Are Today’s Iconic Franchises Shrinking Gaming’s Innovation?
The mentality of the gamers has shifted a lot since the 1990’s. Back then, sequels were looked at with caution and most people looked for originality in games and “The next best thing”.
You never went to your friends home and said, “Hey do you have the new version of ______” or “Are you hearing about the sequel to _______”. What seems to have happened to the gaming industry is what happened to Hollywood, namely “Sequel Fever” and top of the line franchises.
Now this isn’t really a bad thing if you talk to the Call of Duty fans who crave the newest instalments of their game. But being that a gamers budget is only so big and industries only have so much money to produce games, it may shift gaming to more of a static art or medium, pushing out a lot of the creativity it once had.
If people are only buying a number of top tier franchises and companies decide to invest less in gambles or new I.Ps (intellectual properties), gaming will lose one of it’s greatest elements: creativity and innovation. I think any natural gamer will find this saddening and has noticed the results of this lately in our gaming lineups. Between 2000-2008 were some of the golden years of gaming, enjoying a number of games people could hardly imagine possible. But ever since the economic downturn, it seems video game studios are less and less likely to pay for anything except for “a sure thing”.
So lets put this into perspective and give some data to back up these findings. We want to show that the best selling games have become Iconic Franchises and that as a result the remakes of these franchises will make it harder and harder for unique games to stand out. The easiest place to find this trend is simply to look at the best selling games on the console. For the Xbox (Not the 360) this game was Halo 2.
Looking at what happened to that very unique game, we now know the blockbuster franchise it’s become and every new Halo game is set to become the biggest wallet crunching buy. This trend continues with the next best selling games of Halo combat evolved, a Tom Clancy game (Which is franchised to death), and Fable, which continues it’s franchise reign today in Fable 3.
Going to the Xbox 360, Call of Duty: Black Ops is reigning on top, followed by Kinect Adventures (Part of the kinect craze), Halo 3, Call of Duty MW2, and Gears of War. All of them becoming behemoths and blockbuster franchises that are here to stay… except maybe Kinect adventures.
Now onto the Playstation 1, we have 2 Gran Turismo games in the top 5, 2 Final Fantasies, and Tomb Raider. Again all of these games are sure fire blockbusters later turned into mega-franchises.
Moving to the Playstation 2, my personal favorite console of all time, we have 3 Grand Theft auto games topping the top 5 list and 2 Gran Turismo games. As you can see, less and less innovation is trending as the consoles progress forward.
Then to the most powerful console out currently, the PS3, we have 2 Gran Turismo games, Call of duty MW2, Uncharted, and Motorstorm. Now is a good time to mention Motorstorm is slowly becoming a franchise of it’s own, after its latest release of Motorstorm Apocalypse.
On the PC we have 2 Sims games, a series which I’m fondly addicted to, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Half life. All of the above names are synonymous with behemoth gaming giants. Any game would envy to be anywhere near the popularity of the above.
As for the N64, NES, Gamecube, and Wii, hands down everyone already knows that these are systems known for their unique console exclusives. Such exclusives include the Super Mario brothers series, Zelda, Mario Party, Mario Kart, and the Super Smash Bros. lineup.
Gamers Dilemma / Studio Execs Re-branding
So when gamers are out rushing to buy the next big releases of the above games, what can a small gaming studio do to break out and set itself apart as the “new top dog” in town. When the gamers wallet is smaller than normal and the new price point for games is the $60/£40 release, how do you sell your unique I.P?
Bethesda had some major success in re-branding and recreating the Fallout series which has blasted off thanks to their hard work. Other games followed suit such as Red Dead Redemption, a game set apart on it’s own in uniqueness that rebooted a failing series.
Maybe the new easiest way to inject creativity and make the Studio Execs happy is to remaster a failing series that has had good sales numbers already. Maybe that’s the model that companies need if they want to keep innovation alive in the industry.
Whatever the case I don’t blame studios for wanting to make and release games that gamers want and are willing to buy. I also don’t blame people for buying franchises that they love. (I’m one of them and you would laugh at how many Sims games I’ve bought).
I’m just here to tell everyone that the simple result of what we’re doing is now limiting innovation and creativity. Hopefully the creativity route Bethesda and Rockstar have found continues to work for other games trying to break out of the mold and create something unique and refreshing. Maybe a new model remains that we haven’t seen yet, that will satisfy our need for fresh games.
A new day in gaming has arrived. The golden years are gone, and we’re turning the page of history to a new chapter. What remains is anyone’s guess. We’re venturing into new territory here guys. That’s my message to you.
I look forward to seeing how the gaming studios adapt and how the gaming scene evolves over the coming years.