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10 Genre Defining Video Games (And How They Did It)

Video games are big business and with millions of dollars at stake there is no shortage of companies looking to jump on the latest trend to generate huge revenue. Analysing the success of previous titles can provide valuable insight into game development.

Video games are big business and with millions of dollars at stake there is no shortage of companies looking to jump on the latest trend to generate huge revenue. Video games are big business and with millions of dollars at stake there is no shortage of companies looking to jump on the latest trend to generate huge revenue. From the MOBA craze that started several years ago to the worldwide phenomenon of Minecraft and the more recent rise of battle royale titles the video game industry is becoming increasingly centred around current trends.

Execution, timing and luck all play an important role in becoming the leader in a game genre and that title doesn’t necessarily always go to the first entrant either. Here are 10 video games that stand out as the frontrunner in their genre and how they beat out the competition.

From the MOBA craze that started several years ago to the worldwide phenomenon of Minecraft and the more recent rise of battle royale titles the video game industry is becoming increasingly centred around current trends.

Execution, timing and luck all play an important role in becoming the leader in a game genre and that title doesn’t necessarily always go to the first entrant either. Here are 10 video games that stand out as the frontrunner in their genre and how they beat out the competition.

League of Legends (MOBA)

A prime example of a game that was not the first in a genre but managed to dominate it nonetheless is League of Legends which stands atop the MOBA genre. Drawing in 60 million spectators in their 2018 mid-season invitational while Dota 2 arguably the runner up in the genre continues to see long term declining player counts with lows not seen since 2014.

Both games are based on the 2003 Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients (DotA) but an early move by League of Legends to modernize and visually improve the core MOBA experience saw it obtain an early lead over the competition that proved impossible to overcome. A recent casualty in the MOBA wars being Perfect World Entertainment’s Gigantic which lasted barely a year before being shut down due to the inability to establish a sizeable player base.

Not only does League of Legends command the largest player base in the MOBA genre it’s impact on the eSports scene has promoted gaming as a career more so than any other game in history.

Pokémon Go (Augmented Gaming)

While many games use a real world setting in recent years there has been a push to take that even further with augmented reality games. While this development is likely to continue as virtual reality headsets become the norm the game that most people are aware of that facilitates this is the hugely popular Pokémon Go.

Utilizing the GPS tracking from Ingress which Niantic previously developed, Pokémon Go allows everyone to fulfill their childhood fantasy of being a Pokémon trainer which was a key element of its global success. With real world locations hiding Pokémon, Gyms and PokéStops completing your Pokédex is guaranteed to takes players across their city.

The Sims (Life Simulation)

The first example of a game that dominated its niche from the beginning is The Sims franchise. Now with 4 core game titles under the belt, a few mobile spinoffs and rumors circling of a 5th title in 2019 Electronic Art’s (EA) behemoth in the life simulation genre has had next to no real competition for many years.

There is good reason for the lack of competition too with EA constantly releasing new experiences and add-ons that other companies simply can’t match with only a few Sim alternatives that offer the same level of depth. The Sims 3 with all DLC for example will quickly set you back over $400. When your game experience relies on mimicking real-life amount of content is a key requirement to success.

Grand Theft Auto (Open World)

Another genre where amount of content plays a pivotal role is the open world genre which gives players access to their very own sandbox. The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series takes this sandbox adventure further by sprinkling in a crime-based story line, sprawling cities, driving, gun fights and countless other activities as the franchise has evolved with available hardware technology.

With its focus on antisocial behaviors the game series started on shaky ground in 1997 with a number of EU countries condemning it alongside an outright ban from Brazil. This attention though has seemingly worked in the favor of GTA as it has been able to consistently shake off competition such as Far Cry, Prototype, Mafia and Watch Dogs with its realistic albeit often gruesome depiction of crime life that gamers can’t seem to get enough of.

