Why pay for a game when you could just watch it? Far Cry 4 creative director Alex Hutchinson thinks the days of linear, narrative-based games dominating the attention of players worldwide are numbered, if not already elapsed. So what does he think is rising up to replace them? Well, I'll give you three guesses. Go ahead... ok, pencils down:
"I'm really interested in emergent games and where that's going with video sharing and Twitch," Hutchinson said in an interview with OXM. "I think linear story games are really going to suffer in the modern marketplace [...] and we're already seeing their audiences migrate to the big open-world games."
Hutchinson thinks that opening your friends list or a Twitch category to see everyone doing different stuff in the same game (some people are riding elephants into enemy bases, some are exhorting elephants to charge unsuspecting mercenaries, some might not be interacting with elephants at all!) is much more enticing than watching them all play through the same well-scripted sequences. Granted, he has some significant skin in this particular game.
Beyond the fact that Ubisoft is positioning Far Cry 4 as a reactive, do-what-you-want playground of lead and ivory, the publisher is making nearly all of its big bets on open worlds these days. Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed, The Crew, and The Division all let players gad about huge environments at their leisure. CEO Yves Guillemot explained in July that it's natural for open-world games to rise to the top, since they most resemble our own dynamic world. Hutchinson adds that they're also more fun to watch.
But he may be putting the tuk-tuk before the horse, here. Viewers don't tune in to PewDiePie and Ms 5000 Watts just to see the wacky stuff that can happen in the games they're playing. They want to watch their host of choice react, whether they're caught in the middle of a wacky confluence of events or about to stumble into a scripted jump scare. It's delicious schadenfreude to watch a streamer struggle through a situation you've already bested, or await their gasps as a huge plot twist comes up right around the corner.
Even without the personality, I'll frequently queue up a Let's Play just to check out a game's story, or to watch a "true ending" when I can't be bothered to complete Nightmare Mode with no continues. You could even boil down classics like The Walking Dead to YouTube playlists if you can't stand the button mashy bits. I couldn't say what impact that common habit has on sales for the title in question, but it doesn't jibe with the notion that streaming makes scripted games less relevant.
After all, user-created videos took off because people like to share moments with each other. If the game can generate moments worth sharing on the fly, awesome! I'm glad that people like Hutchinson are dedicated to putting those complex systems together. But it doesn't make set-in-stone happenings any less valuable--particularly if you can dress your protagonist in a ridiculous costume before a super-serious cutscene begins.