The Business Comment
A Reddit comment from GameDesignerDude, in response to a video about The Last of Us Pt. II’s “outdated” design
The thing is really that unless making money is outdated, neither of these companies can really be viewed as doing anything particularly unwise here. Both company’s games sell like hotcakes and get rave reviews. Naughty Dog and Rockstar games account for an absurd number of the top-selling games of the last decade.
It’s pretty much an academic argument as to if they are “outdated” or not. Plenty of people still play NES and SNES games regularly. Simply being outdated is not really a good enough reason to change if your target audience is still paying you money to make the games you are making.
When it comes to The Last of Us specifically, this is an actually welcome comment in a sea of bad hot takes. What u/GameDesignerDude smartly does is find a middle-ground: provide an argument for why the design can or should remain outdated (financial incentive), indulging defenders of the game, yet also acknowledges the game’s detractors by taking the stance that it is creaky design, even if that’s the commercially viable route.
What I find especially interesting is the second part of this comment (mostly because I had trouble understanding it). I’m not sure what they mean by an “academic argument.” I can’t tell if they’re talking about the original video and the creator’s evidence, or if they’re citing NES/SNES players as evidence of successful yet outdated games (I can’t imagine this — so many less people play NES/SNES games than PS4 games). I’m intrigued by this route because it seemingly tries to lump a small minority of retro game players, leveraging games for their archival purposes, as evidence of commercial viability. I think what u/GameDesignerDude meant to say was that plenty of modern AAA games update design made popular by NES/SNES games — modern Mario, Zelda, etc. — not that 20+ year old games are being played regularly.
If I were a commenter, I would take this argument to heart: look to how many design decisions are driven by usability and commercial viability. Even outside the realm of what we think is commercially driven design, such as microtransactions or live-service elements.