Nintendo fans try not to remember the Virtual Boy, an allegedly portable clunker of a gaming platform that was promised the cutting edge of 3-D virtual reality gameplay but instead delivered eye strain, neck strain, and hideous graphics in only two colors: red and black. To add insult to injury, damn few of the games put out for it (there were fewer than 20 in all) made any use of 3-D and could just as easily have been produced for a better gaming platform. Despite rumors, Gunpei Yokoi was not Kicked Upstairs, but stayed on board due to the fact that he was already planning to leave and if he left at the same time the Virtual Boy failed, they would have seen it as him admitting defeat. The only game for the system that gets a pass is Virtual Boy Wario Land, which managed to be genuinely fun despite the headache-inducing graphics. The idea of 3D, however, was Rescued from the Scrappy Heap with the 3DS, which has none of the aforementioned problems (except the eye strain, but most games for the system remind you to take a break every now and then to prevent that anyway).
The early Nintendo 64 era was something of a Dork Age for Nintendo. The overly long development of the N64 caused some Super NES gamers to jump ship to PlayStation, and the decision to use expensive proprietary cartridges instead of discs caused developers to jump ship, too (most infamously Squaresoft, whose Final Fantasy series was a Nintendo mainstay until Final Fantasy VII). While Nintendo's first-party games on the N64 were as awesome as ever, there simply weren't enough of them to go around. The system launched with two games total, and it only had about one new release a month. So if you were tired of playing Super Mario 64 for the umpteenth time, your choices in early 1997 were Pilotwings and Cruis'n USA. That was pretty much it. The Nintendo 64 gained something of a reputation for releasing three unique and groundbreaking games a year, and absolutely nothing else. This wasn't helped by Nintendo's historic lack of support for third parties only getting worse. One big selling point of the N64 hardware was custom microcode, but Nintendo never released information on how to use it, fearing it would be copied by their rivals. Among other groin-punches, they also patented using the N64 pad's C-buttons to control an in-game camera, meaning every non-Nintendo game had a shitty camera system, and continued in their usual habit of forcing studios to Bowdlerise in-game content to be more 'family friendly' (although bowdlerization was not as frequent on the N64 as it was on the NES, SNES, or Game Boy); for example, forcing Perfect Dark's "Adrenaline Pills" to become "Combat Boosts", and Duke Nukem's steroids powerup to become "Vitamin X."
The Wii U itself is the current Dork Age of Nintendo at the moment. Nintendo wanted to ride on the success of the Nintendo Wii by continuing the "Wii" brand name and touting a controller with a screen, the GamePad, as the console's main selling point. Core gamers weren't very impressed and decided to reserve their cash for the then-upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, while casual gamers confused the GamePad as an unnecessary add-on for the original Wii. It doesn't help that its game library is much smaller than its competition and most of the exclusive games for the system, despite usually receiving plenty of critical acclaim, tend to take a good while in order to get decent sales numbers.
While Gen III did introduce abilities, berry farming, running, and a great soundtrack, it was hit hard by removing more than half of the first two games' total Pokédex (with no means of ever obtaining them in game, a problem which Emerald fixed), retained a level curve that was nearly as bad as Gen II's, and a topography that while beautiful only served to be a pain in the ass to navigate. Not helping matters was that this was the point when players really needed to start buying all versions to get at least a half-way completed Pokédex (a bad habit continued in Gen IV). The final nail in Hoenn's grave was the series was finally reaching its limit with the current battling system before giving it a new overhaul (done in Gen IV).
Gen IV's first two games, Diamond and Pearl were a time of renovation, but it still wasn't up to snuff. It was also the first time Game Freak developed a game using the DS, and the results show. The first two were unnecessarily slow (although what they did was good sense in programming, it made for a sluggish game). However, the aesthetics and many new mechanics were well-received, and many of the odd design choices (such as the aforementioned sluggish gameplay, and exactly two Fire-type Pokémon available before beating the Elite 4) were fixed come time for Pokémon Platinum.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is widely believed to have gone through a dork age between 2007 and 2008. Once a Mecca for gamers the event was made invitation-only and attendance dropped from 60,000 down to a low of 5,000 (the event was also inexplicably renamed the "E3 Media & Business Summit" during that time with little justification other than "the video game industry is not about 'entertainment', it's about business"). As a result E3 went from being the ultimate expo in the video games to a low key event. It didn't help that the E for All trade show meant to replace it turned out to be a dud. Also to make things worse the announcements and game demos E3 is known for were rather lacking in comparison to previous years.
Silent Hill is notorious for its horribly Broken Base, but most fans will agree that the series peaked with Silent Hill 2, and the existence of a franchise Dork Age is nearly-unanimous. The general summation of this is a reverence for "Team Silent" and a mistrust of the games in which this development team was not involved. The general consensus is that Silent Hill 4: The Room is where the slide began, however, even though it was the last of the "Team Silent" entries. Silent Hill: Shattered Memoriesbroke the fanbase further, between those convinced that the series remained mired in suck, and those who believe this entry was fresh and compelling enough to possibly signal a revival of the franchise. Reception to Silent Hill: Downpour has been far more universally positive.
