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I love you! But not that much.
Is the gaming industry relying too heavily on sequels?

I love sequels, I really do. I think overall video games fare well when it comes to the business of creating sequels to beloved franchises, which is much more than what I can say for your average movie sequel (Mortal Kombat II, you’ve failed me). Once a good game concept is implemented those foundations can be easily replicated and improved upon and refined to perfection, creating a massive fan base who cling to every nuance of their favorite characters and demand to see more. Which is understandable, why wouldn’t you want more of the games you love?

But over the years, I’ve been noticing a trend in the industry. Publishers are giving us more of what we want and they are doing it at a pretty fast pace. Sequels are now coming more frequently and what I would argue, less innovation. Some publishers, such as Activision have even gotten to the point of releasing a new version of their games on a yearly cycle. Choosing to develop one franchise with multiple studios in order to hit their yearly sales numbers. This isn’t a new phenomenon by any means and even today we still see sequels to some of gaming's biggest franchises of the last 20 years still being reworked and played by millions of fans worldwide. But I feel like over the last eight years or so the world has been filled with more Marios, Zeldas, Master Chiefs, and games with the number 4 in their titles then I feel comfortable with. Often these games are great in their own right, but often they feel a lot like there predecessors. It may be nostalgia creeping into my mind, but I remember sequels to games really feeling like a whole new upgrade to me when I was a younger gamer. Nowadays I feel like I’m just getting slightly modified upgrades to my favorite games. Pretty graphics and a few new mechanics mixed in.

I can understand why some companies seem to rely heavier on their franchises for income and opting not to spend their time, money, and development resources creating new IPs. It’s expensive as hell to produce a game in today’s market. We’re getting to the point where the creation of a video game can rival the cost of a major Hollywood blockbuster movie. It makes more economic sense to keep your bread and butter franchises coming down the pipeline as fast as possible. If that cuts into some development time for new ideas to be fully realized until the future, than that's preferable to losing money on top of your investment already in development and marketing. That’s the main issue I see; it’s the risk. You can see it happening now, studios are forced to either close their doors or mass layoffs, due to lack of sales of their big budget games. The creators of Lair, Factor 5 were one notable studio to feel this sting of a failed big budget new IP, back when the PS3 came out in 2006.

How did we get to this point?
We can’t only put the blame on money, greed, or risk as the main drivers here. I think it’s more of a symptom of another factor that has been there ever since the very beginning of gaming. Us. We as the consumers have been the main drivers for the cost of gaming and its now that's its more of mainstream success, more of us than ever are making our voices loud and clear. It’s only natural, we’ve grown accustomed over the years to getting more innovation and content for our money. I would even argue that we demand it and we all can agree that we can be a finicky bunch when it comes to getting games that we want. More frames per second, more blood, more online, more levels, more tea-bagging animations. More! More! More! I’m not trying to make you feel guilty about wanting amazing games, but I think we have to insert ourselves into the equation here to help understand how development some of the decisions companies are forced to make in today's market.

I think we have reached a point where it makes more sense for some companies to produce slight upgrades to their franchises with filler content instead of investing in new ideas with innovative game play. Granted, we can’t apply this to the whole gaming industry and there have been some fantastic new IPs to come out in recent years that will go against this trend. The current state of technology and venues for distributing games has given way to a burgeoning Indy game industry that is starting to make big game companies look like people with thumbs up their asses.

But I think that companies more than ever are having a harder time dealing with satisfying us as well as turning a profit without burning out their franchises. I just get the feeling some are going a little too far. So think about that when you pick up the latest version of you favorite franchise. Your money might be having more of an impact than you think.

It’s also entirely possible that I’m just a cranky old coot.

So what do you think, am I crazy?


  1. They're working the system.

    -Release a successful video game. That's the hard part.
    -Start developing a 'sequel' using the first game as a foundation. Translation: Continue working on the first game even further.
    -Use a smaller team. All the hard work of building the game, from ground up, is done! You just need a team of 'programmers' rather than 'developers'.
    -The customer WILL buy it, just because it's a sequel. We all fall for it. All the time. Even with movies. So that leads to-
    -Guaranteed profit! Using 1/2 or 1/4 of the budget you used on the first game, less people to pay, and twice or triple the profit as the first game!