Hearthstone (Collectible Card Game)

Mention Blizzard Entertainment to any gamer and it’s likely the first thought that will come to mind is quality. While the foundation of the company was built on the back of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo franchises the company has recently experimented with other genres such as team shooter Overwatch and MOBA inspired Heroes of the Storm. A consistent trend in approaching these genres though has been doing things a little differently. This paid off big with the release of Hearthstone with the game making Blizzard $40 million a month in 2017.

While the collectible card game genre was nothing new to the digital world Hearthstone removed stigma around the accessibility of these games by creating an experience for both the casual and hardcore player. With the addition of Blizzard’s quality standards on card design and post-release support the success of Hearthstone has even outpaced Blizzard’s original expectations.

Minecraft (Sandbox)

A game that went from humble beginnings to take over the minds and hearts of millions while kicking off the growth in the sandbox survival genre. Despite the countless Minecraft inspired sandbox games that have flooded the market since none could overthrow the original.

The pinnacle of Minecraft’s dominance was established in 2014 when Microsoft acquired the creators of Minecraft (Mojang) at US$2.5 billion, by no means did this end the popularity of the game though with recent numbers putting the game sales at 144 million units across all available platforms (LINK 13).

Diablo (Loot Based RPG)

Loot based games are designed to offer longevity to the player as they hunt for the perfect piece of equipment, the chance of that dream item waiting to be looted from the next enemy makes them extremely addicting and hard to put down.

No game in this sub-genre can compete against the Diablo series though which flaunts 3 successful core games alongside a number of expansions. Even the second game (released in 2000) still attracts approximately 200,000 followers and several thousand viewers regularly on Twitch. Despite a shaky launch with a real money auction house the 2012 released Diablo 3 boasts similar player stickiness with regular ladder resets also encouraging competition.

The success of the franchise was secured early with the dark and gritty original Diablo released in 1996 cementing the series for fans early with each new addition providing more lore to the grim world of Sanctuary. Only Path of Exile has come close at replicating the longevity of the Diablo franchise, still seeing regularly player count jumps after each big release despite being 5 years old.

Dark Souls (Hardcore Gaming)

Back when gaming was relegated to dark basements and computers that weren’t even as powerful as the original iPhone games were much more difficult than they are today. Due in part to games being designed for an older audience and part due to system limitations that meant useful mechanics simply were not possible. As a result, game longevity was offered via challenge rather than 100 hours of content that modern games can pack in now.

By the time that hardware caught up gaming had reached the console era of the PlayStation and GameBoy designed primarily for the young gamer which meant a watering down of difficulty slowly over time. That all changed in 2009 when Demon’s Souls was released and promised to challenge players once again which was timed perfectly with the child gamers of the past century hitting an age where they demanded challenge in their gaming experience.

With the Dark Souls franchise first to capitalize on this shift it’s solidified itself as the leading series in the hardcore gaming space.

Clash of Clans (Mobile Strategy)

If you asked someone to name a popular mobile game it’s likely they’d name either Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga which still remain some of the top grossing titles despite being on the older side of mobile gaming. Just like several other items on this list the success of Clash of Clans is part perfect timing and part execution.

With a 2012 release Clash of Clans came along just as mobile hardware and data was readily becoming available and social competitive gaming was accordingly also starting to rise. While the mobile strategy genre has evolved since as the hardware power of handheld mobile devices continues to grow Clash of Clans was breaking all the records a few years ago and is still a popular title in an age where mobile game trends are short lived.

Fortnite (Battle Royale)

No list of genre dominating games would be complete without the current king of the gaming world, Fortnite. While Fortnite is dominating the media, few people are aware of the story behind the game and even less have played the original Fortnite. Originally intended as a 4-player survival game that took elements from Minecraft and the likes of Left 4 Dead the game had essentially been in development hell since 2011.

The saving grace for Fortnite though was creating it’s battle royale spin off to compete with PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG) which was dominating the genre at the time. With it’s cartoonish style, building mechanic and the free to play price tag it only took a few short months for Fortnite to dethrone PUBG on concurrent player count.

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