The 5 most overrated video game developers working today
A reader is convinced that some of the biggest names in gaming, including Naughty Dog and Rockstar Games are not as good as they think they are.
I don’t imagine many people are going to agree with everything, or even most, of what I’m about to say but I think the one thing we can all admit to is that developers never get enough credit. Often times it’s not even clear who made a game and many more casual gamers mistake the publisher, whose logo is everywhere, for the people who did all the work.
What I’ve also noticed, though, is that the few times a developer does become a major part of a game’s marketing campaign it’s usually only a big American studio whose output, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t justify the attention. And yes, I am thinking of Naughty Dog… amongst others.
Clearly none of the developers below are bad, or in most cases anything less than good, but I do think they are severely overrated. I also think that their celebrity status is stopping them from improving themselves, with most of them seemingly convinced they can do no wrong. Which is not good for anyone.
I’ll get the low-hanging fruit out of the way first: Naughty Dog are not as good as their reputation suggests. Or rather, what they’re good at is such a narrow, simplistic template that it’s really dispiriting to see them not try harder. They’ve said their next game is going to be a new IP but let me take a wild guess and say it’s going to be a third person action adventure with minor stealth elements, linear progression, and a lot of storytelling over which you have no control. Also, although the dialogue and acting will be excellent, the actual plot and characters will be disappointingly generic.
Naughty Dog make highly impressive video games but not only are all of them fundamentally the same but they don’t seem at all interesting in evolving their gameplay or giving you more control of their stories. You can’t argue with the sales figures, but I would love them to get out of their comfort zone and make something more inventive.
Bethesda Game Studios
Everyone loves Skyrim but get any fan to name the main flaws with a Bethesda role-player and they’ll immediately say the same thing: tons of bugs and general jank, plus bad graphics and terrible facial animation. I’d also add that their storytelling is pretty bad (most of their games barely have a main story) and the combat is terrible, especially in Fallout.
This has been going on for decades and yet I have never seen or heard anything from Bethesda that makes me think they acknowledge or accept these faults. They seem to be so high on their own fumes they don’t think they need to change anything and that is infuriating as they are a good developer and have done some groundbreaking work. It looks like maybe Starfield has fixed the facial animation issue but the rest of it? I won’t believe it till I see it.
Although I still wouldn’t call them bad I would say that Insomniac are easily the worst developer on this list, as I don’t believe they’ve made a single interesting or especially notable game. I’ve played multiple Ratchet & Clank games (the graphics are good, what can I tell you?) but I’ve always got bored about a third in, as you realise that this is all its going to be and the huge range of weapons can’t make up for how bland and formulaic everything feels.
Spider-Man is hugely successful but it’s just Batman: Arkham City with the web-swinging from previous Spider-Man games copied and pasted in. There’s not a single original idea in the whole game and yet its success seems to have convinced Insomniac that they’re some sort of untouchable master of their craft. I’m pretty sure we’re only a few years away from being able to train an AI to make a game just as well as them, by patching together ideas from other people’s games in a similar manner.
I almost didn’t include Rare here as they barely seem like a functioning developer nowadays, given they haven’t made a new game in five years, and that was Sea Of Thieves. Sure, they’re very good graphically but all their games are just rip-offs of existing Nintendo games, except not as good. Banjo-Kazooie is nowhere near as good as Super Mario 64, Diddy Kong Racing pales compared to Mario Kart, and Zelda laughs in the face of Star Fox Adventures.
Although the bigger question is why did they keep copying Nintendo when those same games were already right there on the same console? They were doing it on earlier consoles to, with the whole Donkey Kong Country series on SNES. The only interesting games they ever made were Blast Corps and GoldenEye 007, and most of the team for GoldenEye left to form Free Radical Design decades ago.
For me, Rockstar are in a very similar position to Naughty Dog, in that they make these games that sell millions and millions and yet they themselves don’t seem to have any real interest in gameplay or bettering themselves. Rockstar are great at making open world maps – the best in the business – but action? They’re shockingly bad, to the point where it must be on purpose. How can the third person combat in Red Dead Redemption be so lame or the driving in GTA so bad?
As with Naughty Dog, I think they just don’t care. It’s not something they’re interested in. And as with most of these studios, they’re so used to constant accolades they’re already convinced they do everything perfectly and that nothing needs to change. I don’t even think they’re very good at storytelling. Individual dialogue, sure, but these games are far, far too long in terms of the actual plot and the way it’s put across – usually by someone babbling away at you as you slowly drive/ride to the next mission. It’s uninvolving and repetitive, and I don’t know why they can’t see it themselves.
By reader Denbuman
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