Milking A Video Game Franchise: Necessary Evil?
Entertainment is a subjective concept but, while video gaming is enjoying an age of financial prosperity and technological excellence, a growing trend has been visible for quite some time. Familiarity trumps innovation. Video Game sequels, spin-offs and remakes dominate the industry and the release of new and creative Intellectual Property (IP) by major developers seems to have been in sharp decline over the last few years.
E3 annually drives home a very persistent message: that optimism if for the masochistic. For every year the faintest hope for a plethora of new and exciting IPs is rekindled deep within my psyche and beams with the cheer and vigour of a young Oliver Twist in the throes of hallucinogenic experimentation. It is to this excitement that E3 responds, methodically, with, “No, but here is Halo IV”.
If the internet has taught me one thing it would be that the sequel debate has become more popular than bacon, cats and bacon-flavoured cats. On one side stands the content: a mass cluster of the youth and mentally handicapped, in favour of the mass churning out of redundant franchises.
On the other, stands the rest: a vocal gathering of permanently unsatisfiable post-pubescents who have become disillusioned with the state of mainstream gaming today and who, presumably, have placed a large image of Casey Hudson’s face on the inside of their toilet bowl.
The latter category of the gaming community has seemingly grown tired of shooting Arabs and collecting stars. In the interest of fairness, I should point out that there are alternatives- you can also shoot aliens and collect rings.
In fact, according to a list of upcoming titles by major development studios on IGN.com, all ten games, due for release from September till November, are either sequels or based on an already existing, franchise. Although I’d like to consider myself a far cry from the old gamer elitist, who spends the majority of his time sitting on the porch, debating the intuitive genius of the NES with the voices in his head, the outright mediocrity of that statistic is disheartening.
“Where is the new content?”, they cry, under the dim light of Tinkerbell’s slowly fading glow, “What of the children?”.
The unfortunate truth is that sequels and re-hashes are a necessary evil. While I do hold a deeply rooted resentment for major gaming developers, as I do with anyone who pulls in a larger salary than myself, I do understand them.
Video games are particularly difficult to make. They require an extensive budget along with a sizeable and skilled workforce. Legions of employees, all selfishly wanting to feed their families, must be paid. It makes little sense for established gaming companies to risk near bankruptcy on a potential flop and what better way to ensure success than the reworking of a winning formula? Also, cocaine is an expensive habit to maintain, or so I’ve heard.
Game developers cautiously test the market for ideas that hold the potential for financial success. This is a good thing. Money good, poverty bad I believe is the general status quo. The problem emerges however, when a lucrative title idea becomes subject to a mass cash-in, the likes of which could generate enough heat from George Lucas’s crotch to power a small village.
Like Christmas at the orphanage, reality is cripplingly unpleasant little bitch. Game developers haven’t the resources, as unbelievable as it may seem, to take monumental risks on new IP’s, at least not constantly, and the appeasement of the fan-boy masses through reworked franchises helps to keep them afloat.
For every innovative game released, too many fail. For every Indie developer that rises to the ranks of iconic, too many tip-toe into obscurity.
As painful as it may be to sit through another Christ-forsaken, god dammed, what am I still doing on this earth trailer for Black Ops II, take comfort in the thought that this magnificent pile of excrement may help fund a future gem to which can be clutched tightly against your little black heart.
Max Payne 3 is one of our favourite current video game sequels, check out our review of it here. If you’re sick of video game sequels and are looking for some new Intelectual Property, there are Indie Developers that need your help. Be sure to check out our list of Video Game Kickstarter Projects to throw money at.