So I had a brainstorm in the shower. Yes, the shower. It's the only place you can think anymore with a 7-month old tearing through your sock drawer. I was thinking about the claims, made every year, that the games industry is "dead in terms of innovation". That there aren't any new game mechanics, that every game that is a success today is just a game that we've already made with better graphics or one strange new feature. The folks that make those claims would look at DOOM3 and say "It's DOOM with a journal and a flashlight. Whoop-dee-doo." I had recently read a bunch of stuff like this in old GDC proceedings because I was going to use it to challenge my programming class .(Their next assignment is to build an arcade game- and I am trying to promote original thinking instead of getting Space_Invaders_013467).
So I had been thinking about that, and then it hit me: The Games Industry Needs B-Sides. For those of you who never got your music on a grooved vinyl disc, allow me to explain . A "B-Side" was the flip side of an album, the side that you didn't buy it for. On the "A-Side" were all the hits that were on the radio, the sonds that people bought the album for. The B-Side was usually the wierd experimental stuff that the band gave you as 'extra' - you might like it as a hit, you might not. It was yours for the taking, whatever.
I think there is an interesting opportunity here: stick some "B-Side" experimental games on the DVD with the big title. Little Flash games, or student games, or Internet games that haven't taken off yet. Don't advertise them on the box, sell the "big game" just like always. But some folks might try the little thing that comes with it - and that little thing is the place where game designers can be totally off the wall because it *doesn't matter* if its successful: it isn't being independantly sold, and it's probably either cheaply made or it is the kind of thing folks do in their basements for the love of the craft. No, they won't have the glitz and glamor of the "big game". Anyone ever compare the recording quality of the "A-Side" songs (mixed, perfected, pitched, etc.) with the "B-Side" (live studio riffs, and not much else)?
I wouldn't mind an extra freebie game on the disc when I go buy Final Fantasy 22, in fact if I knew it let more people experiement "outside the box" I would specifically look for that version.
I have an idea what the critics are going to say: "no one makes games cheaply anymore" (but the freeware tools are really coming along!). "No one has the resources for experimental development" (bull honkey, just look at how many people enter the Independant Games Festical on shoestring budgets and student work...) and (my least favorite) "the big games companies make the best games because they have all the good game designers" (what a total farce).
If the industry wanted this, they could easily do it out of the profit margins of the larger titles. Easily. So if the industry really believes itself about the lack of innovation that it touts at GDC every year, put your money where your mouth is, and offer some incentive for experimental throw-away games. The way you innovate is make 20 totally different different games and find the one (or parts of some) that works. No one in the art world has every really had a different model.