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From Clones to Genre
aka: Genre Launch

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"I'm hesitant to use the term Grand Theft Auto clone anymore, because open world games are becoming so ubiquitous that the term feels hopelessly quaint, like how we used to call First Person Shooters Doom clones."
Zero Punctuation on Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

While genres can be known for a variety of works, they don't always start out that way. Usually they start out as loads of obvious Follow the Leader copies of a Genre-Busting or making work, or a Genre Popularizer for a genre so small that this is the first time the mainstream has heard of it. Eventually many of the followers stop being that (though copies still exist), and start having loads of works that stand on their own. This is the point that you don't just have a bunch of clones, you have a full genre.

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This doesn't always happen, though. Sometimes, the followers are stuck in Small Reference Pools, and keep referring back to Genre Popularizer as an inspiration or threshold: the Mascot with Attitude fell out of favor due to how late this trope came into being, with so many hopefuls in The '90s trying to be Totally Radical like Sonic before variants of this archetype became more prevalent during the Turn of the Millennium. Other times, the genre is so characteristic to the Genre Popularizer that it's impossible to stand out as a unique product: Mascot Racers have yet to go past just being Mario Kart clones in spite of both Mario Kart and the clones having been around since The '90s. On the other hand, this can happen almost immediately: Tetris was such a simple game, any clone needed to set itself apart to avoid getting sued.

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Compare Derivative Differentiation (which can be used to help the clones stand out on their own). A Trope Codifier can invert this, if it comes long after the Trope Maker and the original genre was relatively differentiated and well-established before then, and it's followed by a sequence of clones.

The opposite is Genre-Killer.


Examples (State the genre, popularizer, and then the turning point to full genre):

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    Anime and Manga 
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    Comic Books 
  • A lot of early superhero comics were pretty bald-faced knockoffs of Superman, with Will Eisner's Wonder Man being a good example: man in spandex with Super Strength punches gangsters and mad scientists while fighting for justice and maintaining his Secret Identity. The only difference tended to be the origin, and even that was usually so throwaway and unimportant that you could probably swap it around between multiple characters and never notice. The exact point at which superheroes broke out of the "Superman clone" mindset is somewhat uncertain, but it was definitely starting by late 1939, when characters like Batman and The Sandman started borrowing liberally from The Shadow and other crime pulp, and Marvel Comics #1 depicted a lot of characters with different powers and antiheroic tendencies. By 1940, though Superman clones were still fairly common, the vast majority of superheroes were at least distinctly putting their own take on the concept.

    Fan Works 
  • The Abridged Series. Started by Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, now a genre unto itself with multiple variations.
  • Squidward's Suicide was the first (or, at the very least, the Codifier) for the Lost Episode Creepypasta type. While the genre has generally expanded to include other forms of media (such as Flash Games), the concept of "seemingly-innocent kids' show that has a dark, twisted side" has become a genre in its own right, and Squidward's Suicide is generally considered the origin of that genre.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • The Cyberpunk and by extension all other Punk Punk Genres were all started by William Gibson's Neuromancer. The turning point was when author K. W. Jeter decided to call the genre in which he was writing Steampunk, leading to, if not every other work of Punk Punk, at least the idea of Punk Punk as a category.
  • Gonzo Journalism was launched by "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved", written by Hunter S. Thompson for "Scanlan's Monthly" in May 1970. Scanlan's named what Thompson did—basically send his notebook of whiskey-soaked observations from the weekend in for publication barely edited—"gonzo", and Thompson more or less went along with it to both the style and the name. Afterward, both he and other writers aimed to reproduce the style of that one article. Today, various other authors have put their own spin on the style, transforming it from "Hunter S. Thompson clones" to "a form of journalism started by Hunter S. Thompson."
  • Kids' novels taking the form of the protagonist's diary had been an established format for years, such as Jim Benton's popular series Dear Dumb Diary. The popularity of Diary of a Wimpy Kid when it got published and its lined paper design with sketches from the main character himself pushing the old diary format into found literature territory inspired a whole glut of epistolary children's novels accompanied with drawings in its wake (Dork Diaries, The Loser List, etc).
  • While Trapped in Another World, Reincarnation, and RPG-Mechanics Verse stories are hardly new concepts, web novel works like Mushoku Tensei and Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken were popular enough to inspire plenty of independent web-serialized stories where a character ends up transporting or getting reincarnated into a JRPG-like fantasy land. They started catching steam around the early 2010s, and the handiness of the FanFiction.Net/Archive of Our Own-like platform Shousetsu Ka ni Narou to publish these series led to "Narou Isekai" ("Narou-style Parallel World") and "Narou Tensei" ("Narou Reincarnation") stories becoming considered a genre in their own right. The ubiquity of these stories getting published, adapted into various media and translated and exported out past Japan led to those specific types of stories being classified as part of the "Isekai" genre in the West.
  • Twilight made quite a stir among the young adult readers and became exceptionally popular. For quite some time after Twilight's release, other "Paranormal Romance" books such as the House of Night series and the Vampire Academy series were referred to as "Twilight ripoffs". It took the movies for Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments being released for people to start using the term "paranormal romance" instead of calling them "Twilight ripoffs".

