Thursday, 24 November 2011

Are Sequels Killing The Gaming Industry?

Among other things, the number three is a symbol for trinity, a unity of body, mind and spirit. In the gaming world of course, number three = KA-CHING! (in case you didn’t get that, it’s the sound of a cash register). At E3 2011 I kept a count of the number of Part 3’s coming out this year and the results were rather staggering. Nathan Drake continues treasure hunting in Uncharted 3, the world is on the brink of World War III in Modern Warfare 3, the Saints plan on reclaiming their throne in Saints Row: The Third, Battlefield veterans will rejoice at Battlefield 3, Marcus Fenix and his band of chainsawing gears return in Gears of War 3 and so on. You get the drift right?

In practice sequels makes perfect sense; why fix something that isn’t broken. In fact sequels also give developers a chance to fix certain gameplay mechanics that weren’t very well received the first time round. A prime example of this is Assassin’s Creed II which was a hundred times better than its predecessor. But now, like everyone else Ubisoft is churning out yearly iterations of this franchise with minor improvements. Sure they aren’t crappy and I enjoy playing through them but I literally could not differentiate between Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood; they were that similar. And it is this trend of churning out sequel after sequel that’s a scary reminder about how the entire industry isn’t willing to take risks with new IPs (Intellectual Properties) anymore.
Is this the future?
Is this the future?

Now I understand development costs for games today are astronomically high and no studio wants to sink millions in developing a game that won’t sell but seriously, is this a trend the industry, and more importantly the consumers are content with? Why can’t industry juggernauts like Activision, EA, Ubisoft etc invest in some new stuff on the side considering the resources at their disposal. I get it, gaming is a business, one that’s grown exponentially over the years and at the end of it all, studios wouldn’t churn out sequels if there were no demand for them but there’s no reason to just shameless cash in on the whole trend. Dragon Age II anyone?

It’s not a wide spread occurrence yet, but gamers today are becoming a highly jaded and skeptical bunch. Message boards the world over are full of hate at games like Modern Warfare 3 (the unfortunate scapegoat for sequilitis) that will never bother re-inventing the formula, just piling on shinier eye candy and bigger set pieces which by the way you have little or no control over. Is this what next generation gaming really is? I know I may sound a bit ungrateful as there were quite a few games over the years that managed to inject a bit of freshness into various stale genres, but those were few and far between.

To be honest I don’t have a problem with sequels per say as long as studios continue tweaking and improving the games we now love dearly. I only hope moving forward, larger organizations grow a pair and start dabbling with new IPs. And more importantly give them a chance to grow by supporting them with the necessary sales and marketing push. If not, games like Blur, Split/Second, and lots more have no chance of keeping up with the obscene sales track laid down by their peers.

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