Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a game very similar to WoW, except with less content, fewer features, more bugs, and a smaller playerbase? You’d play that, wouldn’t you? We should make such a game!
While the particular reasons depend on what sort of games you like, the appropriate answer to the above questions is almost surely “no”. Someone who doesn’t like WoW isn’t going to like a mediocre clone of it. Someone who does like WoW would have no reason to abandon that game for something so clearly inferior to it.
So who would be likely to state the original paragraph, or perhaps a less satirical version of it? Certainly not random computer game players, who wouldn’t be interested in playing such a game. Nor would such people seriously consider trying to actually make such a game. People who run an established company that dream of copying WoW’s profits, more so than about any particular game mechanics, might find the game far more appealing.
People outside the gaming industry who want to make a game typically want to make a game that they think they would like, but one that doesn’t already exist. Most such dreams of making a game never really go very far, but some do have the talent, ambition, persistence, and naivete to take a serious shot at making their game into a reality.
Sometimes they even succeed. Often the games don’t work the way they were supposed to, run rather inefficiently, or have way too many bugs. Games built on a shoestring budget usually look and feel that way, and lack the polish of a big-budget game. But that doesn’t mean that they never end up being pretty good games.
Indeed, some such games can be quite good, and different enough from the usual standard fare to be worth playing. They may lack the polish and the advertising budget to draw huge subscriber numbers, but a low-budget game doesn’t need to bring in $50 million to be a success.
But what happens once the company is more established? Want to spend $50 million to develop some unproven concept that may not bring in 10% of that in revenue? Not if that would risk putting an otherwise stable company out of business entirely. Rather, an established company usually prefers to take a safer route that will reliably make a profit, or at least not really lose too badly. That leads to mimicking games that have already made solid profits. And that, in turn, leads to players complaining that too many games are too similar.
So which is better, a genuinely new and different game, or a warmed-over rehash of some other game (or perhaps many other games) that you’ve already played? That’s not a trick question, and I’d typically at least give the former a chance to prove itself.
But what if the latter game is a rehash of various other games with which you aren’t familiar? Then it doesn’t matter how many other similar games there are. Indeed, this is the situation that a lot of the big-budget games hope for. And that is how companies end up making games that have less of a point than other games they’ve previously released.
Going back to the title of this post, one could probably come up with a number of exceptions. Still, consider that if a company’s first game is garbage, it is likely to also be the company’s last game. Then again, some of the early games developed by EA were astonishingly awful, but the company is still with us today.