A Matter Of Flogging The Franchise

Itsa me, da money grabbing bastard!Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed 3, FIFA 12, Resident Evil 4, GTA V, Final Fantasy XIII Part 2…
…are publishers at the point of just pushing a title for the sake of a cash cow?

Originality is possibly one of the hardest things to come by these days.
Every studio in the world wants to produce the next Gordon Freeman, Mario, Zelda or Agent 47 because they are all characters that draw the serious money and guarantee a steady income for their pockets, and in some instance we don’t need a steady individual character in games like Need For Speed or FIFA, but do some of these franchises become stretched thin over time?

Everyone deserves the right to make money, but games are entertainment so surely they should entertaining? My worry is that publishers are bleeding franchises dry purely for the sake of lining their pockets and not really thinking about the experience the player gets.
It might work for a few goes where a limp title does well in sales purely because of its predecessor but that can only happen a short while until the consumer gets wise to the fact that they’ve been duped and done out of pocket.
It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to think that a title is created purely just to generate revenue. It should always be about the experience otherwise what is the point?
If it’s all about the money then you’re not building a business model that you can rely upon in the future. Consumers won’t come back.

It’s commonplace to see a series of games now, as well as these trilogy sets of films, and I applaud the efforts from the Half-Life, Myst, Mass Effect and Assassins Creed series’. They appear to have had a lot of time and energy invested in getting the story or gameplay to a fresh and entertaining standard and are titles I will come back to or invest in to in the future.

The FIFA, Need For Speed, Tiger Woods, The Sims and similar franchises are my causes for concern. (Whoops, they’re all yours EA!)
Sure they might use a different engine that utilises an extra 3% of the GPU, but what have they really created?
Why couldn’t they have spent longer on the original title and got it right then?
If you’re not really doing anything vastly different then I can’t condone anyone forking out full price for your title that is essentially the same as it’s predecessor or even its competitor. I know some who are majorly in to the FIFA series who will buy every version purely because they want the latest teams and kits, but I think that’s a waste. You should be able to get DLC or patches that give you access to that content instead of buying it under the guise of a ‘new’ game.

What a shitty awardIncidentally, EA has just won The Consumerist‘s Golden Poo Award which is a result of screwing consumers with expensive DLC post launch and releasing titles with more bugs than a plague of locusts. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but it still brings me to the point of taking time on getting the product right first time.
I should also defend EA as well.
They produce titles that sell millions of units because the content has been well constructed and they have genuinely good games to sell.
EA are behind some of my favourite titles that include Dead Space, the early Need For Speed games, Mass Effect, Medal of Honor and Battlefield with all of these having sequels or being part of an ongoing series. Thank you for those Electronic Arts, it’s just a shame that consumers will always head for the jugular at the drop of hat.
I must also thank Valve. So far I’ve not been disappointed (that I can recall) with any of the sequels you’ve produced. Portal 2, Half-Life 2 and Left4Dead 2 have all been treasured additions to my gaming library.

To talk about series’ of games and payment models without mentioning massively multiplayer online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft or Star Wars The Old Republic is a minor travesty.
I say minor as I really couldn’t give a hoot about them. I personally can’t invest enough time in my real life let alone create an entirely fictional avatar in an alternative reality. The fact that you have to then pay a monthly subscription is money I’d rather spend on beer.
Whatever my feelings are it’s impossible to ignore the huge following that the MMO community has. The monthly subscription is a clever way to pay for the servers that house the virtual environments and is a massive revenue generator for the studios and publishers involved. With some one-off-payment titles we are now hearing about servers that are being turned off because there’s no incentive for them to remain on. Other games have got around this by not needing servers at all for their multiplayer efforts.

If I was closer to my teens I might be inclined to spend more time investigating and engaging myself in an online community. I did try and get involved in City of Heroes once. It lasted six months before I gave up and realised that I hadn’t played for two months but was still being charged. Just isn’t for me.

Freemium titles are also making headway in offering what appears to be a AAA title for ‘free’ but then promotes the buying of in-game items that can aid or enhance your experience. An article on Games Industry International suggests that we won’t be able to tell the difference between pre-paid and freemium titles which just goes to show the high standards with which studios are pursuing this business model.
So long as the quality is there I can’t see this being a problem provided that you don’t ‘have’ to purchase an in-game item in order to either complete the main story or for your experience to be the same as those that do buy items. Team Fortress is a good example of such a game where you kit out your soldier in a number of outfits or guises, but the gameplay underneath is essentially the same as someone who isn’t wearing bunny ears and carrying a frying pan.

Recycling old titles would suggest there’s an ongoing worry that we’re running out of new ideas for gaming but the Indie gaming scene helps keep everything fresh and exciting.
Although some of these titles won’t make it big we have to accept that they are pushing the conventional boundaries and challenging the larger studios to rethink the way in which they approach story lines and gameplay experience.
The are a number of titles I can mention here that have made me sit up and take notice; Limbo, N+, Plant Vs Zombies, Braid, Beat Hazard, Super Meat Boy.
All of these I would happily play a sequel of.

I would like to think that the big guys are doing the same and taking note of the originality that is being displayed here and will hopefully look to do something original rather than unearthing a series that really should be left to die.
The advent of movement based technologies that have stemmed from the Wii’s launch, such as the PS Move and the XBox Kinect, have thrown a whole new style of gaming in to the mix that gets people keeping fit or dancing and participating in party games. There are some original titles available but I see a heap of re-hashes where a series has had another title added to it purely because a studio/publisher wants to cash-in on the series in this new environment.

Only time will tell if sense prevails and we get genuine games for gamers and not just mugged for our hard earned cash.

P.S. I’m going for most tags on an AMOLAG blog post! Did I win?

(Yes you did, well done! – Al)

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