A reader argues that there will be no Elden Ring clones from major publishers but that it could help inspire them not to chase trends.
Elden Ring is now officially one year old. Somehow they manged to make their DLC announcement three days after the anniversary, but that seems to be par for the course recently, for the lackadaisical way that publishers treat their announcements. However, I am not here to talk about the loss of ‘showmanship’ in video game reveals but about Elden Ring itself, whose unexpected success has led to… absolutely nothing.
It has only been a year, but so far there has been zero indication that any publisher has seen the success of Elden Ring and thought that they must copy it. Within months of Fortnite becoming a runaway hit it was obvious that every publisher under the sun was going to have a stab at making their own battle royale. They quickly learnt that it wasn’t as easy as all that but their attempts to clone its success actually helped to solidify Fortnite’s position as a classic game.
With Elden Ring, though, there’s been no attempt to do anything of the sort and I’m going to predict that there never will be. I will use as my point of comparison The Legend Of Zelda, a franchise that has been running for 37 years and includes at least three games that have been considered the best of all time and yet it too has had almost no impact on the wider gaming world.
You may say it’s too soon to expect Elden Ring clones, or even the announcement of them. But after getting on for four decades how many Zelda clones have there been? A handful. And how many have been major critical or commerical hits? None. Breath Of The Wild has had the most impact, in that it’s obvious the makers of recent open world games have at least played it, but none of the games they’ve made have taken anything but the broadest of inspiration from it.
I suspect it will be the same for Elden Ring and for the same reason: these games are hard to make. They’re so far beyond the video game norm they exist in a sort of classic bubble that exists outside of the rest of the games industry. There are others in a similar position. The Last Of Us for example, is another game that gets non-stop praise and high sales and yet there’s almost nothing else like it.
The fairly low budget A Plague Tale games are the only relatively similar ones and the first was quite successful but even that didn’t convince other publishers that they could or would want to do the same sort of thing.
The video games industry is both more plagiaristic than you think and less. Yes, there are endless lines of open world games, online shooters, and free-to-play trash but that is because they’re either cheap to make or such a well-known commodity that you can guarantee sales to at least some degree. If you throw enough out there, so the wisdom goes, at least a couple are bound to be a hit. That’s basically been Ubisoft’s entire business plan for the last 10+ years.
It’s not just that Elden Ring takes a lot of time and money to make, it’s that the people available to make it are few and far between. Dark Souls has already made it more acceptable for games to be harder than they used to be but since Elden Ring is slightly easier that’s not something that’s really going to influence anyone going forward.
I don’t say this with any real criticism, it’s not like EA or Activision can just phone up a recruitment agency and hire a dozen Hidetaka Miyazaki stand-ins at a moment’s notice but what I do think it underlines is that each company should be looking to do one or two things really well, instead of just chasing trends and only ever being the third or fourth best at it.
You actually see this with big publisher’s top games: EA has FIFA, Activision has Call Of Duty, and Take-Two has GTA. No one does these games as good as them and they’ve justifiably dominated that market, even if personally I’d never put them in the classic bubble with Elden Ring and The Last Of Us. They never seem to realise though that they should pursue this same idea with everything they make.
Being the best at whatever you do might be harder, and require more experimentation at first, but the biggest games are almost always the most innovative too. Call Of Duty might not seem that way now but it was when it first came out, and the same for GTA and the rest.
Elden Ring will have no major impact on games simply because it’s too hard to copy, but if it inspires publishers to try to carve out their own niche as well, instead of copying someone else’s, maybe it will have a much more positive influence than you’d imagine.
By reader Crombie
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