While I may not have as much time as I used to have to enjoy videogames, new releases always catch my attention. Over the past few years, the video game industry has been plagued by sequels. In this featured opinion, we’re taking a closer look as to why sequels have become so popular.
Videogame Sequels or Franchises?
First off, let’s get some definitions straights, mainly the difference between a videogame sequel and a videogame franchise.
A game franchise is a series of related video games which may or may not be sequels to one another. The best example here would be the Call of Duty franchise, with each title added to the franchise and a history of alternating developers such as Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games.
To clarify, titles such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 were released directly after one another as part of the Call of Duty franchise, but are in no way sequels and have differing gameplay mechanics.
Meanwhile, a videogame sequel is a follow-up on a previously released game, typically numbered to denote the fact that it’s a sequel. Sequels tend to embrace the core gameplay and everything which made the orignial title a success, while adding new content and features to merit making a sequel while continuing the story.
Examples of sequels include Dark Souls 1, 2 & 3 and others such as the Age of Empires 1-4. Notably, a number of sequels are often referred to as a series of videogames, such as the Dark Souls series and so on.
The Most Succesful Videogame Franchises
Without question, videogame franchises and series are immensely popular. Here are examples of the sales of games which form part of franchises or series, listed according to units sold:
- Grand Theft Auto V – 185,000,000
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – 63,920,000
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – 55,000,000
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – 50,000,000
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – 30,000,000
- FIFA 18 – 26,400,000
So, we’ve acknowledged the difference between videogame franchises and sequels, while also showing how popular they’ve been in the past – what’s the problem?
Striking the Balance – Development Time
It’s this very success which has led to the situation of modern gaming, in my opinion. As game developers stick to what they’ve already established, not taking the risk of developing a new franchise or series, franchises are enjoying an excessive number of entries over a short period of time.
So much so that Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox, following the official acquisition from Activision Blizzard, has confessed that he’d like to revisit old franchises. This forms part of the craze to maintain current franchises and if that fails, revisit old ones.
This rush to send out the next piece of a franchise or a series, in order to make as much money as possible, has resulted in a greater number of unfinished games. Overall, the formula involves making as many games as possible, with as much effort as possible, to make as much money as possible.
Of course, developers are under massive pressure from both the fanbase and publishers.
Here are some examples of very poorly received video games which form part of franchises/series:
- Metal Gear Survive – the last Metal Gear title after the story was tied up by the epic Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain title. After how much of a disaster the development was, with Hideo Kojima cutting ties with publishers Konami, this spin-off was a disaster.
- Dead Space 3 – despite its hype, due to the success of the unique Dead Space titles before it, Dead Space 3 had the chance to resurrect the series. Instead, it bombed out thanks to rubbish gameplay and a poor story, ensuring Dead Space doesn’t return in a while.
- Halo 4 – with 343 Industries invested in another sequel despite Bungie changing their priorities, Halo 4 was a strong departure from the series and left the community with a bitter taste. Luckily, Halo Infinite is a little better, although it has it’s own drawbacks.
- Call of Duty – ever since Call of Duty Modern Warfare (the new one), Activision Blizzard realized that sticking to one developer and one game engine would be way more cost effective. Since then, every title has stuck to the same engine, that of the popular Warzone title, with newer additions to the series adding less and less every year.
- FIFA/EA Sports FC & Madden – naturally, I have to mention the likes of EA Sports FC and Madden. These sports simulators have barely added any new content in the past few iterations, instead focusing on lootboxes and microtransactions.
- Assassin’s Creed – as a fan of the first few AC titles, up to Black Flag, the modern state of Assassin’s Creed is rather lackluster. Each year, maintaining the same bland content, boring missions and unimaginative stories, the series undergoes a retexturing to new nations and time zones.
Nurturing Videogame Franchises & Series
For the likes of Call of Duty and FIFA/EA Sports FC, the yearly release is only justified as fans want to be up to date with the most recent iteration of the same old gameplay – I’ll give them that. For example, I used to buy Call of Duty every year when the developer used to alternate each year, meaning that each title had at least two years of development making each one that much more unique.
However, for titles which focus on a story, on a single player, please take your time to develop them. One bad entry due to rushed development can kill a videogame series with so much potential. Here are examples of videogame franchises which have taken their time to develop the best and most unique entries possible:
- Mortal Kombat
- Grand Theft Auto
- The Legend of Zelda
- Dark Souls
- Gran Turismo
- The Witcher
- Metal Gear
- and so many more..
I believe that since the pandemic, with shaky releases such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76, the bar was lowered for video game development in terms of quality assessment, which isn’t good for anyone.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with videogame franchises and sequels. In fact, each one is unique and special, allowing for the growth of a particular community.
The current problem at hand – developers keeping franchises alive with low-effort entries, hesitating to make new franchises and resurrecting old franchises instead.
As a community, the best course of action would be to not overly press developers to rush the development of titles and not supporting low-effort franchise entries. Let’s see what Activision Blizzard cook up with the new acquisition from Microsoft.
I’d love to know your opinion in the comments section below!