I do like to read new guest articles when they arrive in my inbox, and Darth_Newdar was kind enough to send in this rather good piece about Play, Create, Share.
When Media Molecule announced LittleBigPlanet, back in March 2007, it didn’t seem to have a lot going for it. A game which was all about making your own games, and playing other people’s levels? With a child-friendly main character, and a cardboard world, it was easily written off as a kid’s game. Every single other critically acclaimed game on the PS3 is a mature title. Grand Theft Auto IV, Uncharted 2: Among Theives, Red Dead Redemption and the recent Portal 2 are the other titles on PS3 that hold the same score, or higher, on Metacritic. Surely the PS3 was an adult-targeted console? Wasn’t LittleBigPlanet doomed for failure from the outset?
Over two years after its release, it’s fair to say that LittleBigPlanet has been a huge success: 4.5 million copies sold, and 3 million levels created, with some of the levels created by the community besting the developers themselves. It is, to my mind, one of the greatest successes of this generation. It also holds an incredible Metacritic score of 95, making it the equal-third highest scoring game on the PlayStation 3; and Sackboy, LBP’s main character, is now an iconic figure, and has become the PlayStation 3’s mascot.
Sony, of course, gave the green light to the rather inevitable sequel and Media Molecule delivered; LittleBigPlanet 2 absolutely lives up to its predecessor. The community levels are simply stunning, with everything from recreations of Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros., to fantastic platformers, to arcade shooters, such as Voganlight’s wonderful The Attack of LeaderGamer (Queue it for when the PSN comes back).[drop2]ModNation Racers was also released under the “Play, Create, Share” banner, and, while the sales were not quite as spectacular as LittleBigPlanet, it still debuted to critical love – TheSixthAxis gave it 9/10.
And user-generated content will make its debut in a more mature title for the first time on the PS3 in InFamous 2, which is all looking rather exciting. As the producer told TSA in an interview, “There have been sandbox games, but we’re giving you the bucket and spade!”
You’ll notice a common theme with these three games: they are all Sony-exclusives. Why is that? (PC games, of course, have loads of unofficial user-generated content in the form of mods, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about current-generation consoles). Most of the time, when something successful is released, a dozen more are shoved out the door by companies, with a “Me, too” attitude. Consider the release of Kinect and PlayStation Move, both of which almost certainly came as a reaction to the Wii’s tremendous sales. Or the recent spate of shooters, mostly based on the success of Call of Duty.
Perhaps Nintendo’s absence from this field is not all that surprising. While Sackboy looks like a character that would fit beautifully into Nintendo’s collection, they have one big problem: all their consoles have fairly limited online functionality. Of course, any game based around a “Share” ethos is going to have to involve a lot of online capability, and that simply doesn’t exist on the Wii. Who knows, Nintendo may have a title lined up for Project Cafe, but for the moment, they simply do not have the resources to create a title like LittleBigPlanet.[drop]But what about Microsoft? Their absence is, for me, surprising. They have had a long time – over four years – to react to the announcement of LittleBigPlanet. Sure, there have been a few level-editors – such as the one seen in Halo: Reach – but no game has been built around this theme, in the way that Sony have. If Microsoft had been on the ball a Kinect based LittleBigPlanet style game could have been a big hit. Imagine being able to draw, position, and edit your own levels with your hands. And yet we haven’t even seen a rumour of an Xbox 360-exclusive “Play, Create, Share” game.
The complete absence from third-party publishers is also a little strange. When we heard about EA’s Create, it was automatically assumed that this was their answer to LBP. And yet, when it was actually released, it turned out to be more of a puzzle game. Perhaps the reluctance on the part of publishers is that new IPs are expensive and risky. Many companies, like Activision and EA, are very much concentrating on their top franchises and that is creating a mindset of improving what’s already there – not striking out on a radical new venture.
And yet, surely it is worth somebody’s time and money to develop a “Play, Create, Share” title, outside of Sony’s stable? Quite why nobody else is interested is a difficult question to answer. But, for now at least, Sony seem to have the genre to themselves.
For us PS3 fans, let’s hope they make the most of it.