The Weirder Side of Genres

Have you ever looked at the genre a new release is slated as? Well if you had, you’d see that the majority were the now generic and blanket Action-Adventure or First Person Shooters with the occasional Open World Sandbox game, Real Time Strategy or, if you looked hard enough, an RPG thrown in for good measure.

As we all know, those aren’t the only genres available – other popular genres in terms of game releases are the likes of MOBAs, with Leauge of Legends and DOTA 2 dominating. Others, often dominated by only a handful of franchises, are Fighting games like the Street Fighter series.

But the title is to do with nonexistent genres, not the relative popularity of genres we already know are kicking around. There must be even more obscure game types, so let’s dig deeper. From the genres with hundreds of games and billions of pounds in sales every year to the genres with perhaps a couple of dozen releases, 50p and a bit of string.

Microgames are usually a collection of very small games bundled together to make one whole game – the WarioWare series having been the standard bearer for the last decade or so. It’s literally a micro genre; while you can of course find minigames inside larger games like Gwent (not the Welsh county, a card game) in The Witcher 3 or even the Mario Party series but a Microgame often lasts only a few seconds and consists of one or two actions – as much reliant on reaction and reflex as skill or practice.

Christian games, or any other religious game for that matter, were rather prolific during the NES era – and by that I mean they were often hack jobs of other games released without the Nintendo Seal of Approval. But there’s a genre that hasn’t had a revival in years. Another genre that hasn’t seen daylight recently are text adventure games, with the advent of graphics and the ability for everyone to tell a story via visual meaning you aren’t likely to see any AAA titles of this genre.

But why do some genres have many more titles? It’s not too hard to understand why there no waves of Educational games, and no centre stage at E3 for Rhythm-Action titles. But is it just easier for Western developers to make Action-Adventure or FPS games and the Eastern markets to tend to JRPGs, Visual-Novels or Dating Simulators?

Well for some genres technology moves on and leaves them behind. People often want 3D, not 2D graphics outside of the indie scene, colourful graphics replaced the text based games and so people drive to create more technologically impressive games with virtual reality, augmented reality, ultra high definition textures, etc. Additionally it’s these generic Action-Adventure or JRPG games that have made the most money in recent years. Tetris is famous for piling up over 143 million sales over the course of its life on various consoles, but games like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare have made over $1 billion in a far smaller space of time. Developers are going to invest in franchises that make the biggest profit and for smaller developers that often means making a game in the same vein of gaming as the larger companies, riding a hype wave. It is for that reason games can be considered a “Metroidvania” or “GTA clone”. It’s those games that make a lot of money, which feeds investment and innovation in that genre, driving ever more sales.

Are we likely to see more genres fall away? Well maybe, but if the indie developers have anything to say about it we won’t. For the foreseeable future, the big genres will keep on being stuck on Action-Adventure, FPS, JRPG, etc., at least until Mario, Pokemon, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and many more staple franchises stop raking in billions every year. But that can’t come at the cost of a lack of diversity – and it’s from small and medium sized developers who will likely provide it.

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