    Music 
  • Post Britpop. Started by the countless imitators of Radiohead's The Bends and OK Computer albums, of which the most defining were Travis's The Man Who for the folksy variety, and Doves' Lost Souls for the art-rock variety.
  • Several critics (such as this one) have expressed skepticism of the use of the term "djent" as a generic label in its own right, arguing that all of the bands in the so-called genre have yet to move past simply imitating Meshuggah.
  • Nu Metal was formed when KoRn released their self titled debut album in 1994 to unexpected success. Naturally, many bands took note of their downtuned guitars, funk-influenced bass playing, angsty lyrics, and equal use of all instrumentation, and then ran with that formula in hopes of achieving that same success. The name comes from an interview with Coal Chamber.
  • At first, G Funk was just the specific production style of Dr. Dre, who favoured George Clinton samples but liked to have them replayed by live musicians due to his obsession with sound quality. Snoop Dogg's album Doggystyle, produced by Dre, has a track on it called "G-Funk", in which Snoop names the genre. Ice Cube then started making songs imitating Dre's style, and other rappers from the West Coast and beyond all began to copy it. By the late 90s, the G-Funk sound would be so ubiquitous that Spice Girls would be using slurry raps and portamento synths on their pop singles.

    Podcasts 
  • Random Assault: First as a homage to Talk Radar, Random Assault then became it's own thing like PCN-Gen, KGB, GNA, and Pixel Heroes.

    Roleplay 
  • Genres exist in Journal Roleplay too. Though it's still fairly different from the modern understanding, Drama Drama Duck was the beginning of "reverse jamjars", where characters meet at an interdimensional hub (though in this case it's the Internet) at their own discretion and still live in their own worlds. Island is usually credited as the first crack jamjar, and Landels, its successor Damned, and Econtra made horror into a journal game genre by developing the usual traits of a horror RP — for example, free reign for character death but having it come at a price, powers being limited or removed, a mystery the players don't know the answer to, and the event system, common in other games for silly fun, being used to break the characters' spirits.
    • Multifandom games based on existing canons began with things like Marshmallow Mateys and had Soul Campaign as the Trope Codifier, and those got more and more diverse, to the point that they've started their own genres that don't have to be based on existing properties. The two biggest instances are wide-world jamjars with player stat micromanagement (previously known as Route 29 clones) and murdergames (discussed further below).
    • Sages of Chaos, initially a Kingdom Hearts-styled "dressing room" (essentially a way to test out playing characters), was the first "multiversal dressing room" game (meaning characters from all canons were welcome). These sorts of communities became the norm from the 2000s to early 2010s, and while dressing rooms have fallen out of style, most if not all current games are still multifandom.
    • Island RP was the first game to use the concept of the "closed world" RP game or "jamjar." Nowadays, "Jamjars" or even "spooky jamjars" are quite the norm, although the crack jamjars Island popularized have long fallen by the wayside.
    • Drama Drama Duck was the first reverse jamjar, where canons can all meet together without getting stuck in another universe.
    • The Sky Tides for AU games as well as for plot-heavy games, which over time completely eclipsed the slice-of-life and Crack Fic games popular at the time it launched in the late 2000s. Come the late 2010s, while AU games had started to fall out of fashion, just about every game still had to have an intricate mod-directed metaplot like TST did, or risk dying.
    • The murdergame genre has two specific originators: Murder Manor, based on Werewolf/Mafia, and Dangan Roleplay, based on Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Each spawned its own subgenre, named for its key game mechanic: "scapegoating" games (or "mafia" games) allow for the possibility of failure so a successful culprit can stay alive if the case can't be solved, whereas "mass-ex" games (or "danganlikes") treat that as a fail state and prioritize making the case solvable because the characters must solve it or bad-end the game. Since these games launched in 2015, murdergames started popping up in both styles (the initial "clones" actually asked the mods of the originals for permission to copy their game mechanics) and have their own very active subculture within the Journal Roleplay community. Some people play exclusively in one style, others in both.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons spawned not one but two entire genres: both Tabletop RPG and Computer Role-Playing Games.
  • While trading cards had been around for years, 1993's Magic: The Gathering made them into an actual game. It was not the first — the earliest collectible card game was published in the late 19th century — but it was the first real success. This prompted a glut of trading card games that were very similar to Magic. The turning point came in the late '90s, with the success of very different trading card games like Legend of the Five Rings and Decipher's Star Wars TCG.
  • In 2008, Donald X. Vaccarino took the idea of each player using a deck, a la Magic: The Gathering, and put a new spin on it. What if, instead of players creating their deck ahead of time and bringing to the match, players had to start with the same limited deck and build it up from the same pool of cards as their opponent? Thus was born Dominion, which launched an entire genre that would be known as deck-building games. There were a fair number of forgettable clones, but games like Ascension, Thunderstone, and Marvel Legendary have established reputations as excellent games in their own right, by playing around with themes and mechanics based on Dominion's main ideas.
  • The Pokémon franchise spawned craze in Japan for anything with collectable monsters, that would later be imitated by series such as Dragon Quest (via the Dragon Quest Monsters series) and Telefang (which overseas was ironically sold as a bootleg Pokemon game, after being poorly translated). The collectable monster concept proved successful as a card game as well, when the Pokemon card game was released. This success would lead to Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters becoming extremely successful. The success of Yu-Gi-Oh! lead to imitators trying to get on the bandwagon of making a show about a game, so that kids will want to buy the real version. With so many shows like this out there nowadays, such as Duel Masters, Beyblade, Battle B-Daman, Medabots, Bakugan, and Chaotic just to name a few, one could say that "Card Game Animes" have become a genre. They all feature a tournament arc, talking about what the game is "truly about", and posing dramatically while playing the game.
    • It should be noted that the concept of actually capturing monsters to fight with was first shown, in fact, with Dragon Quest V. The Pokémon series was in development at the time, though, and although it didn't start the trend it did refine it, becoming the precursor to what Monster Battling is today.