Twisted Metal 3 and 4 were developed by 989 Studios rather than series' original developers, Singletrac. When the former staff members of Singletrac formed Incognito to develop the newer games in the franchise, it elected to wipe the events of those two titles from continuity.
Warcraft: There's a lot of debate as to which expansion of Worldof Warcraft constitutes as this. The common arguments are as follows:
The Burning Crusade is generally considered to have great gameplay, but a terrible plot and setting that changed a lot of beloved Warcraft III characters, accidentally and shoddily retconned a major enemy race, and had too many elements verging on sci-fi for players to feel it belonged comfortably in Warcraft's fantasy setting. It also contained what is still considered to be the single hardest raid dungeon in the game's history, which influenced a lot of the development team's future philosophies with raid and class design.
Wrath of the Lich King is the inverse, with players praising its great narrative and characterization, but hating the gameplay changes, feeling as if both dungeon and raid content was dumbed down to appeal to a more casual playerbase, and homogenizing classes to the point where they lacked unique identity. It also added the game's first new class, the Death Knight, which saw a ridiculous amount of over-saturation during the expansion's life cycle.
Cataclysm has been met with cries of both story and gameplay rot, with the former two expansions and the vanilla game ironically being looked back upon as Golden Ages. Gameplay wise, it met a good mix of people feeling the new content was too hard, followed by nerfs that made it too easy. Story-wise the expansion had a largely ineffectual main antagonist following up the very well-loved Arthas, characters such as Thrall and Garrosh playing very important but unpopular roles, and it began the trend of Alliance players feeling as if the writers were biased against them, giving the Horde a lot of Kick the Dog moments and having their own quest lines never result in a fair comeuppance against the Horde.
Mists Of Pandaria has controversial, certain aspects of the gameplay (notably daily quests) have been heavily criticized, and prior to release many people felt the inclusion of the pandaren was a Jump the Shark moment for the series. The story, and the handling of the faction war are also objects of criticism. Debates also abound as to whether the game having its lowest subscription numbers in years is a result of poor development or simply people tiring of an almost decade-old game.
One that will most agree upon is the handling of the orcs storyline in Cataclysm, and Mists Of Pandaria due to their seeming extreme Demonization, Aesop Amnesia, and Flanderization. The positive representation of the orcs in Mists of Pandaria could even be counted on one hand!
Let's not forget the RTS crowd who've been waiting YEARS since Warcraft 3 for a new RTS title. Some believe ever since World of Warcraft (and MMORPGS) proved to be a bigger money maker than RTS games, this change in genre for the franchise marked the end of future RTS titles. Since then, StarCraft II has been released to scratch the RTS itch, but the wait for a Warcraft 4 continues.
A variant: Monkey Island 2 ended in such an impenetrably baffling fashion (The last part of the game takes place in the maintenance tunnels of an amusement park, and the undead antagonist turns out to be Guybrush's brother in a mask, and the whole escapade was All Just a Dream (or was it? actually, the stinger shows Love Interest Elaine Lamp Shading "Where is Guybrush? I hope LeChuck didn't put some weird spell on him" so yes, it was all in Guybrush's head, which fits perfectly into the later retcon) that its sequel, The Curse of Monkey Island, retconned the previous game's final confrontation into something a bit easier to follow. However, status quo wasn't necessarily restored because Monkey Island 2's ending was bad - it's more that after Ron Gilbert left the series, no one knew where he was planning to go with this revelation, and he has no intention of telling anybody. However, it's far more likely that it was just the final absurd twist in a game full of them than any sort of deep statement about the characters.
The makers of the MMO Star Wars: Galaxies decided it wasn't successful enough, so they came up with the New Game Experience, which involved massive changes to the game mechanics, combat system, character classes, and pretty much everything else, in the hope of attracting a whole new demographic. The result was an existing player base that was thoroughly (and vocally) pissed off, a new player base that never materialised, and a huge drop in subscriptions (not officially admitted, but confirmed by user-written in-game surveying tools before the company caught on and disabled the tools). Other MMOs have dome similar things on a less spectacular scale, but SWG's NGE is the infamous example everyone points to. One of the major reasons for this is that the developers changed the way one becomes a Jedi. Originally, players had to find holocrons and master whatever class tree it said to master, then the player may luck out and become a Jedi, or would receive another holocron. This, naturally, would be a grind. The New Game Experience let players start as a Jedi. Not only did this mean that everyone picked to be a Jedi while avoiding every other class, and pissing off those people unlucky enough to have had to master every class to become a Jedi before then, but it also royally futzed with the franchise's canon. You had many thousands of Jedi when at that time in the official storyline, the only true, trained Jedi still living was Yoda. Just how bad is it? A new Star Wars MMO handled by Knights of the Old Republic developer BioWare and set in the KoToR timeline has since been announced.
