Things are not looking good for RTS fans. Even the developers of real time strategy games are talking about how dire the situation may be for one of the most well known PC gaming genres. In a recent interview with RPS, Ironclad studio head Blair Fraser (Sins of a Solar Empire) took a surprisingly candid stance, by saying “its a dying market.”
This is a strange thing to hear from a company that has put so much effort into the genre over the past decade, and it begs the question, what is going on? Fraser attempts to give a reason why by saying, “RTS titles, to my mind, are very niche right now. And that’s unfortunate, because that’s what I love, and that’s what I grew up playing, and that’s what I make. Or made, anyway. I just think the demographics have changed. Company of Heroes may be profitable, and StarCraft II is an anomaly. But most of them aren’t gonna get big numbers.”
As a huge RTS fan myself, this is worrisome to hear and I am hoping that this is more a quote of personal frustration than an objective assessment of the genres prospects. But even so, it is quite obvious that these types of games have become less popular over the past few years. The reasoning can be widespread and varied, but the main underlying causes seem to be the rise in MOBA games and the lack of compelling titles that keep consumers coming back for more.
Starcraft was a massive seller as expected, but games like Shogun 2 are simply too few and far between to keep the genres momentum going. Add the fact that MOBA titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 have become extremely popular, and the issues for RTS games become apparent. But Fraser is quick to mention that the entire strategy space is at risk:
“If genres don’t keep evolving, they die,” Fraser states. “And I was seeing not a lot of evolving in the RTS, base-building genre. By extension, I think the MOBA genre has to continue evolving if it’s gonna make it past two generations.”
Lets hope that Ironclad and the rest of the strategy game developers know that now is the time to move the genre forward and start bringing titles that have widespread appeal. The demand is there, but it does little good if there are not any games worth playing. I am looking at titles like Company of Heroes 2 and Stacraft: HotS and Total War: Rome II to reignite the fire.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the RTS, and how can game developers bring the genre back to the forefront of PC gaming? What titles are you most excited for in 2013?