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Did Red Dead Redemption Kill The Western Game?

When winning the race kills the race

We recently ran a piece suggesting which games fans of Red Dead Redemption should play while waiting for the release of RDR2 this autumn. We listed five games: one of which was the original Red Dead Redemption, one wasn’t an actual Western, two of which were indie games with completely different gameplay features and the last was a linear first person shooter.

While they all bare some similarities to Red Dead Redemption, they are also all distinct and different in more ways than they are alike. In the end, there really are no games truly like Red Dead Redemption. Considering a number of highly popular games have several copycats, or indeed are just very similar to one another, it’s odd that something as well received as RDR is the lone representative of its kind.

Thing is, Red Dead Redemption might actually be the reason why there are so few games with a Western setting. After all, Westerns are extremely popular, and have been historically. Countless iconic films have a Western setting, as well as books and shows. Oddly enough, very rarely do games take the player to the good old Wild West however.

Red Dead Redemption was made unique by its setting and made popular by its quality. However, it’s success and overwhelmingly positive reception might have scared other developers away. In the case of those genres which are copied ad infinitum, such as the modern military shooter – take Call of Duty and Battlefield – the difference is mainstream attention.

Another franchise in a similar situation as Red Dead Redemption is Mass Effect. Sure, you have a ton of sci-fi games out there, but space-opera RPGs are extremely rare. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is pretty much the only other game with the same formula. The Mass Effect trilogy was pretty damn successful and yet the majority of space-based sci-fi games are straight-up shooters, strategy games, or more recently, space-sims.

If I were to ask you to think of a Western game, Red Dead Redemption would be the first game to come to mind. If I were to ask you to think of a space opera RPG, Mass Effect would be your instant answer. It’s possible that seeing as both games are popular within gamer circles but more or less unknown to the mainsteam, developers don’t want to compete with that.

Modern military shooters, on the other hand, are popular enough to copy without worry. Tell someone your game is “like Call of Duty”, and chances are they will know what you’re on about. Rockstar always succeeded in reaching a wide audience with the GTA franchise, but Red Dead remained a “hardcore” franchise more or less. While Call of Duty is a household term, Mass Effect is niche.

In the past few years, the odd Western did crop up, as seen in our 5 games to play while waiting article. Call of Juarez returned to the Wild West after an ill-fated modern-day title, and both Westerado and Hard West are 2016 releases. While we can’t wait for RDR2 to finally launch, chances are it’s arrival will kill off any rivals for the next few years once more.

Do you think Red Dead Redemption is the cause of the lack of Wild West video games?

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