Is There Even Room for More Survival Games on Steam?
The survival genre has been dominated by indie developers due to the relative ease in which games in the category can be created. While this has led to a lot of great titles, it’s also left the genre bloated with several nearly identical games. Looking exclusively at Steam, (otherwise, this article would take ages), we’re going to dive deep into the heart of the genre.
Now, Survival games are a strange bunch, let me tell you. They’re divided by a strict boundary line that is: multiplayer.
Survival of the fittest via killing others makes up the bulk of heavy hitters. H1Z1: King of the Kill and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are both exclusively PvP titles that are nearly identical. Drop into a map full of scattered loot, equip yourself, kill your foes, and avoid the ever-encroaching wall of death. This is due to the titular PlayerUnknown, who was a lead developer in H1Z1 and the creator of Battlegrounds.
Other titles like Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved feature PvP as well, but also heavily emphasize resource gathering and crafting. They feature status bars for things like hunger and thirst and therefore require due diligence in staying healthy. Though once you level enough to craft high-end weapons and armor, all that goes out the window when you can just kill anyone you see and steal their equipment.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have single-player survival games and titles that focus on multiplayer co-op.
The Long Dark is the most hardcore survival game I’ve ever played and for damn good reason. It’s punishingly difficult, meticulously slow, and will inevitably kill you a lot. And it’s funny because I find it ironic that titles most true to survival are less popular, but also understand it because the high difficulty and slow gameplay are hard to master.
Which is why titles like Don’t Starve Together, 7 Days to Die, and The Forest all emphasize working together to survive. More hands to gather, build, and fight toward a common goal are the name of the game here. They encourage people to play together, which makes people typically play longer while also encouraging their friends to purchase it as well. And while the first is top-down with little combat, the latter two are both first-person monster killers.
Which is where the bloat comes along once again.
Resource gathering, loot finding, killers are the new staple in survival. Each has their own twists and nuances, but this layout is the new workhorse system used by developers for the ease in which it can be adapted to fit their needs. Day Z, State of Decay, The Forest, 7 Days to Die, Battlegrounds, H1Z1, Miscreated, all these games, and dozens more, use this system.
And why? Because diversity has been killed by competition.
This is what players want. How do we know? Because they sell a lot of copies and retain high player counts. Developers see the success of titles such as the above and emulate it. They make similar games so they can attract fans and make enough money to move on to more original titles.
Remember, most of these games are made by small indie developers trying to make a name for themselves.
Fortunately, the solution to removing the bloat is simple: play other games. The market decides which games are successful, so players have to vote with their wallets to really make a change. If you’re tired of the over-abundance of similar titles and knockoffs, the only way you can really affect developers is by not supporting them. Wait for them to make a new, more original title you want to play then buy that. Developers will focus on the titles that make them the most money. It’s all about business.
It can be hard, and you might miss out on some fun, but eventually, games that aren’t played will die so that the genre can survive.