    Video Games 
  • As in the quote, the First-Person Shooter started out with the template codified by Doom, to the point that those that came after were commonly called "Doom clones." (France used the Gratuitous English "Doom-like", then briefly "Quake-like" for games using polygonal 3D) The turning points are largely accepted to be GoldenEye for consoles and Half-Life 1 on PC, which integrated the gameplay with a stronger focus on story and giving actual goals and objectives more complex than "get to the exit, kill everything along the way". There are a variety of FPS sub-genres, such as Tactical Shooters (which themselves are split between more arcadey games like Call of Duty, more realistic but still accessible ones like Rainbow Six, and outright simulators like ARMA), ones with Role-Playing Game elements like Deus Ex and Borderlands, and multiplayer-only ones like Team Fortress 2, itself the progenitor of several clones that eventually lead to the Hero Shooter. Games that are clearly inspired by Doom (large weapon arsenal, fast movement, singleplayer focus, low level of realism) still exist, though, and are often nicknamed "boomer shooters."
    • Borderlands itself birthed a new sub-genre now called "looter shooters" that combined first-person shooting gameplay with the "kill stuff, collect the things they drop, and make your character better with it" elements found in RP Gs.
  • Likewise, Third Person Shooters were once called Tomb Raider clones. Games like Max Payne, Syphon Filter, and SOCOMUS Navy Seals, changed that, so it was its own genre (albeit a sister genre to FPS). Later, games like Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War would popularize the "Over the Shoulder Shooter" aka "Broshooter" style of third-person shooter.
  • The Fighting Game genre was actually well established before Street Fighter II, but after that game, almost all games in that genre quickly became clones. It got to a point where Capcom infamously sued Data East due to how similar Fighter's History was to SFII. While some games set themselves apart, like Mortal Kombat, those were through gimmicks like blood. Even later Capcom fighters were just SFII clones. The turning point to finally making the genre distinct again was Virtua Fighter, not just with the Polygonal Graphics, but adding a different style than the acrobatics and special moves of SFII. Later games like Tekken and Soulcalibur added their own dimensions. And then there was Darkstalkers that laid the foundation for the kind of high paced fighters that Guilty Gear would later refine, forming yet another distinct style for the genre.
  • Now aside from Western RPGs having an open world for years (such as the Ultima series, going all the way back to Quest of the Avatar in 1985), Wide-Open Sandbox games were largely clones of Grand Theft Auto III, until deliberate twists on the open world (such as Burnout Paradise, Crackdown and No More Heroes) made it into a full genre.
  • Mobile games with an allegedly free freemium model can be identified as the clone of a more familiar example of such a game— A Rage of Bahamut clone would involve collecting and evolving cards for combat. A genre description such as "match three game" would refer to a Puzzle & Dragons or Candy Crush Saga clone. A "village or farm" game will be a Farmville clone. A "base builder" would be a Clash of Clans clone.
  • Roguelikes are an odd case; the term has been used to refer to plenty of games with wildly varying mechanics, and only two things in common: Randomly Generated Levels and item placement, and permadeath with no way to recover saved games. Everything from The Binding of Isaac to Minecraft's hardcore mode qualifies, in a way. Yet the name continues to stick because nobody's ever agreed on a better one.
    • Rogue-lite is becoming a more common term to refer to games that only have those elements, while Roguelike is more restricted to games that are actually similar to Rogue. It's arguable whether either could really be counted as a genre; they are more a set of gameplay elements that can be applied to games in nearly any other genre.
  • The Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game genre is largely an inversion.
    • While rising from an earlier genre and having some earlier entries, the genre first started to become recognized around the time of Ultima Online and began gaining wide popularity with EverQuest. The different approaches between these games led to the creation of the terms "sandbox MMO" and "theme park MMO" to describe two very different approaches to design within the genre. In the following years, major franchises such as Final Fantasy and Star Wars, along with popular themes such as Superheroes, would offer their own variants on these takes.
