Sure, graphics matter to an extent, but at what cost? Introversion's (Darwinia, Defcon) Mark Morris argues that developers' pursuit of photo-realism is a dead-end for the industry.
So far, with visually abstract games like Uplink, Darwinia and Defcon: Everybody Dies, Introversion has taken an obvious stance on the graphics vs. gameplay debate. Company director Morris says that Introversion is likely never to create a photo-realistic title, and his reasoning is simple: "Everybody's doing it, it's expensive and, most importantly, photo-realism doesn't matter."
But really, would any reasonable person argue that graphics (particularly photo-realistic graphics) are more important than the gameplay factor? Probably not, but Morris says that the games that are released nowadays indicate otherwise.
"What I think happens too often is that [developers] sort of go, 'We're going to show you the best graphics you've ever seen and then we might pack a bit of gameplay or a little bit of entertaining fun on at the end," he says. "I think that's a very bad thing, a very bad thing to do, and I think we're seeing a lot of companies doing it."