In Final Fantasy XI, the Chains of Promathia expansion is considered to be a Dork Age by many, many, many players. Reasons included; grueling boss fights that required very specific party combinations and a fair amount of luck to win, storylines that were left hanging between updates, Notorious Monsters that were amazingly gimmicky with incredibly low drop rates for gear AND pop items for further Notorious Monsters. The era was also known for the infamous "Ranger Nerf" that, while somewhat justified in the fact that the Ranger job was severely overpowered compared to other jobs, went way too far and made it into one of the weakest jobs in the game. (This nerf was partially countered years later after Samurai became the new over-powered pet-job of the Dev Team.) Combined with the first unbeatable boss of the game, the Jailer of Love which was then nerfed to make way for the new unbeatable boss Absolute Virtue, quite a lot of mid to end-game players left FFXI to play World of Warcraft. Not that Chains of Promethia was completely terrible; the mission storyline is among the longest and most interesting in the game (and better than some of the storylines of the main games), created systems and fights that are still popular years later like Limbus, ENMs, Bahamut, and Ouryu, and included many in-depth optional side quests such as Adventuring Fellows (your own personal NPC). Changes to the mission fights were made to help players, such as making the fights easier, removing the experience penalty if they fall during battles, rewarding players with experience if they help people with the battles, and easing the restrictions of special items that help to make the battles easier- but these were made after the next expansion, Treasures of Aht Urhgan, when most players will agree that the Dork Age ended with a vengeance with a completely new philosophy in game design. (That it shouldn't be terrible to do things in the game.) Many people look fondly at the Chains of Promathia expansion, mainly because time has passed and people don't quite remember the original controller throwing difficulty of the unnerfed missions, or they had only played the missions after they had been nerfed. Also, not losing thousands upon thousands of XP to the then unnerfed Jailer of Love and the still-to-this-day unnerfed Absolute Virtue may well help to keep those glasses rose-colored.
Final Fantasy XIV managed to go through a dork age twice. When the game launched in 2010, there were lots of bugs, terrible optimization that made the game run sluggishly for most PC users, and many game mechanics that were not looked upon favorably, such as having experience points being reduced in gains if you try to level up too much. Once the development team got replaced with new faces, the game was reworked from the ground up and relaunched 3 years later with favorable results; players could complete quests at their own leisure, items were mostly easy to obtain, and the game was very stable and optimized. However, a second dork age came along shortly after the rerelease; certain materials were hard to find or buy due to people and bots alike farming the materials and then selling the materials back on the market for absurdly high prices. End game gear that wasn't part of a loot drop were regulated to many weeks (or even months) of grinding for special tomes that were needed to obtain said gear. A few patches did address the issues, but the next major patch introduced more problems with the Atma system where players had to get 12 specific items from 12 specific events that pop up at random times in order to power up their Infinity+1 Sword. The problem is that the events can take hours to appear and the items from the event have ridiculously low drop rates. The fan base had exploded in anger over the Atma system and some have compared it to the same systems that were used in Final Fantasy XI.
The Leisure Suit Larry series entered a Dork Age with the games starring Larry Lovage (Magna Cum Laude and Box Office Bust). It is worth noting that Al Lowe, the series' creator, isn't involved with either of them. Judging by his site, he'd be more than happy to give them advice, and is also more than happy he wasn't involved when the games bombed.
In the late 1990s, Konami farmed out the development of the Contra series to Hungarian developer Appaloosa, resulting in the creation of the series' two PlayStation installments Contra: Legacy of War (which also saw release on the Sega Saturn) in 1996, and C: The Contra Adventure in 1998. Both games were critically panned when they came out and Konami even canceled plans to localize the first of the two titles in Japan after the negative reception it received, which makes one wonder why they would give Appaloosa a second chance. It's made all the worse by the fact that Legacy of War was relying on a 3D glasses gimmick for sales. We're talking '50s B-Movie red/blue cardboard glasses here. Oh, and massively derailing existing characters and canon, considering these followed on from Contra: Hard Corps, one of the more story-heavy Contra games, it did not go well. It should be noted that both games are explicitly exiled from the Contra canon.
Fans of The King of Fighters generally look at the period of time Eolith was handling the games (KOF 2001 and 2002) as a Dork Age. The way 2001 plays is in general more glitchy and gimmicky (letting you choose how many teammates and strikers you want, for starters - meaning you can even fight 1-vs-4 battles, something that should only be reserved to bosses) than any other incarnation of the series, and is in general a mess. The music for these games has been compared to the sounds of robots farting among other things and Eolith introduced a few of their own character designs (although a scant few, like May Lee, were more favorably received). When SNKreclaimed the wheel as SNK Playmore, among the first things they did was to wipe several elements from2001right out of the canon, including the whole character of K9999 (also a blatant Captain Ersatz of Tetsuo) and Foxy's death. To give 2002 some credit, it's still one of the most played versions in the series competitively, and even after the release of 2002: Unlimited Match you'll still see some original '02 tournies being played. Now, 2001 on the other hand? Uh...
