Over-saturation happens when there are too many games of a genre at once, causing people to get tired of those types of games, movies, and television as well.
Whenever a game or a genre becomes extremely popular in gaming (and other forms of media for that matter), others see the success and attempt to make similar games to capitalize on it, sometimes to the point of making direct rip-offs. While this is normally harmless, and there is nothing wrong with having more options on a genre, this can lead to way too many games of that specific genre, creating oversaturation from overly similar games being released too quickly one after another.
Usually this also has to do with which game type represents the formula for a game which requires the least effort to produce and is hardest to mess up. For example, first-person shooters with regenerating health were very popular in the last generation of consoles because as long as there is enough junk in the environment to hide behind, it is almost impossible to mess up the campaign to the point it cannot be finished. Such shooters were also popular because any game engine that can handle raycasting (a simplified form of ray-trace rendering) can be used to make a hitscan weapon.
Over time people will start getting bored of seeing the same type of game over and over usually with little variety and often get disappointed by the rip-offs. Likewise, the massive number of games in an over-saturated genre get eclipsed because there are so many other options and competition that they fail to stand out and get lost in the crowd. Due to games being so similar, they can get confused such as Metro: Last Light can be mistakenly identified as Fallout. This eventually leads to that gaming genre to decline in popularity and/or being reduced to very niche markets or completely die out.
Examples of Oversaturated Genres in Gaming
- After the massive success of Sonic the Hedgehog, there was a mass outbreak of uninspired rip-off platformers with attempted mascots like Bubsy or Awesome Possum. Almost all of these games missed one key mechanic from the Sonic series (ie, that Sonic is invulnerable to most sources of death as long as he has at least one ring): since this was the mechanic that made going through levels quickly in Sonic a feasible idea, they were filled with frustrating sections and cheap deaths.
- Guitar Hero and Rock Band caused the rhythm game with instrument controllers to become extremely popular, but they were followed by countless games that were being released constantly, as well as both Guitar Hero and Rock Band releasing multiple games each year. Now rhythm games are considered a fad and therefore are almost never released.
- As gaming consoles become more and more powerful with each new generation, zombie games became capable of having massive numbers of zombies on the screen at once, leading to way too many zombie games and even other games having zombie modes. A joke was made saying "There will be more zombie games than actual zombies in a real zombie apocalypse". Recently, this can be attributed to the popularity of the TV series The Walking Dead which made the zombie genre really popular worldwide. The fact that zombie AI is notoriously easy to program (since all you have to do is make them home in on the player object's location) helps, too.
- Survival games took over Steam and mobile phone download services, and most of them are poorly made games with no new content.
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, aka the MOBA genre. Originally created as a mod for Warcraft 3 in form of Defense of the Ancients (aka DotA), the developers of the mod later made a spiritual successor to DotA called League of Legends, released in 2009, which has since become the most played game of all time. DotA 2, a proper sequel to DotA, was released by Valve in 2013 and is also a massive success. These two games have since inspired countless developers to create their own MOBAs, most of which never receive widespread attention or popularity and the few that do, such as Smite, do not even come close to matching the popularity of League of Legends and DotA 2. Additionally, this genre has also led to the near-death of the once popular Real-Time Strategy genre.
- First-person shooters: See here.
- The shooter genre spawned a sub-genre of "hero shooters", which are multiplayer-only shooters with fast-paced combat where the player picks a distinctive character with their own unique weapons, abilities, stats, and personality in a similar fashion to picking a character on a fighting game, often referred to as a hero, hence the name of the sub-genre. The genre was created as early as 1996 through Quake mod Team Fortress. Though the genre remained relatively quiet for two decades, with the exception of Team Fortress 2 in 2007, it has recently become massively popular, with Overwatch being one of the most popular ones. Team Fortress 2 is another example, as it has a healthy player base and receives constant updates even a decade after its release. In response, many new hero shooters were made, examples including of Paladins and Gigantic. The game LawBreakers was released in August 2017, and by October 2017 the player base dropped to an abysmal 10 concurrent players on PC because the game was completely overshadowed by all the other hero shooters out there. In less than 6 months, the game was declared dead by its publisher.
- Gaming channels: Some people try to mimic the success of YouTubers like Pewdiepie, Markiplier, and Jacksepticeye by being as outrageous and over the top as they can be. Some people want to be the next edge-lord who makes fun of people like Leafyishere and some want to be gameplay commentators. Many can come off as being bland and ingenuine, and if you want to have a gaming channel on YouTube, its better to be yourself and not trying to be like the others.
