Drake May Have Settled For Benchmarks, But Exclusive Games Often Define Genres.

The dev spoke candidly to PSM3 magazine about Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2 and its baring on the industry. In that interview Cox dropped a bomb of a quote, declaring that Uncharted 2 couldn't set a genre benchmark because it was a single-platform release. It left me considering: what's this guy been smoking?

To be honest, I don't want to criticise Cox - I've yet to read the full interview in context and thus there may be a completely different rationale for the dev's opinion. But it got me to thinking about the topic at hand.

For what it's worth, I honestly don't think Uncharted 2 "redefines" the action genre as Cox seems so willing for it to do so. Uncharted 2 is just a fantastic action game that happens to do visuals, scripting and voice acting astonishingly well. In that, Naughty Dog definitely set a benchmark to the industry. Post the game's release, virtually every game's plot, writing and visuals are compared to Nathan Drake's outing. Few measure up. But that's not defining, that's benchmarking, and in a way Cox is right. Uncharted 2 is a very enjoyable game from a gameplay stance, but aside from it's amazing, playable set-pieces, it does little to drive the genre forward. That's fine for Uncharted 2 but it plays into Cox's comments.

The problem I take issue with is the insinuation that only multiplatform games can drive the industry forward. History tells us this is absolutely, and profoundly incorrect. In fact, I'd argue the thing that drives the industry forward the most is the platform rivalry. That's not to undersell multiplatform games - the likes of GTA and Call Of Duty have long been the aspirations of many in the industry - but it is to say that an exclusive title can define a platform, and indisputably define a genre. One need only look back to the Nintendo 64's launch, where Super Mario 64 was the sole launch title in my region. No other platform could touch it - the visuals, the level design, the scope, the length. The game defined an entirely new genre and carried an entire platform on its shoulders until the release of Ocarina Of Time. Which incidentally did it all over again. It's Nintendo at their best, and while we're a Playstation website, credit where credit's due, Nintendo are still doing it today with the likes of Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Platform defining.

Like Nintendo's releases, sometimes a defining game doesn't have to belong to an existing genre. Looking to the Playstation 3, the likes of LittleBigPlanet and Heavy Rain set an entire new mantra in a category completely undefined prior to their release. In fact, Sony remain the sole competition in LittleBigPlanet's "Play Create Share" mantra - with their upcoming ModNation Racers being the only other game to tackle the inventive model.

But Cox's comments seem to suggest that a single-platform game can't define an existing genre. The word "Halo" dispells that. For years developers tried to break the first-person shooter on consoles and failed. All it took was a little game called Halo to not only set the benchmark for all console shooters (and subsequently spawn the unbelievable popularity of the genre) but also define the entire XBOX platform. I often wonder whether the XBOX would be viable today without Halo. Halo was more than a killer-app, it made the industry think about the XBOX, in a field completely dominated by the Playstation 2. And it was exclusive.

Exclusive games are vital for the industry, and vital for the platform-holder's identity. Can a single-platform release define a genre? They don't always need to, but history tells us that yes they can. In fact, history tells us that single-platform games rarely settle for defining a genre, but sometimes they create new ones and define entire platforms too.

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