Mortal Kombat was another fighting series that went through this.
After Mortal Kombat 4 hit the Polygon Ceiling, the series seemed to have reached a stalemate with a largely undistinguishable (except for an expanded character roster) Updated Re-release for Dreamcast, Mortal Kombat Gold, and the PlayStation-exclusive Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, an utterly horrible action spin-off. In the wake of this, John Tobias jumped ship from the creative team, and the series laid low as the gaming industry entered its new generation - between Special Forces and the next entry in the series, there was a three-year gap.
And then there was Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which can be seen as Midway trying to figure out what to do with the series. It's not necessarily a bad game, but it's a firm indicator of Mortal Kombat's Dork Age, because the simple fact of it being rated T by ESRB (due to the DC superheroes) made this game a standout, and not in a positive way: it meant a lot of what players knew of MK would be inevitably Bowdlerised (mainly the explicit Gorn, which was reduced to the odd blood spill here and there, and censored Fatalities - even more so than the home versions of the original game). On the other hand, this game served for Midway to sort out what worked and what didn't when they reinvented themselves as Netherrealm Studios and brought the series back on track with Mortal Kombat 9, as well as using their experience on the DC end of things to turn out Injustice: Gods Among Us, a cool all-DC fighting game.
Deus Ex: Invisible War was Warren Spector's entry into a Dork Age, and immediately lost his accumulated industry and fan respect. He's managed to bounce back some, which is better than other developer/producers have been able to do (anyone remember what John Romero is up to anymore?) but still hasn't regained his former stature. Because of lingering rancor, Thief: Deadly Shadows received less fair critical reviews than it deserved, and Spector hasn't been invited to return for a sequel. He may have found a rehabilitation of his image in the unlikely vessel of a Mickey Mouse game, though its mixed reception (and Spector's claims that negative reviewers "misunderstood" the game) didn't make for the reputation resurrection that was hoped for.
A non-canonical example is Snake's Revenge, an American follow-up to the NES version of the original Metal Gear. It not only completely changed Snake's character and his relationship to the franchise but also took the game that introduced the concept of stealth gameplay and turned it into a generic shoot-em-up. On the plus side, Hideo Kojima was inspired to make the actualMetal Gear 2 when he learned of this game.
The first one was between 1995-1998. The cancellation of Sonic X-treme meant that there would not be a main series Sonic on the Sega Saturn the closest fans got during these years would be a slow isometric game and a racing spin-off. Sonic was relegated mostly to various spin-offs on the Game Gear. While the early 90's had Sonic more recognisable than Mickey Mouse, Sonic Team reportedly received letters asking who Sonic was shortly after the release of 1996's NiGHTS Into Dreams. This Dark Age finally ended with the release Sonic Adventure.
From November 2005 to January 2007 with the releases of Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and the GBA port of the original Sonic game. Shadow's game was a spin-off meant to please Shadow's fans and conclude his amnesia arc but Sega didn't stop there, they also tried to aim for the Grand Theft Auto crowd using Shadow's Byronic Hero characterization to justify some pretty bizarre choices (namely guns and mild swearing) with So Bad, It's Good results. Sonic '06 was hyped to be the Blue Blur's big comeback instead it turned out to be a rushed mess with Sonic receiving a much-maligned romance subplot involving a human princess * Shadow and Silver's stories on the other hand, have their fans .Sonic Genesis the so called GBA port of Sonic the Hedgehoganother rushed mess was just the salt in the wound after 06. Lastly Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity and Sonic and the Secret Rings released around this time, though not as bad as 06, were widely criticized for their controls.
After this the fanbase shattered and different fans have different opinions on when (if at all) this Dork Age ended.
One possible ending is Sonic Unleashed which was hyped as "Sonic's Big Comeback" and praised for the daytime Sonic stages that mixed 3D and 2D segments together, but received mixed reviews regarding the Werehog stages.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I (was hyped as the much-awaited sequel to the acclaimed Genesis games and "Sonic's Big Comeback" but criticized over it's physics engine and length.
Another possible ending to Sonic's second dark age is Sonic Colors which improved upon the Sonic stages of Sonic Unleashed and managed to get good reviews with many praising it as "Sonic's Big Comeback" and Sonic Generations which served as a celebration of 20 years of Sonic with copious nods to previous games. While both of these games were almost universally praised for their gameplay they have attracted some bile over the increased silliness of the cutscenes and corny dialogue.
The Sega Saturn period was the dark ages for Sega in the West, along with the late Genesis era. In Japan it is a well-known and loved console but in the West it is considered a failure due to poor marketing, a lack of exports, no Sonic The Hedgehog main games, and fierce competition. The Sega Dreamcast out-shined the Saturn, but in the end it faded too.
