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What contributed to the decline of sales of 3D platformers over the past decade? (Other than Microsoft's acquisition of Rareware.) Would it be a mistake for a developer other than Nintendo (or indie developer) to start working on one in 2011?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Josh Petrie Dec 16 '14 at 3:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1… It was closed on gaming (for not being a real question), so why would it be on topic here? – The Communist Duck May 24 '11 at 21:07
Raven suggested I ask it here, and I believe there's an answer. – jeffythedragonslayer May 24 '11 at 21:09
Nintendo/Miyamoto had some interesting things to say about 3D platformers with regards to 3DS in an Iwata Asks. Apparently people in their play tests just don't comprehend 3D too well on a 2D screen, which is why they developed Mario Galaxy to focus more on 2D gameplay and maybe it's also why the New Super Mario Bros games (which are 2(.5)D) sell WAY more than any 3D Mario – Jeff May 24 '11 at 21:20
Shinrai pretty much nailed it. There's still plenty of good 3D platformers. What's happened is that the B/C-grade game mills have gone on to make mediocre God of War clones rather than mediocre Mario 64 clones. – user744 May 25 '11 at 5:26

I think there's a few reasons behind 3d platformers declining in popularity, and thus, declining in sales (and since sales is the defining metric for what types of games are made, you can draw your conclusions from that).

First, Jeff's comment about people simply not comprehending 3d too well on a 2d screen. Now, you could argue that FPS games are 3d on 2d screens, and they've been around for ages. But the key factor there is the camera position. People can translate a first person view better than over the shoulder camera. Now, there's open world games (GTA/Just Cause, etc) that use an over the shoulder camera, and they're still around. But how many times do you need to do precision platforming in those games? Rarely, if ever.

So, the camera is a problem, especially combined with precision platforming that is the stable of most platformer games in general. Which brings up the question of controls. You need good, solid controls, otherwise your game will be considered hard, or frustrating, or just plain bad. This is a problem with any game, but it's definitely true of platformers.

Finally, all those games mentioned in your original question likely were too much. Specifically, I'm talking about Donkey Kong 64. It's a game with too many bad worlds and too many characters who have little to no variety in control or theme. Overall, it's a chore to get through and there's very few 'good' parts. For the same reason adventure games died because of terrible puzzle design, 3d platformers died because they were all collectathons.

Now, all of that said, they're not completely dead (Mario Galaxy has sections of 'true 3d'). But creating a good 3d platformer is hard, and the asset creation time would be better spent on creating a more popular game type (like an FPS, at the moment). 2d platformers (even 2.5d like Shadow Complex) are still cheaper to make, and it's too much of a risk to make a full sized 3d platformer at the moment.

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Regarding Mario Galaxy, even though it had some true 3d sections, those were probably my least favorite parts of the game, so I think you're right that it's just hard to create good controls that aren't frustrating to deal with when platforming. – Davy8 May 25 '11 at 3:18

Profit. It always comes back to the money.

You make a game sell it for the asking price and start again. this cycle has been broken in the last decade. as consoled have moved online it has offered the opportunity to sell expansions to games in the same way pc games have done for years.

think how long a 3d platformer takes to make and then think how long it takes to make an update for it and how limited the update will be. now consider an fps like cod, they can knock out a half dozen maps in a few weeks and sell them for a few quid to millions all over the world. I don't have numerical proof but I would be willing to bet they have made almost as much on the map packs as they have the game itself if you account for production time.

3D platformers do not lend themselves well to this production model, yes it is possible but not nearly as profitable.

Edit: to your other question there is no reason an indie developer should not make a 3d platformer it just is not the most profitable way of working. having said that as there are so few 3d platformers if you make a good one it may succeed through lack of competition.

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I guess not, there are some 3d platformers being developed right now, eg. bionic commando rearmed 2, is going to be released feb2011 exclusive on ps3/xbox360. or there was another 3D platformer named shadow complex released at 2009 for xbox.