    • However, after World of Warcraft brought the genre into the mainstream, imitators wanted so badly to copy the game's success that the term "WoW-clone" became synonymous with the genre, and for good reason. Entries into the genre began to forgo innovation in favor of copying extremely specific details from World of Warcraft, from the appearance (not merely functionality) of the UI, to exclamation-mark-granted, quest-driven gameplay, to a two-faction setting populated with races of similar archetypes. It got to the point that a major criticism of Warhammer Online was that it forced infamously bitter enemies of an established setting into permanent alliances simply to match Warcraft's faction system (even betraying the well-received three-faction system from the developer's own popular, pre-WoW MMO).
    • By the time games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 set out to question major conventions of the WoW-clone formula, they were sometimes criticized for "not being real MMOs", and the industry largely moved onto other trends. With the rise of persistent online connectivity across the entire gaming industry, MMORPGs lost a lot of their novelty, leading to the term MMORPG itself sometimes now being used to refer to pretty much anything with some online component.
  • South Korea would have its own version of the transition from clone to genre for the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Largely contemporary with, but rarely considered a true competitor to the WoW-clone era, was a variant dubbed the "Korean MMO", due to following their own clone-level formula and being primarily developed in South Korea (including Japanese published games developed in South Korea).
    • These games once shared (with memetically little variation) click-to-move movement, a very utilitarian, metallic-textured UI, the character creation being a choice between lightly customizable, pre-designed "characters" (with a pre-determined sex) of built-in archetypes, heavy Level Grinding-centric gameplay, enemies and items laden with Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp" (or Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit"), an Equipment Upgrade system based around luck, the ability to specifically set up a market stall to sell items to other players, as well as a high frequency of highly visible joke items, like a panda outfit in an historical setting. Most infamous was the frequency of gameplay being designed around Allegedly Free Game business models, which was a major deterrent in the West before free-to-play models spread worldwide.
    • Ironically, one of the first Korean-developed MMOs to make a name for breaking out of this formula and show that variety could exist, Aion, leaned heavily on the World of Warcraft formula instead. However, by the time Black Desert Online came out (2015), there had been enough divergence for Korean-made MMOs that its release saw the stigma in the West replaced with hype.
  • The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre is a zig-zagging example that began as a custom map for StarCraft called Aeon of Strife. The idea was popularized with Defense of the Ancients, a custom map styled after Aeon of Strife for Warcraft III, and initally led to a wave of imitators being referred to as "DotA clones". The term "MOBA" was coined by Riot Games for League of Legends as a marketing term specifically because everybody was referring to the genre as "DotA clones" and they didn't want their game always being compared to DotA.
    • The idea of merely being a clone was challenged by Demigod, one of the first standalone, retail examples of the genre. It retained the basic premise of two teams of player-controlled heroes managing lanes of AI-controlled armies in order to destroy their enemy's headquarters, but played around a lot with the details.
    • The genre wouldn't start to break out until League of Legends, which ironically skewed much more closely to the original mods. The term "DotA clone" persisted in part because of the sheer specificity of (often unintentional) elements of the original custom maps that became perceived as necessary for a MOBA, including Captain Ersatz characters of the original DotA cast (which were in turn often based on the Warcraft III characters whose models they used), core strategies leaning on a Violation of Common Sense, and intentionally recreating engine limitations from Warcraft III. The map most notably became treated so heavily as a Sacred Cow that the eventual "official" sequel, Dota 2, would use a stylized representation of the map as its logo.
    • By the time Heroes of the Storm came along and marketed itself on defying MOBA expectations, including having its own maps, fixing bugs, and removing unintuitive mechanics, while retaining the core premise, the Follow the Leader fad had moved onto other genres entirely.
