Let’s play a little game. What do the following video games have in common?
-Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
-Far Cry 3
-Splinter Cell: Blacklist
-New Super Mario Bros. 2
If you guessed “they are all on the same console”, you might want to re-read that list. If you guessed “they are all sequels”, DING DING DING! You win!
It is often that you will see a consumer, or critic, of video games complain about the amount of sequels there are on the market compared to new IPs. There are valid reasons why consumers don’t like sequels. These range from the argument that the gameplay is mostly the same as the previous entries to the notion that the story has been dragged on too far and something fresh has to be created. The word repetition is used a lot in these conversations and arguments.
However, there are many reasons why we need sequels. The first thought that comes to my mind is perfection. There aren’t many game series where we look back and think “The first game was the best.” Developers make sequels so they can perfect ideas presented in the first game in their series. Take the Uncharted series for example. I hardly ever hear fans arguing that Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was the best game in the series. I have only ever heard discussions between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. This is because Naughty Dog took everything that didn’t work in the first game and improved on it. Of course, sometimes certain elements are not necessarily an improvement, but it’s more of a step in the right direction- experimentation, if you will. Leading back to last week’s article on Indie Games, Indie developers produce sequels so they can also perfect all the ideas they had from their first game. Torchlight 2 took all the ideas from Torchlight 1, made some changes, added much wanted co-op, and crafted a much better game (in my opinion anyway). Furthermore, not changing things that could be considered broken or need improvement could also ruin a franchise.
Unfortunately, some series go on longer than they should. Resident Evil 6 comes to mind when it comes to long-running franchises. Originally a survival horror game, many fans and critics believe the Resident Evil series has left its survival horror roots behind and become more of an action game. Is this a bad thing? Well, apparently, yes. There are no complaints of Resident Evil’s gameplay being repetitive throughout titles yet gamers still think the series has been going on for too long. Gamers still want to go back to Resident Evil because they hope it will eventually returns to its horror roots. Gamers want to return to the Resident Evil universe mainly because of it’s unique, zombie slaying gameplay. A lot of the time, gameplay is the reason a game is given a number or a spin off title at the end of its name. The three different Far Cry games have nothing in common, story wise, but all follow base gameplay elements. We need sequels because we love the gameplay on offer from particular franchises.
Storytelling in games is continually getting better and recent games have shown that gameplay isn’t necessarily needed to create a worthwhile experience. It’s already known that The Walking Dead: The Game, which had very little gameplay, is getting a sequel/ second season. The Mass Effect series is a recent series that gamers came back to because of its story. We wanted Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 because we wanted to see Shepard’s journey through to the end. Bioware crafted a world with plenty of lore and gave players the ability to create their own hero and dictate his actions. We became attached to our Shepard’s and begged for sequels (even though the series was always going to be a trilogy). It wasn’t the gameplay that kept players going back to the Mass Effect series (I’m not saying it wasn’t good gameplay), it was the storytelling. We need sequels because we want to go back into a game’s universe and play apart in more amazing stories and adventures.
The amount of time between the release of sequels can also play a part in whether they are wanted or not. If there are two or three years between releases, nostalgia or just the longing to get back into a game’s universe is enough to induce the demand for a sequel. Sometimes, if sequels are released too close together, it can leave fans feeling ripped off if the gameplay hasn’t changed that much because they were doing the same thing in another game six to 12 months ago.
You were all probably waiting for me to bring it up, but Call of Duty is a prime example. Fans come back to Call of Duty because of the great gameplay and addictive multiplayer. However, that can also backfire on a series because fans who had had enough of the gameplay weren’t ready for more of the same within such a short period of time.
From a business side, when a franchise makes a publisher and developer money, it allows them to do new things. Insomniac Games has created many great and different franchises over the years. From Spyro to Ratchet and Clank to Resistance, each of their franchises has had multiple sequels which change certain gameplay elements to keep things fresh, yet it keeps the story and base gameplay that gamers loved. Each franchise gave them and their publisher – Sony – enough money to fund more great games and franchises. If Fuse takes off early this year, it could be another way to allow Insomniac to continue creating games.
We also have to think about the risks associated with creating new IP. If you were a publisher or developer, would you rather create something that you knew had a pretty good chance of selling or something that you have no idea how consumers are going to take to? Just think about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for a moment.Reckoning was a new IP that 38 Studios, Big Huge Games and EA took a risk. Reckoning was a spectacular game that didn’t sell enough copies to make a profit. Due to not selling enough copies of their game 38 Studios ended up going bankrupt and were sued by Rhode Island (no, not another developer, that place in America) for fraud because they couldn’t pay back the $75M Rhode Island lent them.
Although gamers are often complaining about how many sequels there are on the market compared to new IPs, we all love them. We need sequels because they help perfect established ideas, provide us with many more hours of spectacular gameplay, allow us to jump back into much loved game worlds, and because they allow developers to make enough money to continue creating great entertainment for us.