Technology has improved a lot over the decades, with computers now able to cram in significantly larger amounts of processing power than was even imaginable back in the 1980s.
With that improved processing power, computers have made huge strides forward in the graphics that they’re able to produce.
While in the early 80s characters were mostly single colour stick figures and, in the 90s, they became blocky polygons, modern video game characters can look incredibly lifelike.
The graphics of the current generation of consoles and the most recent GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA are capable of producing phenomenal imagery.
Not all games push them to the limit though.
Graphics Are Very Different Across Categories
Today, gamers have a wide variety of options at their disposal. Of course, there are all of the traditional console games like first-person shooters, platformers, and sports simulations, but they’ve also got the choice of a very wide range of casual titles, including popular ones like Candy Crush, Animal Crossing, and Angry Birds.
That’s still not all though as MMORPGs, battle arena, and battle royale genres have also become big hits among players in recent years, especially thanks to releases like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Runescape.
There are also online casino games like blackjack, roulette, and slots that players can enjoy. They’re not available everywhere, but you’ll find them in the majority of countries in Europe and in a growing number of US states. In fact, in the USA, competition is so strong among online casinos that many offer generous bonuses to encourage new users to play with them instead of a rival.
Generally, only AAA video games will put strain on a console or graphics card whilst other categories and genres manage with much lower-powered hardware.
Does this make these games with better graphics more successful or can a title still be a huge hit without photorealistic visuals?
The Best Selling Games
Six of the ten best-selling video games of all time were released after 2010, and eight went on sale in the 21st century. The title that sits at the top of this list is Minecraft, a game that is famous for having blocky and somewhat pixelated graphics.
The game in third place is the 2006 release of Tetris, a title that involves trying to fit coloured blocks into a box, while the fourth-place spot is taken by Wii Sports, a game famous for its simple visuals and focus on motion control.
Of course, there are some graphically powerful titles in there two, including GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2, but they are in the minority.
Therefore, we can assume graphics aren’t the most important factor needed for games to sell very well.
Most casual games find themselves available on smartphones at some point, whether they are designed specifically for the mobile format or not. For this reason, most of them have simpler graphics than their AAA cousins.
Despite this, casual gaming continues to grow in popularity. According to AppAnnie, the top three subgenres of mobile game in 2021 were all categorised as “hyper-casual”.
We’ve already established that the passing of time has helped to improve graphics technology. Therefore, if graphics were going to make or break a title, older ones would very quickly fall out of favour among gamers.
Yet, this isn’t what happens. In fact, retro gaming is incredibly popular among players of all ages, including those that weren’t around in the 80s and 90s to enjoy many of these titles when they were new.
The remastered version of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy, which includes GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas, retained much of its original retro feel when it was re-released as the Definitive Edition in late 2021.
Rockstar Games chose to upgrade the graphics with modern lighting and upscale the resolutions but keep the cartoonish element that made these games iconic in the first place.
Had graphics been the most important part of these games, the company would have totally redesigned the game.