This morning, I fired up my PS4 and stepped into the newest expansion for Destiny, The Taken King. A promise a year in the making, The Taken King is DLC that also completely changes the core functionality of a game that many had considered broken, boring or dry. Leveling was changed entirely. Voice actors were recast. And an entirely new quest line was built out, full of cutscenes and starring Nathan Fillion. It took what was once considered a total flop and a misfire and turned it into one of the most dynamic and interesting games of this year. There’s a reason Destiny’s developer, Bungie, has been positioning it as if it were an entirely new game. The entire thing seems to say, “Look – we listened!”
And that got me to thinking, because this sort of thing could be considered brand spanking new. Is this a new frontier of video games, where the companies can release bad games, spend a year frantically patching them, and then update the game to rave reviews? In a world where fans all over are annoyed for having on-disc DLC, will we be able to put up with basically beta testing a game until its good?
And then I thought some more. You know what I’ve been beta testing for the last ten years? Spider-man movies. Sam Raimi’s whimsical takes on the webslinger were never quite right – the wide eyed innocence made the humor the Spider-man needs to thrive lose a lot of its edge. Meanwhile, the Amazing Spider-man series got the humor right, and lost everything else in a rush to build a multi-franchise series on the back of one character. Now, it seems, after five attempts we may finally get a good Spider-man film with Marvel involved.
There’s been complaint after complaint recently about how often films are being remade. But now I’m wondering if it’s not a trend of people running out of ideas, but a trend of people trying to get the thing right – and I think this might be a trend we’re going to see a lot more of. People hated the second and third Pirates movies, so Disney changed direction on the fourth. People mostly hated that, too (I loved it), and now I’m guessing they’ll pivot again for the fifth. The new Star Wars movies are literally fulfilling a wish list of everything people wanted fixed from the prequels.
We might be living now in an era of iteration – where a work can come out, be savaged, and then come out with a version 2.0 a year later to massive acclaim. And while the worlds of film and books move slowly, comic books and video games have been known to pivot on a dime to give people what they want to see. Destiny, Final Fantasy XIV, Batgirl – there are a ton of examples recently of creators turning back on their mistakes instead of doubling down, and creating better products for it.
Of course, the negative side of it is obvious. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is a film that was made because of fan feedback, and in trying to fulfill all the fan dreams (more characters! Raiden fighting!) it ended up making a completely awful film. Fans are often capricious, and our ideas are not always the best. Too much catering can lead to a watered down or uninspired adaptation. There are a ton of fans out there that would have told you, given a brief description of the plot of Man of Steel, that the film was everything they’d ever wanted from a Superman movie.
So where do we draw the line? Where is fan feedback a positive force, and where does it sink creators? What do you think? Is this new trend a good thing? We want to hear what you guys think, so sound off in the comments and let’s chat.