- Popular AAA games like Assassin's Creed and sports games have so many sequels every year that it starts to get old and the new ones feel more like reskins than actual sequels.
- Steam was known for being a good platform for indie developers to publish their games but over time too many indie devs flocked to it and a massive amount of shovelware and asset flips completely flooded the storefront due to Steam's non-existent quality control. Recently many indie devs have stated that Steam has become "Too Crowded for its own good" and many actually good games get buried in the flood of shovelware.
- Scratch is the epitome of over-saturation since most of the projects there are unoriginal and lazy and remixes are heavily abused. Also, trends seem to be a big thing on Scratch despite their poor reception by most community members for their abundance on the front page.
- Gaming as a whole became over-saturated in the early 80s which resulted in the video game crash of 1983.
- Capcom has a tendency to release too many versions of each of their Street Fighter games, or any game from a popular franchise.
- Another example of an over-saturated genre is the Minecraft-like game. While some of the Minecraft-esque games are still good, many of them (especially the Google Play and App Store ones) are generic.
- Hentai and pornographic games are over-saturated as well. Because of the nonexistent quality control on Steam, many porn/hentai games disguised as visual novels made their way to the Steam store. Most of them add little to no new features and have mediocre gameplay, such as Sunrider: Liberation Day.
- The "Battle Royale" genre exploded in popularity due to Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Now, dozens of developers are making Battle Royale games or shoving Battle Royale modes into their games that were already in development. Many of these devs are now being accused of "chasing trends", as was the case with BossKey Productions and Radical Heights. Even Call of Duty is planning to make a Battle Royale mode in the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 called "Blackout". EVEN BATTLEFIELD 5 IS GETTING BR MODE simply known as "Royale"...
- One of the reasons behind the disappearance of many arcade racing series (such as Burnout, Motorstorm, Ridge Racer etc) is due to market over-saturation killing off consumer interest. You know there's a problem when just ONE franchise (in this case Need for Speed) can oversaturate the market just by itself (there are 22 NFS games made over the past 20 years).
- The popularity of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat back in the 1990s caused the Fighting Game genre to be overflowed with various clones to the point where it almost died out during the late 1990s. Most of the notable fighting game developers nowadays aside from Capcom and Midway (now known as Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment) are SNK with their franchise The King of Fighters, whose 3-on-3 matches helped make it stand out from the rest, Namco with their 3D fighting games such as Tekken and Soul Calibur after the release of Sega's Virtua Fighter, which considered to be the very first 3D fighting game, Arc System Works with Guilty Gear and Blazblue focusing on fast-paced 2D gameplay, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo with their Dead or Alive series, and Nintendo with Super Smash Bros., which is more of a platform fighter.
- The major success of games like Slender: The Eight Pages, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast resulted in the flood of horror games which follow the "Run, hide, walk, no combat, read, talk, explore, etc." road. While there are good exceptions, around 95% of these games have from little to no new things and just copy the same formula (find 8 things in a really dark map with a thing that kills you instantly wandering around unpredictably), not even being that scary actually (at least for the most part) and usually being of poor quality.
- There is an incredible amount of various types of war games which are based on WW2. While it's not a bad thing, since WW2 provides tons of interesting material, many of these games often repeat themselves and focus heavily on Americans (and even then - on settings overused in WW2 games, such as Normandy), also ignoring interesting, but not widely known aspects of that war (like Burma and Balkan campaigns for example). Games like these were extremely common in the ten years after the release of the film Saving Private Ryan (arguably the most influential film for war shooters, with the Normandy beach landing as a particular highlight) but since the release of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, the developer interest went towards a modern setting (which led to an another type of oversaturation, see here) and these days, WW2 games are quite rare. In fact, so few notable ones were released between 2007 and 2017 that Call of Duty WWII going back to WW2, despite including the once overused Normandy mission, was seen as refreshing by many, particularly due to how much game technology has improved since the widespread popularity of WW2 games.
- The Just Dance franchise has been releasing a new game every year in order to catch up with the latest Billboard Top 100 singles. As a result of it, the rhythm market has become oversaturated and this had killed off the Dance Central series, which has the same premise as Just Dance but is a Kinect exclusive and uses full body detection instead of just right-hand movement.