While to some it may be unthinkable, to anyone that’s been a gamer for more than 10 years, it’s pretty much an accepted, inevitability that at some point, the first person shooter will not be the dominant genre any more. Younger gamers will find this impossible to process, since the FPS has had a stranglehold on the industry for nearly a decade now.
It started with Halo making the genre palatable on consoles, and has continued ever since. But what those younger gamers fail to consider is that before the FPS, there were other genres that were also popular and had their time in the sun before being fading from the public eye.
Side scrolling platformers, fighting games, and,--for a brief period on home computers—the adventure game have all enjoyed a dominant position. There’s absolutely no reason to assume that the FPS will be any different just because the sales are currently huge. Music games also enjoyed massive success, but they flared out and died in just a handful of years. The FPS has benefitted from a bigger audience with bigger sales thanks to excessive marketing, and the inevitable word of mouth, but this is just a natural consequence of gaming itself finding a wider audience, not necessarily something specific only to the FPS as a genre.
But then the question becomes, if the FPS is going to someday lose its popularity as the reigning genre, then what will take its place?
I think in some ways we’re already seeing that future, and while it doesn’t necessarily do away with the shooting aspect, it’s going to put more emphasis on the online component. I think in the future, the popular “genre” if it can even still be called that, will be the co-op action game.
More and more, people are clamouring for some kind of co-op functionality in their games. The Horde mode of Gears of War surprised everyone with its popularity, and the FPS/RPG hybrid Borderlands enjoyed unexpected surges to popularity based on the strong word of mouth and positive reviews the co-op mode received. In a world where people are getting tired of getting shot at by other people, there’s a simple, childlike-joy in getting together with friends to work together to defeat something. It’s just an extension of childhood summer games, except that instead of pretending to fight the monster in a park, it’s being done online, with head-sets or in the same room with a friend on a couch beside you. It’s one of reasons why World of Warcraft still enjoys an audience of millions.
Co-op seems to be in a resurgence with classics from the past getting revisited by older gamers that still remember when a visit to the arcade was a regular occurrence, The Simpsons arcade game, and other classics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are all making older gamers remember a time when they didn’t play against each other, but together against a common enemy; waves of thugs that needed a serious beat down. In contemporary games, some of the biggest titles in years have benefited from a co-op element of some sort. From Software with their Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls games have tread a razor fine path between having players be the greatest help and the greatest threat in their games. But it’s precisely because of the unique execution in being overwhelmed by a boss and able to call on human assistance, that these games are so thoroughly respected in the gaming community. Even the Japanese, who aren’t big fans of online gaming to begin with, have hopped on the co-op bandwagon with the Monster Hunter series, encouraging players to come together and take down beasties that no one person should ever have to face solo.
People are social creatures. Right now, that sociability is expressed with a bullet in the head, but there’s something to be said for working together. Imagine taking the buddy-based co-op combat of something like Final Fight or Double Dragon but with the advances made in such games as God of War or Bayonetta. Why should Marvel: Ultimate Alliance have all the fun?