If you look at list of games that have come out this year it has been littered with a massive number of great games that everyone has been waiting for like Gears of War 2, Spore, Army of Two, Metal Gear Solid 4... and the list goes on. Almost every game that has come out this year has been some kind of gameplay miracle involving all sorts of neat and realistic effects ranging from realisticly bending metals in the Force Unleashed to the most BA non-scripted dog in gaming with Fable 2. And the games that have innovated all have one thing in common. They did them extremely well.
That's not surprising at all and really, who cares? The problem is that while all this games innovated very well, half of them weren't even games. Take the new Prince of Persia - while it wasn't really innovative in a gameplay sense, the lay of the game with very little fighting and the return to the acrobatics plus the visuals were fantastic. The game on the other hand was only moderately impressive. It sold on it's style alone and quite frankly is one game in a long line of games where you'd be lead to think, "Well that was an interesting idea. Now that they've spent this game perfecting the mechanic I can't wait until the sequal."
By itself that shouldn't be scary. Scary is when you start saying that about multiple games like PoP, Fable 2, Spore, Mirror's Edge and so on. It's hard to hate on Spore and a lot of people will enjoy it but it's actuall, at least in a topical sense, a very good case.
The idea was great and creating creatures is fun. Conquering planets never gets old but, really, where's the game? I don't mean to hate the game, I think that it will change a lot about many games for a long time but that doesn't mean that it's fun... which is the idea of a game right? I mean if you wanted to make a little electronic creature, why aren't YOU making the game? People do this sort of thing for FPS and RTS games regularly, making new maps and putting them up to play with and it's all free. They do it because they enjoy it and they're being creative. Why are you paying $50 to do it?
These games aren't bad games but are they really worth paying for? In some cases you are just funding the next game and not really getting anything for it. Sure it might seem like some mechanics are great. Portal has a fantastic mechanic with the portal gun. You might even say it sells the game but I disagree. The idea is fun but it's not why the game was so wildly popular. Put a person in a square room with a portal gun and that person will get bored. We All paid for the well crafted levels/puzzles that you use that gun IN.
Look at the next game before you buy it and ask yourself if the mechanic would still be worth it if you put it in a square room before you buy it for that. In a few cases (Spore is probably still worth buying for a lot of people, including me in this scenario) it might be. A good game takes an idea, style, and a mechanic and puts them into a well crafted game. Look at your favorite games - the quality was in the game, not the mechanic.