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are those fully 3D platformers or are they 2.5D? – jeffythedragonslayer May 24 '11 at 21:15
Both of those games involve basically 2D gameplay rendered with a 3D engine; I don't think that is what the OP is asking about. – Josh Petrie May 24 '11 at 21:29
then what is your defenition of 3D platformer? – Ali.S May 24 '11 at 21:34
He means free movement in any direction, not constrained to a vertical plane of movement. 2D gameplay rendered with a 3D engine is generally referred to as 2.5D – jhocking May 24 '11 at 21:39
so mean mean somthing like Penny Arcade Adventures, if not plz provide me with some example of these games. – Ali.S May 24 '11 at 22:03

A few things come to mind for me:

  1. Recent global economic problems -- people buy less when they don't have money, and in recent years this factor seems to have especially effected many industries that provide "want" products rather than "need" products (it's important to note, however, that a few vendors have been very successful at creating a perceived "need" factor for their products such as Apple with their iPhone, which serves to skew this even further).

  2. Lack of variation -- to many people, 3D games are all essentially the same, just with different wepaons/tools and scenery, with the occasional different rule. So you buy a new 3D game, is it really as exciting as it used to be after playing dozens of other 3D games over the past few years?

  3. MMORPG addiction -- a lot of people got addicted to some very popular games like World of Warcraft, and spent most of their time on these games instead of purchasing and exploring new titles. When users find a game they really like, they tend to dedicate a lot more time to it, and as long as they continue to be entertained there is far less motive to look elsewhere for new gaming experiences.

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-1 These do not seem to be specific to 3D platform games performance and would have equal application to games in general. Is there anything out there to draw the correlation? – James May 24 '11 at 23:31
@James: Item 1 applies to the "decline of sales," item 2 applies to 3D gaming (in that many 3D games do look and function very similarly), and item 3 also applies to the "decline of sales." Therefore, I believe that my answer is tailored to the question that was asked. – Randolf Richardson May 24 '11 at 23:36
#2 is the only one that's even remotely relevant, and even that's pushing it because that's true of many types of games. most MMOs are pretty much the same thing rehashed, heck most 2D platformers are mostly the same thing. How does #1 or #3 explain the difference of sales between 2D platformers and 3D platformers? Or between any other type of game? It's a general statement that has nothing to do with 3D platformers. – Davy8 May 25 '11 at 3:14
@Davy8: For item 1, even though it applies to many types of games, it still does apply to 3D games as well and so it is a valid reason. For item 3, although I didn't specify the 3D crowd, for the 3D gamers addicted to an MMORPG (such as World of Warcraft which is a 3D game) this would still be valid. – Randolf Richardson May 25 '11 at 6:01
@Davy8: Regarding your assertion that 2D games have the same problem as 3D games (for looking similar), I find that there is actually a lot more variation among 2D games -- I suspect that it might be partly due to 2D limitations that push the artists to be more innovative (especially with the lower resolution stuff that involves famous styles like pixel art). With 3D there is innovation as well, but I haven't seen it focused on the artistic side of things like I have with 2D games where the artist has had to make things fit (as opposed to just splattering images on a 3D wall somewhere). – Randolf Richardson May 25 '11 at 6:06

Big games require big bucks. Many video game companies get their loans from big banks which give money to only what they think will be sucessful thus are less likely to invest into new niches or genres they are very unsure about. Small companies have the love and heart into it so they are not as afraid as the big bankers which only see dollars in their eyes.

RareWare Inc was such a company but overdid it on DK64 making a large over world but not enough content in them which turned a lot of users away who were not hardcore about it. DK64 DID have a lot of replayable features that you unlocked for multiplayer and you always wondered what the next big feature would be thus making you want to continue the adventure.

Such as getting the film for the camera where you had to take pictures in the game with great accuracy to capture faries and bring them back to the Fairy Goddess or something like that which you are granted extra features for multiplayer which expanded the game big time. Once you got multiplayer unlocked DK64 was a blast in the shooting levels.

Banjo Tooie also had features to be unlocked with shooting levels and I am sure other platformers too.

I wish these kinds of games where you unlock content to make levels replayable and adds multipalyer abilities come again instead of levels being completed one time and that's all you've got.

Like modding for PC games allowing multiplayer features to be unlocked is as close as you can get on a console.

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