The unpredictable fall of Real Time Strategy games and it's genre

The unpredictable fall of Real Time Strategy games and it's genre

author image Jarjis Safir |

July 9, 2024 at 10:00 PM BST

Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games used to dominate the PC gaming world not too long ago. “Starcraft,” “Warcraft III,” and “Age of Empires”— these were the things people’s childhoods were made of, as they managed resources, commanded armies and strategised their hearts out. But nowadays, RTS games seem to have disappeared from the mainstream eye. So, a question can be posed asking whatever ended up happening to them and where did they go?

Well, back in the '90s and early 2000s,when RTS games were still very much kings in terms of popularity, things had started to shift and several influential factors came into play that ended up contributing to the genre's decline in popularity.

One of those factors was that consoles had become the new cool kids on the block, and so developers and publishers focused on them. PC gaming was going through a turbulent time, and RTS games just couldn’t make the leap to consoles. The lack of adaptability was understandable, considering RTS games absolutely needed a mouse and keyboard. Playing "Starcraft" with a game controller is like eating soup with a fork — it just doesn’t work.

The shift of focus towards consoles also contributed to the implications of the fact that making a good RTS game is no walk in the park. They need smart AI, good pathfinding, and smooth performance, which means more money and more talent. Smaller studios couldn't always afford this, and even big studios found it hard to justify the cost when other genres were raking in cash more easily.

Besides that, RTS games have always had somewhat of an accessibility barrier. They never had the ease-of-access, and therefore the mass appeal, of first-person shooters or MMORPGs. Games like “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” are easy to pick up and look flashy, which pulls players away from the slower, more cerebral RTS games. That and the high learning curve and time commitment of some of the more well-known RTS games scared off casual gamers.

And so, gamers' tastes ended up evolving with the times, as fast-paced, accessible games became more popular. MOBAs like “League of Legends” took the best parts of RTS games—strategy and teamwork—and ditched the complicated base-building. Tower defense games simplified things further, catering to those who loved the strategy without the fuss.

However, despite that initial decline and aforementioned challenges, RTS games still have a loyal fanbase. Old classics are getting remastered, and communities keep these games alive with mods and custom content. The future of the RTS genre as a whole may be in blending genres and making the games more accessible, with the possibility of integrating VR or some other new tech. Indie developers are certainly surprising players with innovative takes on RTS gameplay. But the oldies and the goldies are still living and breathing.

So, it can be said, and it’d be right to say that RTS games are nowhere near the mainstream hits they once were, but they’re not buried either. The genre is evolving, driven by nostalgia, fresh ideas and a dedicated community. So, hey, RTS games might never dominate the charts again, but they’ll keep marching on, finding new ways to entertain and challenge us. All one has to do is wait and see.

Jarjis thrives on caffeine and mint—they're his lifeblood. When he's not making the most unconventional game strategies, he's likely trying to figure out why he's failing in exams. Reach out to him for a political debate anytime at [email protected]