    Sequels like this are common for consoles.
    What consoles call an expansion, PC calls a patch.
    What consoles call a sequel, PC calls an expansion. :P

  2. If a company creates a new IP that is successful, I would say 9 out of 10 times, there will be a sequel these days.

    Sure, development can be expensive on games, but I don't think mass layoffs just happen when games aren't successful, but also when they are successful...if it's all about the bottom line. Red Dead Redemption's development studio, I think is a good example of a studio having mass layoffs after a game sold MILLIONS of copies its first month out.

    I have actually been on an anti-Nintendo kick for a while now, trying to NOT buy any first party game from Nintendo...and I have my reason for that(possibly an article on this coming).

    The video game industry is definitely changing, and I'm not sure where it's headed...but a lot of companies are outsourcing now, and the keynote speaker last year at a game conference I attended, said he thinks the video game industry will be like the movie industry very soon...contract work, and workers floating from studio to studio and one title to the next.

    Anywho, I don't have a problem with sequels, as long as they can give me a good reason to buy them.

  3. @Vermin - Correct the hardest part is making a good game to begin with! I just think we've seen the same successes (sequels) a little too often.

    @Coffee - Yup true, even successful games have layoffs. I think it still boils down to my point that the shear cost and expectations of gamers/investors drive CEO's decisions more often than not. I could see your roaming freelancer happening, as long as the roaming people stick with the sequels to the new IPs.

  4. I cringe every year when Madden comes out. Even the Metroids and Marios. I hate to say it's the same games just with updated graphics but that's how it feels to me.

  5. Y'know sequels are one thing, but the yearly spin-cycle they have going on with some of these titles is insane. I almost feel like there should be a different name for that entirely. Like a roster update in sports or something.

    To be honest the whole game industry is looking more and more like hollywood every day. It just seems to have become such a hostile environment.

    It's like the current recession was like a plane crash in the icy mountains; and all these people in charge had to start eating each other for sustenance. So now all that is left are the dickheads who were rigging the "draw straws" game to survive.

  6. @ Everyone - Its okay, now that we have the Move and Kinect all those games like, The Shoot, Kinectimals, Sport Champions, and Kinect Sports will pave us into a glorious new day...

  7. @Charlie Chang...
    Uh huh, and what's your most played game right now?
    Left 4 Dead 2?...the SEQUEL to a game that released a year before?

    Also, Mario has been in so many games, you can't count him. Metroid...the only games that were "sequels" really I would say are the Prime games. Metroid: Other M was a departure from what we were used to playing.

    @Amado (Den) Bustos:
    Roster updates in sports games would be awesome, and make me more likely to purchase a sports game every two years, instead of every year.

    I think if they release Madden 12, when the next NFL season rolls around, offer current owners a roster update for $20...but still offer Madden 13 as new...but somehow make it where you can only update the roster once. At least that way, I wouldn't feel like I was being scammed for the same game with different names EVERY year.

    @Brad Jerger (The Butcher):
    Move and Kinect games are going to be so fresh and amazing for the industry, that.........
    I'm not sure I can complete that sentence.
    Anywho, I do think Move has more opportunities for better game-play, than Kinect.

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  9. Whoops! lol posted on mekaylas account! anyways-

    you know... i think the worst case of sequelitis that we're not even thinking about right now, and yet completely got away with it---- Street fighter II.

    Dude!... awesome metaphor!

  10. Lol thanks Vermy. Actually you are so right about Street Fighter II. They did so many versions. Actually Street Fighter in General went NUTS with it. I mean... SFII,SSFII, SF ALFA, SF ALFA II, SF ALFA III, SF EX PLUS ALFA, SF EX PLUS ALFA II. It goes on like this for a while!


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