26 July 2011

You say X-Com, I say Xcom

So some time ago, there was a bit of a stir when 2K Studios announced, hilariously, that "strategy games are not contemporary". The context is XCOM, that apparent twisted abomination of a game, and things quickly linked up with the already long-growing murmurs of discontent over where that IP was going.

Troy Goodfellow has written a very nice response to the whole thing, one with which I agree in many respects. I'd take the argument a bit further than he did, though.

I think it looks quite certain at this point that XCOM was a poor decision, which backfired in a way the company did not plan on dealing with. The how of it really eludes me: To me it just makes no sense to market a shooter to X-Com fans, and for catering to shooter fans, why bother with the IP? Troy suggests the IP's function is to generate hype, and it seems logical (although also a bit cynical). I think after that plan was set in motion, it turned out that there IS such a thing as bad publicity after all, as everyone and their brother joined the whine bandwagon to complain about how they weren't faithful to the original games, and to (I imagine) the devs' dismay most of them didn't even bother to hype the game very much!

It's really not a good idea to antagonize your future customers, so the inane bit about strategy games was probably a desperate attempt at damage control. It seems that whenever 2K is interviewed about XCOM, when they are asked actual question about the game as opposed to just given free reign to wave hands and spin yarn, their answers are likewise devoid of meaning and completely out of touch with the point of the question. They either have no idea what they're doing, or are desperate to not let anyone find out just how bad their ideas are, or both, and the way things are going, it looks like XCOM is headed right for a 60 on Metacritic. Of course, who knows. The game's not done, there's still lots of time. Maybe all the weak promises they made weren't bullshit, and XCOM will turn out to be great, even if not quite the successor to the franchise. Not that I'm holding my breath or anything.

As for X-Com dying, I don't think a shooter called XCOM will make the games any deader than they are now- I just don't see anyone familiar with X-Com taking it (or rather the game that XCOM is shaping up to be) seriously.

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