As a whole, SEGA's dark age began with the Sega 32X. While the Sega CD could be considered just as bad, it's more of an Ensemble Darkhorse nowadays due to a few gems (Sonic the Hedgehog CD, Snatcher, Lunar) among massive amounts of shovelware, but the 32X really kicked off Sega's mismanagement in the west. Then the Saturn's surprise launch came along with Sonic X-treme stuck in Development Hell, and then Sega hired Bernie Stolar... Yeah, things didn't really go well for them at all until they went third-party.
Sony had a little dork age in the mid-late 2000s, though they've appeared to have grown out of it. It started with the PSP, which, while being a success and having many great games, never lived up to its expectations and was massively trounced by the family-friendly Nintendo DS. Then came the PlayStation 3's launch at five hundred and ninety nine U.S. dollars, its strange Dada Ads, a controller that lacked rumble functionality, and limited exclusive games (most which turned out to be mediocre, anyway). It got so bad that Sony actually lost all its profits from the PlayStation and PS2's success. The PS3 eventually tossed away its growing pains around 2008 and is now finally catching up to the Wii and Xbox360's sales — and with the PS2 still selling after eleven years on the market, Sony could finally regain trust. Or not, since the PlayStation Vita barely had a Killer App when it premiered even the initially strong sales weren't enough to top the Nintendo 3DS, a significant contrast to the original PlayStation that had a bucket full of killer apps contributing to its fifth generation console leader position including Final Fantasy VII, Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid. Production of all PlayStation 2 units in Japan has halted, thus making Sony's dork age seemingly unavoidable. Blame the very high price of the PlayStation 3 at launch for itself coming at third place in the seventh generation video game Console Wars. The lack of a killer app launch title is a common problem for the PlayStation line (although you may argue Battle Arena Toshinden was such for the PlayStation). Compare the PlayStation 2 to all post-PS2 consoles and you'll see a downward spiral of total units sold for each console since then, despite the strong critical acclaim the PlayStation line have garnered.
This may be rebounding, as the PlayStation 4 not only gained critical acclaim at the 2013 E3, but it sold over one million units on opening weekend, which depending on who's counting, is the fastest-selling console in that span of time. In early 2014 the PS4 has also managed to outsell its competition in a short span of time at 7 million units sold, with the Wii U being the closest seller at 6 million in spring of 2014.
The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater franchise fell into one hard with RIDE and SHRED, which attempted to revive the franchise by using a skateboard-shaped motion controller to simulate boarding movement. This failed to address any of the problems the series had been going through, and introduced several new ones. Both games failed as a result, and the Hawk franchise crashed and burned, forcing Activision to go "back to basics" with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD.
There are ten years between Black Isle's Fallout 2 and Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3. There are two Fallout games between them—Microforte's Fallout Tactics and Interplay's In Name OnlyFallout: Brotherhood of Steel. Tactics was a competent game that had severe issues with staying within the established continuity (in a world where World War III was brought on by a crippling energy crisis, many bases of have full drums of fuel just lying around more than a hundred years later, etc.); the same cannot be said of Brotherhood. Bethesda has proclaimed Tactics to Broad Strokes canon, while Brotherhood is full-on Canon Discontinuity.
The Need for Speed franchise had one. While some fans claim the entire Underground era to be Fanon Discontinuity, most generally point to Carbon in 2006 as the beginning of the series' downward slide (especially coming on the heels of Most Wanted, generally regarded as one of the series' high points), and ProStreet and Undercover in the ensuing years as the nadir of NFS' dork age. In any event, it ended with the release of the very well-received Shift in 2009 and Hot Pursuit in 2010, which brought the series back to its focus on exotic cars and away from the burned-out "tuner" culture.
There was a time where, to save on bandwidth costs, the site for hosting custom content for Garry's Mod forced its users to download addons via torrents rather than getting them directly off the site. It lasted for about two months.
The Valis series had lain dormant since the early 1990s, until its reputation was stained in 2006 by a series of H-Games titled Valis X, which Telenet Japan published in a desperate and failed attempt to avoid bankruptcy.
If E3 2012 has shown us anything so far, it's that the industry is still in the growing pains of the Dork Age. All the usual buzzwords are being bandied about: grim, gritty, edgy, and—worst of all—"realistic." To elaborate, both sides of the Pacific are in very different Dork Ages. Japan used to dominate the gaming industry; however, somewhere around the middle of the sixth console generation, they started to lose ground as Western developers began to grow the beard while Japan had just shaved it after the PSX and PS2 era was pretty much defined by the buzzwords. Many once-successful series fell to the wayside, and Nintendo, already hurting from a loss in the fifth generation thanks to Sony's PlayStation, was now seeing their console, the Nintendo GameCube, pummeled sales-wise by the PlayStation 2. There was also the Sega Dreamcast's failure. Many say it was because of the perception that Nintendo only made "kiddy" games, and gamers increasingly preferred Darker and Edgier fare. While Nintendo massively recovered starting in the Seventh generation (and this was despite them having some real competition in the handheld market they once dominated), Japan's developers experienced a massive drop in qualitynote This is disputed however, with some arguing instead that they haven't fallen in line with American tastes although they've seen a comeback in later years. Giants like Nintendo still exert a lot of influence today, but others were not so lucky.
