Thursday, October 29, 2015

Game Franchises Sell. And There's No Stopping Them.

Video game franchises are a big deal. So says Bloomberg, so I guess that makes it official? But this is something we've known for decades. Franchises sell. It's rare to see a game that is a one hit wonder and fades into the land of obscurity. People want stories that will last through several cycles. This is why movie studios are pumping out more sequels and trilogies then ever before (I'm still going to argue that there was no reason to have a "The Hangover 3;" if you're getting that drunk for a third time and blacking out, you have a problem). If the movie was good enough, then it's almost a guarantee sale that people will come to see the next version. Video games are no different.

As David Cole of the consulting firm DFC Intelligence writes, "[t]he game industry lives off of sequels. It is pretty rare to see major new franchises launch."

Which is why so many of us were in awe of Sony's E3 conference - it was chock full of new games!

But it's true. Video games suffer from a sequel problem, and I consider it a problem because it's limiting creative output. You take a game like Call of Duty, which has an annual release cycle, and you don't see as much innovation as there use to be. It's the same game with a different package. Gamers are starting to push back against the status quo. They want new products. And then Halo 5 releases, and everyone forgets about new games. But this is why we have so many indie developers popping up to fill our need for new content. I'm finding myself moving further away from sequels and trilogies and more towards the Steam games that provide just as much, if not more, story content then the triple A title's, for a fraction of the price. They also give me originality; something lacking in a lot of today's sequels.

There comes a point where sequels get tiring. With something like Resident Evil the franchise manages to stay fresh by focusing on new stories with each game, and having a lengthy release cycle. You don't expect Capcom to push out a game a year with RE. They take their time and craft content that will resonate with people. The same can apply to Halo. People are more likely to stick around longer with a franchise if you're not inundating them with content each year. Why? Because it becomes stale. Boring. Dull. Lifeless.

And this is the world that we live in. Developers make games based on what people want - how they spend their money. If we keep buying sequels, they'll keep making them. And that's not always a good thing.


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