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OPINION: Big-budget games struggle to justify their existence

The future of games is The Walking Dead, says Matt Lees

Full-priced console games aren't doing well at the moment, but the industry isn't doing much to solve it. Quality is always the most important issue, but that's only because games are so ludicrously expensive. Our generation isn't swimming in money, and 40 quid a pop isn't exactly enticing.

The demands of traditional retail makes it tough for publishers to do anything different: shelf space is finite, and brick-and-mortar understandably want to squeeze the most profit out of whatever they're selling. Downloadable games shouldn't suffer these restrictions, but very few games seem to want to break free.

While Valve's PC service Steam wildly experiments with videogame pricing - and earns millions of dollars in the process - PSN and XBLA stumble through with bafflingly mispriced digital downloads. While big-budget games struggle to justify their existence, we're starting to see smaller stuff leap out and flourish.

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Tale Of Success

Telltale Games' The Walking Dead isn't free of problems, but the idea behind it is utterly superb: each episode costs around three or four quid, and gives you three hours of entertainment. The choices you make get carried through the series, with a new episode scheduled for release every month. Telltale haven't managed to keep up with the schedule, and technical issues have marred the second release, but over a million players so far have already fallen completely in love with it.

The series fits neatest in the point-and-click genre, but in reality it plays more like an interactive TV show. The loosely linear storylines are filled with rich characters and fantastic scripting, easily putting most games to shame. Rather than create intensity in the combat, The Walking Dead generates its thrills by forcing you to make tough decisions.

When you're in the heat of the action, you've only got a limited amount of time to react. Fail to make a decision, and you'll simply do nothing - leaving someone else to step in and take control. Some of the choices I've been asked to make so far have been the nastiest I've ever faced in a game. When you're left with less than five seconds to choose, the results of these desperate judgements are brilliantly excruciating.

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