The new Medal of Honor game is out this week. The reviews have been wishy washy at best, the sales will probably not reach Call of Duty levels, and once again, we should have all seen this coming.
A game like Medal of Honor is frustrating for me. I can see what it is striving to achieve (aside from make EA money), and I know it is an impossible goal. The most heavily hyped aspect of the project was how it was made with input from elite soldiers who took place in some of the earliest operations in the current war in Afghanistan. There are stories to be told there, and I believe that the developers wanted to tell them. But at the same time, they had to ensure that their single player campaign was long enough to satisfy consumer desires, and flashy enough to emulate that Hollywood movie feel. They also had to come out with a full price, $60 game, so as to justify the massive budget that these AAA games demand. That meant asking another development team to cobble up a multiplayer mode which, in the face of both Call of Duty and EA’s own Bad Company 2, was doomed to irrelevancy.
In other words, it looks to me as if Medal of Honor would have done well as a short single player experience, one that was 5, maybe six hours long at the absolute maximum. These kinds of games exist in the current industry, but only as smaller, simpler downloads. Gaming has increasingly tried to imitate Hollywood, but they forgot two important points over the years:
1) Good Hollywood blockbusters tend not to drag on for too long
2) Films have a much lower barrier of entry, and thus a much larger pool of potential customers
It’s okay to spend millions on the special effects and stunts needed for a film lasting an hour an a half. If it’s good (or at least exciting) enough, people will come. Games, on the other hand, either can’t or won’t spend and charge that kind of money while offering a similarly short experience. There are many potential reasons why, but I’m not sure which, if any, is the deciding factor. Is it because lowering the price of a new game doesn’t attract enough additional customers? Is it because current gaming budgets can’t justify making a three hour shooter? Or is it because gamers refuse to pay for such a short game, even if they were only being charged $15?
Perhaps someone will figure out the answer to this dilemma. I hope someone does. The current model for major game releases is simply broken at this point. They’re too expensive, there are too many of them, and they’re stretched on for far longer than their good ideas can carry them (in case you are wondering, I am asserting that even most six to eight hour shooters go on for longer than they should). We need better, tighter, shorter experience, and we need them at a price that’s more in line with other entertainment options. I just don’t know how to go about this. Personally, I know I’d be willing to take a hit to graphical fidelity in order to make this happen, but I know this would be an unpopular move in general.