Daily Reaction: Sequels Vs. New IPs – Where Do You Stand?
Each year, gamers around the world eagerly await announcements about some upcoming game, but there has always been a split between people wanting a new IP or the next iteration of some beloved franchise. With that, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan discuss the pros and cons of each type to try and figure out which is better for gamers and the industry as a whole.
Dan: This is a topic that I am actually pretty torn on, as there are a number of franchises that I absolutely love and would not want to see them replaced with a brand new IP. But, having seen the number of amazing new brands released by some of my favorite developers, it is hard to dispute the benefit of getting something like The Last of Us instead of another Uncharted title that soon.
Most of the issues people are having with sequels probably stems from the yearly releases of games like Call of Duty, which have now become the poster child for milked IPs. Putting the quality of each COD title aside, it seems that many people are finding it difficult to feel any sense of revitalization for the franchise, as a it is obvious that a number of assets and/or code are being recycled each year. This means that no matter what, gamers familiar with the franchise are going to already feel like they have put countless hours into a game they haven’t even played yet – which is probably the main reason some of us like sequels to begin with.
As there will always be more games released than we have time to actually play, the ability to understand the fundamentals of a title right out of the gate is a great way to maximize your time. The only issue is, will you actually be getting a new experience? Or just playing something familiar to not have to learn anything new?
Despite having a stint of over using a particular Italian character, the Assassin’s Creed franchise as of late has done a wonderful job of keeping a familiar title feeling fresh. Even though some mechanics from the previous titles are continually used, it doesn’t crutch on them, instead it finds a way to incorporate them. Which is exactly the benefit of being able to create a sequel, as you already have a foundation to build off of and are able to create a much more detailed and engrossing experience without having to spend part of your budget to reproduce it.
This leads me to the other major factor: Franchise are generally a safer bet than launching a new IP, as it is easy to understand your install base as well as get an idea as to what to improve the next time around (plus you already have fans). This is the simple concept that is the driving force for why Madden, Call of Duty and other titles are seeing more releases each year, as people are willing to buy them, which means guaranteed revenue.
A problem with this concept though, is that for an industry to grow, we need to be able to not only bring in new gamers, but also keep things fresh for those already invested. To do this, however, we simply cannot rely on new IPs as a great deal of the money invested in building a new brand needs to come from existing franchises. So, even if you don’t like seeing the same games each year, just with new hats, realize that the only reason we do get to see some AAA developers take risks on new games, is that people like hats.
Seb: I think the sequel vs new IP debate shows us exactly why games journalists, and hardcore gamers who play tons, can never fully understand the average gamer. Of course we want lots of new IPs, all we do all day is play hundreds of games, and it makes the repetitive nature of AAA sequels all the more detestable. Hell, that’s half the reason why games journalists make such a big fuss over the latest slightly different indie title, when most of the site’s readership don’t give a damn and just want to hear about whether Call of Duty got another token pet.
Dan does make an important point, though – publishers do need a few steady, reliable hits to keep their business running, and help fund new ventures. Take Ubisoft, one of the biggest publishers out there, what they do is ensure that they have Assassin’s Creed out every Christmas, so they know they’ll have a lot of money. They then put some of this money into making new IPs like The Division, The Crew and Watch Dogs, with their hope being that those franchises will eventually become serialized hits.
EA goes even further, relying on sports titles like FIFA and Madden, along with shooters like Battlefield (and once Medal of Honor) to keep their shareholders happy (oops), and allow them to take risks with titles like Fuse (flop) and TitanFall (probably going to be huge). Sony is also not above this, choosing to release Killzone: Shadow Fall at the PS4’s launch, instead of the new IP Guerrilla Games has been working on since KZ2.
But, before we make this all sound like a wonderful balance that publishers all dance, let’s be honest – most publishers take the piss. Sure, Assassin’s Creed changes things up a little, but they have milked the series to oblivion. Black Flag is a great game by itself, but I had to review and preview some past ACs, so unfortunately I have played all of them, and I’m burned out. Good thing they’re taking a break next year. Just kidding.
Most publishers will pump out the same games each year because it is safe. They don’t invest in new IP because they want to make newer, more interesting games, they do it because they want more big franchises, and they’re constantly worried that their existing franchises dying off. That’s the only reason, unless you count platform holders who have a vested interest in bringing different audiences to their platforms.
Anyway, enough talk about business and why there is so much regurgitated rubbish out there. I’ll try to actually answer the title question as best I can. Back in 2011, I played Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and, as a huge Uncharted fan, and lover of quality games, I adored it. Sure, a lot of the mechanics were the same, and a lot of it felt really similar, but it was still awesome. And then I found out that we had enough budget to import a Japanese Vita and ended up playing Uncharted: Golden Abyss less than a month later. That’s when I really felt the pain of franchise fatigue, even though Uncharted is my favorite IP of the generation.
It’s impossible to give a blanket answer. Some games need sequels, and I’m sure that fans of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are glad that that series is still going. But obviously we need new IPs, we need new game mechanics, game ideas and plots.
Otherwise: Stagnation, boredom, and an eventual decline in sales until consumer apathy lets the industry perish.