The Online Strategy Games Blog (one of my favourite blogs after my own) has a guest article by Jonah Alexander in which he speculates about how the new Lord of Ultima game being released by EA (Electronic Arts) will affect the Online Strategy Games marketplace. I recommend reading the whole things, but here’s part of it:
The addition of EA into the market, at first glance, might seem unfair to many of the smaller, low-budget teams already making strategy games, but I wouldn’t be too worried about them. Consider that many of the titles currently on the free-to-play market are essentially clones of popular games, usually with a slight graphics or theme change. Their game plan is probably something along the lines of create as many mediocre games that play like the successful games as quickly and cheaply as possible and chances are we’ll make profit.
My hope is that EA’s level of quality for Lord of Ultima will force some of these quick-cash-in developers to at least put a little bit more polish into their games in order to try and keep up. I’m not knocking anyone for being not having a huge team or being restricted by a low budget, but a lack of quality is certainly something they can address.
I think it’s more likely that if Lord of Ultima proves to be a runaway success, then quick-cash developers will just try to imitate it as quickly as they can. Lazy game companies out for a quick buck aren’t going to suddenly morph into hard-working game producers with original ideas just because Lord of Ultima is succesful (which I’m not completely convinced it will be, but I wish it the best of luck).
It’s sad that there are so many online games that are just pale imitations of Travian and other succesful games, but it’s nothing new to the videogame industry. There were dozens if not hundred of Super Mario Brothers rip-offs that no one remembers anymore.
It was the same way with Pong, as this great video illustrates: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/angry-video-screwattack/62615 (I’ve been looking for an excuse to link to this guy ever since I started this blog)
Anytime a game is succesful, you get bad imitations. It’s happened with Travian, and it will happen with Lord of Ultima too if that game manages to go far.