers an extremely low quality of food that is extremely unhealthy. Some things are simply popular because of marketing rather than substance.
Ten years ago, heck even five years ago, if a few friends spoke highly of a video game it meant something. If the game got good reviews it was considered creditable and if it broke any sales record for that time is was a sure bet the game had quality. That kind of assurance doesn’t exist anymore in the video gaming community.
The world is capitalist, sure the USA’s economy is the most capitalist in the world but everyone wants to make money. When one person, company, or developer see’s that a specific market can be profitable they enter it. The goal is to make a profit and dominate the market early or duplicate what is already a success. This is where the pitfalls begin.
Video games didn’t become popular because of mass market targeting or advertising. Video games thrived because developers were making games they wanted to play. When you create something with love and passion it shows through. I think a lot of the newer video games are starting to lack this… more to the point they are devoid of it.
A few of the larger publishing companies saw what kind of profit potential was in video games. Rather than fostering the current design philosophy they created a new one, build something that sells. A game developer can’t create a good game if they have no interest in the genre. They are out of touch with their customers and the game will show it.
Video games are going the same way the movie industry went. Big budget special effects will get a shocking opening weekend take but lack the long haul that makes it a true classic. As long as these companies can launch a game with a bang before its shortcomings shot through then they will continue to make a profit. Look at Titanic for example. It is one of the most viewed movies of all time and is also considered one of the 100 worst movies of all time.
Clearly popularity isn’t everything.