X-Com Publisher Claims Strategy Is a Dead Genre, Angers Chad

Posted: July 16, 2011 in PC, PS3
Tags: , , , ,

Hitting the Fan

2K Games president Christoph Hartmann, in an interview with UK games industry trade publication MCV stated:

The ‘90s generation of gamers all love Xcom and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? Every studio we had wanted to do it and each one had its own spin on it. But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary.

I use the example of music artists. Look at someone old school like Ray Charles, if he would make music today it would still be Ray Charles but he would probably do it more in the style of Kanye West. Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same.

That’s what we are trying to do. To renew Xcom but in line with what this generation of gamers want. The team behind it is asking themselves every day: ‘Is it true to the values of the franchise?’ It’s not a case of cashing in on the name. We just need to renew it because times are changing.

Oh boy. Of all the dumb…First, before I get started, I want to thank you, Mr. Hartmann. I’ve been looking for a stupid, off-hand remark regarding X-Com to take out of context and twist to my own purposes, but you sir, have done me the favor of giving me a moronic quote that’s completely in-context. This is a beautiful moment. This is like a dream. This is that fabled moment when a TIE Fighter pilot wipes Wedge’s X-Wing off the runway while it’s just sitting there.

But anyway, enough gloating. Time to put on my desktop general…er, second lieutenant (I know I’m the lowest of the low) beret and get to work blasting his quotes to smithereens.

Begin Interception

So…strategy games aren’t contemporary? Just assuming for the moment that he’s talking about turn-based games like the 3Ds’ Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, PS3’s Valkyria Chronicles, and 2K’s own Civilization, his article doesn’t hold a lot of water. They may be niche titles, but they do respectable business. And this is without mentioning popular RTS titles like StarCraft II or Dawn of War II.

What I think he means by contemporary is “doesn’t fly on consoles”.  (And, sad as that statement may be for the PC gamer at heart, consoles are where “the money” is these days. Although not the WoW or StarCraft money.) And this doesn’t quite make sense either if he’s talking exclusively about turn-based games. Yes, real-time strategy games can be a pain in the ass with control stick and a lack of hotkeys. But turn-based? The strategy-RPG genre has turned out some exceptionally popular titles, not the least of which is Final Fantasy Tactics, and some of my personal favorites like Shining Force, Tactics Ogre and the Front Mission series. The first two X-Com games were also ported to the Sony PlayStation, and the results were pretty good.

The Soulless Corporate Executive Blues

And his Ray Charles comment was…strange. Very, very strange. What he’s saying is that Ray Charles would have ripped off someone else’s style because it’s popular? To extend the same metaphor, would Tolkien be copying J.K Rowling and writing stories about a wizard boarding school, and would Orson Welles be making Transformers 4 (yes, I know he was Unicron)? The original X-Com essentially invented the turn-based tactical subgenre, yet Hartmann thinks it’s appropriate for the game to follow the leader and go with a shooter, a genre that’s so crowded that the chances for the new XCOM to make any kind of impact are slim. He basically said he wants to jump on the bandwagon.Front Mission 4 Screen

Remember, Kids: Don’t Give in to Peer Pressure

However, there is a bright spot in all of this, and by bright spot I mean hilarious statement that spells doom for this new X-Com game in an “if these events don’t change, Tiny Tim will die” sort of way. When asked why BioShock 2 didn’t sell well, he gave the reason that it was because the game released two weeks after Mass Effect 2. Oh, Hartmann, you poor, deluded bastard. Don’t you know that XCOM is slated to release the same day as Mass Effect 3? I’m afraid you’re going to have a hell of a month come March when your in-name-only sequel debuts the same day as the conclusion of a much-beloved trilogy that has foiled you before and is coming right back to bite you in the ass again.

In any case, there is a spiritual successor, Xenonauts, which is being developed independently. I’ve got my eye on it, and am hoping it turns out well.

What, me worry?

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Comments
  1. Gregg B says:

    I mean, whoa. wtf. Christ. Well said Chad.

    “but it just needs to move on…”

    No, no and no. X-COM doesn’t need to move on. It’s still in first place. It’s still one of the most exhilirating and elegantly layered strategies ever. By all means take the franchise and expand on it, tighten the interface, polish the graphics and sound but don’t try and move it on by shooting it in the leg and saying this is how it’s supposed to be.

    ” …although the core essence will still be the same.”

    The core essence won’t be the same if he thinks that strategy isn’t contemporary. X-COM was all about the strategy. Even if they ditched turn-based combat there’d still be a butt-load of potential, but to dismiss strategy? That’s lunacy.

    What worries me is by following the leader, 2K Marin risk not only soiling a classic franchise for a generation of gamers unfamiliar with the original X-COM titles but the possibility of a true spiritual successor later on down the line. I don’t know, after the statement above I’m not at all hopeful for this ‘XCOM’. I’m starting to feel okay about the dropped hyphen as well, if only because it separates it from X-COM.

    • Chad M. says:

      The thing is, 2K Marin seems to keep lying through their teeth or giving a bare minimum effort. I remember watching the E3 videos and they were saying “oh, we made it a TACTICAL shooter now”. Which basically means they gave it a radial menu like the console versions of Mass Effect. The tactical elements are tacked on and half-assed.

      X-Com was never just about combat- granted, the missions could be white-knuckled and full of suspense, but the strategic element also had a lot to do with peppering the world with bases, building those bases, and detecting UFOs. I’m just failing to understand what part of this 2K considers the “core essence” of X-COM to be.

      There’s a reason the original X-COM always ranks high in “best PC games of all time” lists, and it didn’t get there by going with what was popular; it got there through innovation and sheer quality.

  2. Armand K. says:

    Very well said Chad. I swear, it’s like they’re doing everything they can to tarnish the good name of X-Com while simultaneously alienating anyone who might have any interest in their game. Any interest I had in this game was essentially wiped away with these comments.

  3. Rob says:

    I raged when I read through this article. Just like Duke Nukem, another king is dead and buried.

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