Sega was the first to fall. After the Dreamcast proved to be too good to last, they went third party. However, after the 2004 buyout by Sammy, the quality of their games began to decrease; a lot of their old IPs were discontinued, and they began producing more and more licensed games. What made them infamous was the continuing downward spiral of Sonic the Hedgehog; after twowell-received but still flawed installments on the Dreamcast, the Blue Blur began to appear in games that focused more on gimmicks and NarmfullyDarker and Edgier storylines, reaching its nadir in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). It took Sonic four years to recover from its tattered reputation. They also have become more reclusive, closing off their foreign branches and the buyout of Atlus' parent company Index Corporation threatens to pull Atlus into the same dork age.
Square Enix had a rocky start, as well: after Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within bombed, Square nearly went bankrupt and merged with longtime rival Enix. While this saved the company, fans began getting fed-up with a downward trend in the quality of Square's flagship title, Final Fantasy. Despite positive reviews, many complaints are remaining persistent across the games regarding the quality of the stories (Kingdom Hearts' Kudzu Plot and Final Fantasy's nonsensical trolling due to excessive use of the Shocking Swerve trope). By the end of the decade, Final Fantasy had gone from one of the most adored franchises in existence to the target of ridicule by many and to add salt in the wound, Toriyama penned the story for Front Mission Evolved (which was heavily panned as Front Mission normally had very good storytelling); meanwhile, Dragon Quest became a sleeper hit outside of Japan's borders, and Kingdom Hearts received reviews that stood with the golden age of Final Fantasy in praise. Gameplay be damned; Square has become a code word for games that focus more on pretty cutscenes than actual play.
Another problem with Square Enix is simply that their design methodology is behind the times. Many AAA companies use rapid action development in their games, while Square Enix sticks to what is a waterfall methodology (basically, one guy at the top orders commands to the guys at the bottom). By using rapid action development, the company can make many prototypes, find what works and what doesn't, and then move on to the next phase when ready as opposed to the waterfall method, which finishes one phase before moving onto the next without the prototyping. The problem with this is these are compounded with unnaturally long production dates. Basically, SE was working so hard on one game (ex. Final Fantasy XIII) that they didn't realize that consumer tastes had really shifted in its development timeframe. Which means that whatever they were planning that was cool years ago, but ultimately faded out with a new trend wasn't caught on by Square Enix. Also, SE has badly mismanaged their own company as well as the newer talent (or to be more precise, the old talent hasn't properly trained up its newer talent). Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, was done however by newcomer Naoki Yoshida, a creator who actually met with the fanbase and used rapid prototyping in conjunction with fan-feedback to work his game into a solid masterpiece. Square Enix can revive themselves well; but they would need to take some cues from Mr. Yoshida to guide their franchise into the future.
Then Mega Man Legends 3 was unceremoniously canceled, despite frequent promotion via art contests, and various other Mega Man titles (i.e. Mega Man Universe) would follow suit. Keiji Inafune, who tirelessly masterminded Mega Man's blockbuster sequel on his own time and did the same for their current generation hit Dead Rising, soon after left Capcom, clearly fed up with the upper management while declaring that the Japanese development community had become "stagnant". As a result the 25th anniversary of Mega Man was a disappointment as Capcom failed to produce anything but a cheap iPhone game for the Blue Bomber's silver anniversary.
Clover Studios, creator of Viewtiful Joe and Okami, was dissolved with little warning and former members of Clover Studios would go on to found Platinum Games.
Sengoku Basara 4 was another game that Capcom refused to bring over, citing it as "Too Japanese" when asked why.
In fact, Capcom would make increasingly inept attempts to "Westernize" their franchises seemingly hating anything not Call of Duty or God of War inspired, resulting in Resident Evil 6 abandoning all survival horror elements to become an action movie with zombies, while a Devil May Cryreboot was released by Ninja Theory that removed everything originally appealing about Devil May Cry and made Dante into some generic angry kid - both of which were disappointments both critically and financially, and served to hurt the confidence in Capcom's product among its fans.
Capcom would begin to attract much flack over its DLC for it's fighting games (Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs Capcom 3, and Street Fighter X Tekken) all of which had on-disk DLC that was already programed into the game but required a separate purchase to unlock and could become Lost Forever when the server for that game shut down (as has already happened for Marvel vs Capcom 3 which included two characters that had to be unlocked this way)
The constant remakes of Street Fighter IV since its release in 2009, reaching its fifth remake with 2014's Ultra Street Fighter 4, at the expense of any other IPs, new or old, and even arguably at the expense of an actual Street Fighter V, became another point of contention among Fighting Game fans.
