With development budgets spiralling, pushed publishers are stuck to working with what they know in order to avoid facing commercial disaster. That's meant that outside of the emerging download platforms, there's been very little experimentation in the retail space. We can point to a handful of imaginative titles that released at retail over the past couple of years — Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire and Catherine are at the forefront of our mind. But for every innovation, there's at least ten shooters. That's a problem, and it's left Hideo Kojima worrying about the future of the industry — especially for Japan.
"It's much more competitive now: if you look at triple-A titles on a worldwide scale there's maybe only ten really big games that can get gamers' attention, and I'm not sure how Japan can compete on that level," he told Official PlayStation Magazine in a huge interview that formed the magazine's cover last month.
"I think it's more consumer demand - right now, consumers are happy with what they have. First-person shooters sell like crazy, so there's not really a strong demand for anything else, and that's why [original ideas] stop being made.
"People are satisfied with making minor upgrades and tweaking things here and there - as long as that's the landscape, it will keep on happening. I don't see a problem necessarily, but at the same time it is nice to see new things come."
Worrying words from one of the industry's most imaginative personas. But while Kojima is clearly troubled by current trends, he still thinks there's room for creativity.
"Maybe for new ideas, the way to do it is [by] releasing things via online services first and then seeing how people react to that," he pondered.
"Or even if you're making something from a game-design perspective that's completely different, you could tie it to an existing franchise - like even if it had the Metal Gear Solid title, it could be completely different.
"Maybe you can make a Batman game that has the Batman title, but you can still be free with what you make the game into. Making something that's completely new - where the gameplay, the characters, the world, everything is completely from scratch - that's very hard to realise in this day and age."
Unfortunately, like Kojima hints, the future of the industry will depend almost entirely upon the consumer. We're caught in the middle. We understand why people go out and buy the latest Call Of Duty in droves, and how limited funds can result in those more creative ideas getting overlooked. But at the end of the day, if we want the industry to be varied and prosper, we must support its original ideas. Thankfully, the aforementioned Heavy Rain, L.A. Noire and Catherine were all relatively successful upon release — and that's proof that there is room for original games in the market.