Is it High Noon for shooters?

Michael Abbott atThe Brainy Gamer thinks so:

Westerns began to disappear in the late 1960s for reasons relevant to modern game developers: 1) Genre fatigue and homologous products; 2) High cost of production; 3) Public outcry over violence; 4) Narrow target audience.
Each of these factors apply to contemporary shooter games, but the most threatening is the mind-numbing sameness of these games. We’ve reached a saturation point where the dismissive cliché has become a valid claim: they all look the same. When a genre sustains itself by promoting minor tweaks as revolutionary features - and its hardcore fans claim ownership that typically resists change - death looms.

What do you think? Are shooters going from mainstream to niche in the near future? I don’t see it happening.

Everything’s cyclical, so I guess someday shooters will be niche, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the near-term.

On the one hand some genres, like sports games, have very good staying power. On the other hand, music games were all the rage just five years ago.

The first-person format is one of the staples of the medium. I can definitely envision more first person non-shooters in the mix and fewer “modern combat” rehashes, but I don’t see shooters as a genre becoming scarce anytime soon.

Honestly - we need new genres…

I think games as a whole are still struggling with the failure state/death metaphor. Once that’s overcome hopefully we’ll see more stuff.

I agree with Alan. Less actiony military shooters like CoD and BF maybe, but the entire genre? That’s extremely unlikely. It would be like top-down strategy games disappearing, or side scrolling platformers. The music genre isn’t really a fair comparison since those are all almost exactly the same games, whereas - even though there are a lot of CoD clones - FPS games live on a far broader spectrum that can range from stealth to sci-fi to horror to tactical to action, et cetera.

I don’t think so because the multiplayer experiences of those games are unmatched in their ability to offer direct and fast paced competition in a straight forward basic objective(place red dot on man and pull trigger). Add in teamwork and a ton of variablity like weapons, maps, abilities etc and you’ve got an excellent recipe for long lasting fun and adrenaline.
I don’t think other genres can offer this.

Comparing Westerns to shooters is a poor analogy. That’s because when you dig deep, the Western is not truly a full genre – instead it’s a setting with a set of additional tropes attached. Which is how you can pretty effortlessly get things like Western comedies, Western spy shows (Wild Wild West), Western horror movies, Western musicals etc. etc. without really doing much in the way of genre bending.

A more apt analogy to “the Western” in the world of games would be “the space marine game” or “the game about an elite military squad.” Those are specific settings for the general shooter genre.

Movies with Western settings did poorly in the 70s. Action movies about manly men who used guns to settle things while brooding about their manly men code of honor, on the other hand, did just fine in the 70s and beyond, just in different settings. Likewise, I expect games with shooter mechanics will do just fine in the future - it just may be time to retire marine squads as a setting (in space or otherwise.)

But a military unit is the only way developers can get away with such thin characters!


I’d fund a kickstater to make that happen! Im as burnt out on shooters, as I used to be for RTS’s.

Or the resurgence of old genres like space games. ;)

I’d play an updated Outlaws if it would have me.

Shooters are already failing in droves. Look at the following list of 2011/early 2012 games:

  • Crysis 2
  • Killzone 3
  • Bulletstorm
  • Resistance 3
  • Rage
  • Homefront
  • Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
  • FEAR 3
  • Goldeneye 007: Reloaded
  • Red Faction: Armageddon
  • Hard Reset
  • Brink
  • Syndicate
  • Darkness 2
  • Gotham City Impostors

All of these flopped relative to the development and marketing budgets invested in them. A few of them seemed successful because of high announced sales figures (Brink) but look closer and you’ll see numbers that are based on sales to retailers (not end consumers) or heavily discounted prices.

Like any other genre, shooters have a few standout series that sell superbly. But on average, shooters are not a successful genre anymore. I suspect a standard Western RPG is more likely to sell well than a shooter nowadays, for example.

Shooter fatigue is here, and I’m happy about it. I just hope intelligent non-shooter games that resemble shooters (like, say, Dishonored) aren’t dragged down with the rest of the genre.

I think “Hard Reset” doesn’t belong in that list.
I think it did / does ok for what it is.
After all it was a budget release title and has appeared in an indie bundle since release and the others are all AAA material or at least were marketed as such.

In general yes I think there is some fatigue setting in.
I’m only interested in Far Cry 3 right now mainly because of the psycho stuff that might make it different from the typical military shooter.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Spec Ops: The Line might be interesting if they really focus on personal drama / difficult decisions but that has to be seen.

Tyrion, what is your source for that? I’m not necessarily disagreeing, but I’m surprised if you’re right about a few of those being flops according to the criteria you’ve given.

And I completely disagree with the premise, by the way. Shooters are thriving as a genre on a number of levels, including creatively. FEAR 3 and Darkness II, for instance, were superlative at what they did. The last Call of Duty made some very nice changes to the formula. Rockstar’s take on multiplayer in GTA4, Red Dead Redemption, and now Max Payne is really smart stuff. Like any genre, there will be a lot of creative and commercial duds, but Abbot’s premise is flat-out wrong, his analogy is horribly forced, and he’s taking potshots at low hanging fruit by quoting marketing copy like he does.

Although mainly, I’d just say he needs to boot up the multiplayer in Max Payne before he jumps to any further conclusions. :)


It’s a false analogy because Westerns are a subset of a genre, the Action Movie whereas Shooters are the entire genre. Westerns gave way to war pictures, then crime pictures, then war pictures again, then drug pictures, then more war pictures. Fucking, fighting, and eating are the three primary forces our stupid brains tell us matter, they’re untouchable as a genre. The only way shooters die out is if we develop laser weapons and start calling the resultant games Zappers instead of Shooters.

Do you shoot lasers or do you zap lasers?

Why is he comparing shooters to Westerns and not to action movies as a whole? Is it because it makes his terrible analogy fail hard?

Games within the genre can vary greatly. Even if the mechanics are similar, the environment and story can make each a unique experience. Even little twists on standard gameplay can make a game feel fresh enough. Even if shooters are not my favorite genre I don’t think they are going anywhere.