When mobile game super-publisher Chillingo released Anomaly 2 for Macs, PCs and iOS, the game’s creators promised players “the next generation of tower offense”.
And it actually did the best that it could to be innovative. There were new vehicles, new abilities and new enemies. Players could now morph their units by double-tapping them, or changing their form to deal in a better way with many different terrain and enemy types. The art and graphics were great. The interface design was excellent. But many considered it incredibly boring.
Atari’s 1990 arcade game Rampart is generally considered to be the first tower defense game, but this genre didn’t really find success until about 2007, when games like Flash Element Tower Defense or Bloons Tower Defense 5 became the most popular games in Flash games sites.
The first games to catch people’s attention were Bloons and its sequels. It was such a success that high school classmates blocked their computer labs and wasted hours playing with “super monkeys” popping thousands of balloons with darts. Kids used to gather around computers to offer advice about how to place the towers and stared blankly while the game played itself.
Children eventually got tired of Bloons but when later tower defense games added a fast-forward button to speed up the action, the high school computer labs got full again with students.
There are many games of this genre that have been really successful and have managed to get the gamer’s attention. Lock’s Quest for the Nintendo DS did great things thanks to adding in elements from other genres, for example. The Xbox Live Arcade game South Park Tower Defense is one of funniest and most intense cooperative strategy multiplayer games ever made. And everyone fell in love with Plants vs. Zombies.
The problem is that tower defense games have been very overdone, so when a new one comes out and hasn’t enough revolutionary design innovation it falls flat. Although, it seems that the formula keeps working since game developers keep creating tower defense games and end up in absolute success.