"Bad Boxart Mega Man" was not well received in Street Fighter X Tekken. Originally a harmless joke approved of by Keiji Inafune himself before he left, Mega Man fans were still reeling over Mega Man Legends 3's cancellation and lack of 25th anniversary game and viewed the fat, ugly version of Mega Man as emblematic of that disappointment.
All of this resulted in 2012-2013 being considered to be a rather poor fiscal year for Capcom.
Rock Band's "hardcore" fan base often think 2012 is a dork age for their Downloadable Content. Most of the new releases now come in threes and with only one Pro Guitar/Bass upgrade, and a not insignificant amount of them are from the (often late) Turn of the Millennium and The New Tens which they stereotypically consider "crappy". (Nothing really exiting for them was released minus an Iron Maiden 6-pack and a Slayer pack.) Plus, they are often considered "too easy".
In an odd - and sad as the trope demands - instance of No Export for You, the economical crisis is bringing the state of localization of video games back as it was in The Nineties: starting with the Shocking Swerve provided in 2012 by Kingdom Hearts 3D in this regard, fewer and fewer games get translated due to fewer and fewer people being able to purchase hi-fi stuff (and events like the nastier crisis in Greece or the so-boasted-about "tears-and-blood" economical plan in Italy, just to name two). To put it more laconically, the state of translations "as it was in The Nineties" means that the language select screens are now far more likely to show three options ("English, Deutschnote German, Francaisnote French") at best. And when a game such as Pokémon Conquest (sure, just a Spin-Off, but still a Pokémon game) is "available in English only", you sort of know there are dark times ahead.
League of Legends had very tight and involved lore development for a MOBA, to the point where it even had its own subsection in the main client (the 'Journal of Justice'). However, around 2012, the lore team switched hands, and much of their narrative philosophy changed, causing them to throw out a lot of old lore and start again. Newer heroes were considered uninspiring and bland, with little to no motivation to join the League, while some old characters had their entire backstories changed to very mixed reception.
The Lunar series started to slide in early 2000s, with the installments developed for Nintendo portable systems. First Lunar: The Silver Star was remade for the Game Boy Advance as Lunar Legend, with shallower characterizations, a point-and-click map replacing the once large overworld, and different and simpler combat. Then came the prequel Lunar: Dragon Song, the first non-remake Lunar game in a decade, which in a bid to attract new players to the franchise dumbed down the gameplay and story even more, but also added annoying new mechanics like having to choose between fighting for experience and fighting for items (which in this game are mostly Vendor Trash), taking damage while running, and repetitive Fetch Quests. The localizations of these two games published by Ubisoft also compared poorly with the painstaking effort Working Designs put into localizing previous installments.
RuneScape is often considered to have gone through this after the game's creators, the Gower brothers, handed off its reigns to Mark Gerhard, one of the senior mods. This is mostly related to two controversial gameplay changes Gerhard introduced: first, the implementation of microtransactions, something the Gowers promised they would never do, and second, a complete overhaul of the combat system which was seen by numerous fans as a cynical attempt to apeWorld of Warcraft. Jagex heard the criticisms of the combat system and as a result introduced both "Old School" worlds that allow players to experience the game as it was in 2007, and a poll wherein players voted to introduce the option to toggle between the old and new combat systems on the main worlds, as well. On the plus side, Gerhard's tenure also coincided with some very well-received advances to the game's Myth Arc, including tying up plot points that had been dangling for nearly a decade.
The Tetris The Grand Master series got better with each new release for its first three installments. Then came the very un-TGM-like Xbox 360 title Tetris: The Grand Master ACE, the tragic byproduct of The Tetris Company's and Microsoft's Executive Meddling. Most of the trademark TGM gameplay mechanics have been stripped (including Master Mode, and by extension the unique TGM-style leveling up and grade system), you get a variation of infinite spin (limit of 128 rotations and 128 movements) as opposed to TGM's "step reset" lock delay, and you need an Xbox Live Gold membership to unlock proper TGM rotation. Good Tetris, but bad TGM.
BioWare's Dork Age began with Dragon Age II, a sequel with very mixed perceptions that for the first time cause fans to fracture. While not a bad game in its own right, it was a poor game by BioWare's standards. Then came Star Wars: The Old Republic, which despite a long development time and one of the highest development budgets for a video game ever was considered a fairly average MMORPG with little post-game content. But what really convinced people that Bioware standards had dropped was Mass Effect 3, which had one of the most controversial video game endings of all time. BioWare's abysmal PR response only made the situation worse and was taken as a personal slight by many fans. Even beyond the endings, numerous plot resolutions and the way certain characters were portrayed were considered extremely unsatisfactory, which some fans attribute to several key writers leaving BioWare to work elsewhere. Time will tell if Dragon Age: Inquisition will help them recover or not.
