Open-world games have been trending for more than 10 years now, as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’s popularity set the course in 2011. While Elder Scrolls games were open-world before, Skyrim hit a new level of popularity for the series. Immediately, other game companies and developers took notice. Since then, a ton of games have been open world. While some fans may be tired of the trend, the open-world formula has kept bringing out bestsellers such as Elden Ring, The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, Metal Gear Solid 5, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. All of these games came out after Skyrim and were loved by the gaming community.
This has proven that Skyrim was far from a one-hit-wonder. There is something to open-world games that really work magic for players. It makes exploration a big part of the game and gives room for discovering something new in every playthrough, and it can greatly increase the hours a player can put into a game, giving more entertainment per dollar.
What Makes Open-World Games Special?
With such a big world to explore, two players do not often experience an open world game the same way. One may discover something different from the other. They can go in different directions and do quests in an entirely different order. While this can also be achieved with RPG choices, the open world raises the experience up to a new level of freedom that also encourages the player to go about the game at their own pace.
Exploration is a big part of open-world popularity. Players can find new enemies, Easter eggs, quests, collectibles, and characters in various parts of the vast map. Some of these can be easily seen while others can be quite hidden. With such a big map, discovering these things can make a player feel rewarded for their efforts. A linear game does not give the same sense of accomplishment in discovery, as finding a secret is less fantastic on a smaller map. Open-world games also have a lot of replay value. When replaying a linear game, not much is different, but when replaying an open-world game, everything can be done in a different order.
Open world games have become the most popular type of rpg games currently. The term doesn’t sound unfamiliar, but there has been a steady stream of open world games over the past two years and they are getting better and hotter. “Let’s make an rpg game — how to get succeed — making an open world!” seems to have become the hottest production process. In contrast, traditional boxed maps and other game types still have their loyal fans, but the player audience is clearly not as large as the open world. It may be that while linear exploration can also be satisfying, a well-made flow by designers is always less interesting than the curiosity about the unknown brought about by the freedom of players to explore. For more reasons on why open worlds attract players, I think I’d be interested in doing some future researches and studies as well.
Stalberg, A. (2022, July 15). Why open-world games tend to be so popular. Game Rant. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://gamerant.com/skyrim-open-world-games-ongoing-popularity-success-stories/