  • Minecraft spawned (or popularised) two types of genres, voxel-based sandbox games as well as Survival Sandbox games. While the concept of building blocks in a video game was not new by any stretch of the imagination note , Minecraft put it together in such a unique package that it was bound to attract imitators, such as FortressCraftnote , to games inspired by it, such as Terraria. However such a plethora of games with similar concepts but large twists are coming out now (Ace of Spades, GunCraft, Mythruna, etc), that it is far too many to count, and many of them are standing up on their own merits. Even Don't Starve counts as one; it's all the Survival Sandbox and crafting aspects of Minecraft with the voxel based terrain part taken out. Other "Survival Games" are cropping up as well. Directly-competing games like Rust and 7 Days to Die came out at pretty much the same time.
    • Indeed, some of the more unique Minecraft-inspired games have become popular enough to get their own imitators, such as the loot and combat focused Terraria with Starbound and EdgeOfSpace, and the automation and logistics centered Factorio with Satisfactory.
  • The term Metroidvania is used to describe platformers that have a large continuous map, and the progress is governed by acquiring new abilities rather than through Event Flags. The term is now used as a genre, but was originally used to refer to the Castlevania games that used this formula, in the same sense that they'd be called Metroid clones, since Metroid did the formula first.
  • The Platform Fighter genre started with Super Smash Bros., and early attempts to copy its success were merely just that, pale copies with no attempt to shake up the formula. Later, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale shakes up the formula with a different life and super system, contributing to making itself distinct. Air Dash Online, while being the Trope Namer, brought focus to the genre's competitive viability after Melee's accidental success in the area, followed by Super Smash Bros. tributes Super Smash Flash 2 and Project M, and the genre is only continuing to grow with Rivals of Aether diversifying the formula further with implementing a parrying system and removing focus on grabs and recovery.
  • Games in the same vein as Dear Esther were frequently compared to it, or described using the dismissive label "walking simulators." Eventually these games became varied and populated enough to be considered a genre in their own right, under the term Environmental Narrative Games.
  • The Battle Royale Game genre of deathmatch/survival multiplayer games was pioneered by mods for DayZ and Minecraft (themselves influenced by the films and books Battle Royale and The Hunger Games), popularized by PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and turned into a genre by Fortnite, which managed to defy the "PUBG clone" label (despite the protests of PUBG's developer) through its faster-paced gameplay, Lighter and Softer art design, and incorporation of shelter-building mechanics.
  • Dark Souls and its predecessor Demon's Souls have given rise to a new form of Action RPG featuring low-execution high-stakes combat and an overall tough but fair sense of difficulty, known as the Souls-like RPG. This template has been taken and modified ranging from straight-up clones like Lords of the Fallen to more unique takes like The Surge, Nioh, Code Vein and Immortal: Unchained and even 2D versions like Salt and Sanctuary. Even the creators of Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, FromSoftware, have made their own unique take on the genre with Bloodborne, which many Souls fans more or less consider to be part of the same series, collectively called "Soulsborne".
  • Diablo-clone used to be a common term for what are now usually called action RPGs. However, action-RPG has spread to be applied to such a wide variety of different games that terms like Diablo-clone are coming back into more frequent use again.
  • Stardew Valley is a Spiritual Successor to Story of Seasons that led to many similar, predominantly indie, games about living on a farm. They've since become their own sub-genre of Life Simulation Game that this site calls the Farm Life Sim genre. Until then, Story of Seasons was considered a "JRPG" or a "farm sim".

    Web Animation 
  • Virtual YouTubers. Popularized by the self-styled "first virtual YouTuber" Kizuna AI, later got to the point that official 3D model developers and media companies started lending assistance to them to bring them up to the level of real-life internet stars. It's gotten to the point that Twitch has a specific "Vtuber" tag you can browse!

    Web Videos 

Alternative Title(s): Genre Launch

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