The Harvest Moon fandom is torn on what time period their Dork Age spans but it's generally thought to have began around Magical Melody and DS. The characters are seen as shallower, several disliked mechanics have been tried out, and the series as a whole got Lighter and Fluffier. It got worse when Marvelous said they were focusing on handhelds instead of consoles; and it shows as they released six DS games but only two, near identical Wii games . Even Yasuhiro Wada has shown dislike to the way the games have gotten; he especially dislikes how much focus romance is given within the series. That said, the Wii games were acclaimed (though they still weren't perfect) and the 3DS game, A New Beginning, is seen as an improvement over the past handheld installments.
The Mobile Phone/tablet game industry have been seen as a constant Dork Age for gaming in general. While people understand these games are designed to ease the pain of commuting, it slowly shifted being time sinks to complete money sinks with insane microtransactions, long waiting times to do something and worse yet, taking popular game licenses and remaking them as social games. Most of the announcements involving this on YouTube often are met with extreme dislikes.
For a massive majority of gamers, Microsoft has entered into one of these since their initial announcement of the Xbox One. The initial announcement press meeting was given a MASSIVE negative reaction from both mass media and general consumers alike, but the post conference details (such as the fact that the system had DRM as a selling point for the entire console, and needing to be connected online every 24 hours to play) did not help at all. Alongside some more controversial quotes from their higher-ups (including Don Mattrick's infamous "If you don't have internet, get a 360 instead of an Xbox One"), their overall average E3 event showcasing the system was trounced by Sony's, with a few not so subtle Take Thats at the system near the end. Although a mere week after E3 they reversed many of their policies, it is still a Never Live It Down for Microsoft to this day. Combined with a 500 US dollar asking price, being 50% underpowered with more archaic architecture than the PS4, despite initial good sales over the holiday, the console has since dropped from a major 900,000 copies in the US, down to just a mere 145,000 copies for the US during the month of January, with even worse sales in Europe. Alongside some more controversial policies that have come to light since then, Microsoft has become known across the internet as the console-maker equivalent of Electronic Arts — a company that sells games (or, in this case, consoles to play games) to consumers that they appear to care nothing for. Time will only tell what will happen to them in the future.
The Rayman series has the infamous Rabbid era from 2006 to 2008. The fourth game in the series introduced Rabbids, one-joke characters who don't do anything but scream "DAAAAAAAAAAAH" at the top of their lungs. Due to Executive Meddling, the game, originally planned as a platformer like its predecessors, shifted into a party game. In the next two games, the Rabbids ended up stealing the entire show and the eponymous hero was demoted to Butt Monkey. Fortunately, Rabbids Go Home, the final game involving the Rabbids, removed Rayman entirely, while Rayman himself came back in force in his own adventure in Rayman Origins, though interestingly the Rabbids themselves now have an animated series on Nickelodeon. Though the entire show is pretty much "The Minions" from Despicable Me on crack.
Steam and the Early Access and Greenlight era is seen as a massive dork age for Valve so far. While Sturgeon's Law applies to most of the Greenlight Games, many felt Steam has gone out of touch as being one of the most respected Digital Distribution retailers compared to other competitors like Origin and Uplay which both are known for intrusive DRM and horror stories involving users being banned from their single player games collection to Big Brother-style spyware. The ongoing rush of RPG Maker, unfinished and misleading games and android/smartphone ports have severely hurt the quality of the games offered on Steam.
Star Trek Online, if what has been said on the official forums is true, has been in this position since Season 8.5. 8.5 saw the removal of the Hourly Events in favor of weekend events, which cheesed off players due to the fact that players used the Bonus Marks 3-hour event to grind marks for their Fleets. The start of this season also gave out a special event ship for the 4th anniversary, only to have it put behind a time-gated due to the extra bells and whistles that went with it, a major deviation from year 2 and 3's ships. It got worse come Season 9, when it was revealed that the Reputation Powers players could get no longer stacked and that they were limited to 8 passives - four space and four ground - in an attempt to curb Power Creep before it got way out of hand. It also infuriated certain players because of the usage of Undine ships for Lockbox prizes and Lobi offerings, as many players felt that doing so broke canon and that Cryptic had promised them that they would never use the Undine as Lockbox prizes.
Many a gamer feels that Ubisoft has entered one of these. They started off well, but then they started putting intrusive but badly-implemented DRM on a lot of their games to counter what they claimed was a 93% piracy rate (PC gamers in particular were not happy about this, since the DRM issue seemed to target them exclusively). Then their flagship franchise, the Assassin's Creed series, was announced to be a yearly franchise like Battlefield and Call of Duty. Then there's the double blow of not only the aforementioned Rabbids dork age for Rayman, but also the announcement that Rayman Legends was delayed for months to be made into a multiplatform release just because the Wii U didn't sell well enough. The final straw, however, is the now-infamous Watch_Dogs downgrade controversy, and the excuses made by Ubisoft, and the infamous "female characters are too hard to program" quote. These many experiences have convinced gamers that Ubisoft is pretty much the second coming of Electronic Arts.