“Doom” Slayed the Competition, Showed the Way for AAA Gaming

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The gaming landscape has never been more wide or popular than it currently is. Aside from reaching a level of popular acceptance that it never had before, having long been seen as a niche community, it has become a daily habit for many. In fact, gaming is estimated to be worth $321 billion by 2026. With mobile systems such as iOS and Android and services like Steam offering immense variety, the console game market has had to go through many changes to keep up. In the middle of all of these changes came a game that instead looked to the past for its inspiration, and by doing so not only revived a long dormant franchise, but bucked nearly all trends in modern gaming: “Doom,” released in 2016. 

What are these modern trends that “Doom” bucked? Well, let us take a look at one of the most glaring examples: the monetization of the games industry. Perhaps no title better illustrates this phenomenon than “Star Wars Battlefront II,” released by Electronic Arts in 2017. The game sparked outrage with its loot box system, which, while not being a unique feature to this game, was taken to unheard levels. Essentially, loot boxes are a form of progression where “loot”, or  rewards earned from gameplay, is randomized and given to the player at determined intervals. Players can usually choose to pay real money to improve their chances of picking up more valuable “loot”. What made EA’s implementation so controversial, however, was that it was so tied to character progression. At release, players would have to play 40 hours to have the ability to unlock either Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker if they did not pay any money. It was indeed possible to bypass this by paying $2,100. The immense grind and incentivization of paying real money brought EA accusations of unregulated gambling and greedy business practices. This scandal provided immense damage to loot boxes and developers everywhere quickly scrambled to avoid similar consequences. This even included several jurisdictions and countries talking about legislation. Another common model today is games-as-a-service. This entails selling additional content of the game such as new items, new playable characters or even new story segments or multiplayer maps and modes at a later date from release. The idea is that by doing this, developers can retain interest in a game and make a more worthwhile investment by being able to profit even after its purchase. But this model has come with downsides. Firstly, there have been many instances of AAA games being released with barebones content with the promise that more will come later. The idea that a product is being sold in a non-finished state has made many resentful of this model. Further, it incentivizes effort put towards multiplayer, as that is a much easier aspect of a video game to monetize than a single player experience. This has resulted in a very different gaming landscape from even just a decade prior. So how did “Doom fit into this paradigm? 

Doomfrom its very inception sought to deliver an experience entirely separate from much of modern gaming. For one thing, it was reviving an older franchise. When Doomfirst released in 1993, it changed gaming. It practically invented the first-person shooter genre and defined much of the gaming scene for a decade, but since then, gaming has changed. Would this new game be able to deliver? Indeed it did. The 2016 Doomis currently sitting at a score of 85/100 on the review aggregator Metacritic, indicating universal acclaim. Audiences praised it similarly with its score on the same platform sitting at 8.4/10. The game works because, like the original, it is a gameplay-first experience. There were no story segments locked behind a paywall only to be released later, nor loot boxes essential to multiplayer. Instead, the game sought to recreate the simple power fantasy of a badass space-marine killing demons on Mars and in Hell itself. Gameplay is fluid and returns to the arsenal juggling of old-school shooters rather than the more modern two-weapon system introduced by “Halo: Combat Evolved.” The game is linear, but rewards exploration, as it offers many hidden extras. There is even a level creator mode with programmable enemy AI. All of this was included at release with no additional cost. It speaks volumes to me that a game can look to 30 years in the past to find inspiration and still be unique in the modern market. The game serves as a lesson that sometimes success is achieved by delivering a great product rather than encouraging payment. As gaming moves into a new phase, Doom should serve as a lesson about what true quality content and bang-for-buck looks like in a game and in that way sets a whole new standard — just like the original did 30 years ago. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Isn’t it slew? Slew the competition? Slay, slain, slew. I’m not sure “slayed” is a word, unless maybe someone is run over by a sleigh and has then been properly sleighed.

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