As early as sever years ago, you would be fair to say that the adventure game genre was basically dead. The genre of gaming that dominated the PC market in the 80’s and 90’s saw its demise around the turn of the millennium as PC power increased. Whereas most gamers were busy “pointing and clicking” their way through mysterious worlds and solving challenging puzzles in the century before, the millennium saw the PC market being dominated by first-person shooters such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor Allied Assault, Far Cry, and more. In fact, the PC market was so dominated by first-person shooters, strategy games, and more, that you would be hard pressed to find a game that didn’t match one of these genres during the early to mid-2000’s.
While PC power certainly increased during this time, so too did broadband Internet. The days of connecting to the Internet via a dial-up modem were disappearing at a fast rate and was being replaced with Internet connections so fast that megabytes of data could be downloaded in measures of minutes rather than hours. As a result, the gaming industry saw an increase in digital distribution, primarily thanks in part to the launch of the Steam Store in conjunction with the launch of Half-Life 2 in 2004. While the store saw a rocky start, it soon captured the imaginations of gamers everywhere by making it easier than ever to purchase PC games via the online store.
Other companies began to realize the potential of digital distribution as well, and as a result, many companies began to offer their library of games via Steam. As the years progressed, the library of games offered via Steam grew substantially. So much so in fact, that finding a game that is not available via Steam is actually a very hard task to achieve.
However, one group in particular benefited from digital distribution greatly: the independent developers. Because independents had a very affordable avenue for releasing their games, it became very easy for developers to not only create games and release them at a profit, but to also use their budget for making great games. No longer did they have to use the majority of their budget for distribution via store shelves, as that equation was erased completely.
As a result of this “newfound freedom” independent developers were obtaining, creativity increased considerably. In fact, even a few genres that were thought to be dead “rose from the grave,” including the adventure genre. Thus, it is safe to say that with the rise of digital distribution and independent creativity, the adventure genre has become popular once again.
Additionally, we have seen some true classics and breakthroughs come out of the adventure genre. Telltale Games actually revolutionized the very notion of adventure games by reviving former adventure game mainstays such as Monkey Island and Sam and Max by releasing episodic releases split up into seasons via digital distribution. This allowed PC players to experience a series of games season-by-season, episode-by-episode in the same way that a viewer watched a television series. It was a new way at looking at adventure games, and it worked phenomenally.
We have also seen a host of other adventure games hit the market, most notably games from Wadjet Eye Games such as Gemini Rue and most recently, Resonance. Other companies such as Amanita Design have released adventure classics such as Machinarium. Other adventure classics such as Revolution Software’s Beneath a Steel Sky and Broken Sword have been released on mobile devices as well.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the latest developments in the adventure genre. For example, the “hidden object” genre of gaming (an offshoot of adventure gaming) has exploded over the last few years and is one of the hottest browser-based gaming genres today. If you are a fan of adventure games, this is an exciting time for you, and thanks to independent developers that love adventure games just as much as you do, this trend of excellent adventure titles will continue for a long time to come.