Opinion: Are Gamers Sick Of Sequels And Spin-Offs?
Earlier today, it was suggested that recent high-profile prequels in the famous Gears Of War and God Of War series had struggled to meets sales expectations at launch.
As reported by CVG, forecasts predict that Gears Of War: Judgement sold just 425,000 units in its first month in the US, with God Of War: Ascension managing an even lower 360,000. By way of comparison, Gears Of War 3 sold 2 million and God Of War 3 shifted 1.1 million back in September 2011 and March 2010 respectively.
Of course, these aren’t the only major new installments in successful series to struggle of late. Dead Space 3’s launch sales were down significantly compared to its predecessor, while Capcom admitted that Resident Evil 6 failed to meet projected sales expectations.
You could argue that these examples simply reflect an ongoing slump in video game sales across the board. But when you consider that BioShock Infinite shifted an estimated 665,000 copies in its first 10 days on sale in the US, it seems that line of thought fails to hold up.
So what could account for the apparent sales slump that has hit such high-profile franchises? Why haven’t gamers embraced these new sequels and spin-offs as the industry might have expected?
Well, in my opinion, the answer is quite simple. I believe that many gamers have now become thoroughly sick of the same-old titles and experiences – and are desperately seeking something different.
In recent years the mainstream gaming landscape has become mired in the familiar and the ‘same-old’. We’ve not been able to move for sequels, prequels, and reboots, and it was only a matter of time before the appeal of well-worn series snapped, and we all began to crave something new.
Witness the remarkable success of last year’s sublime original creation Dishonored, which exceeded all sales expectations and became one of the biggest-selling releases of the 2012.
Witness too the continued boom of intriguing and alternative indie titles, with the likes of Fez, Journey and FTL making a surprisingly big impression on the gaming scene. Telltale’s emotional, story-led Walking Dead series is a case-in-point: who would have thought a point-and-click adventure would surpass 8.5 million sales, no matter its level of excellence?
You could also argue that the commercial Triple A triumph of BioShock Infinite further reflects this new-found desire to embrace bold and innovative experiences, in place of tried-and-tested action.
Infinite may technically be sequel, but in practice it’s anything but. It’s a highly ambitious and original story that takes in an entirely new setting, characters, themes and aesthetic – more of a spiritual successor to BioShock, in the same way that BioShock was to System Shock 2.
And sure, Infinite may carry an illustrious name before it, but then so did Gears Of War: Judgement and God Of War: Ascension. So why did one succeed and the others fail? Well, simply put, one was a long-term labour of love that quite literally reached for the sky and brought a whole array of breathtaking new ideas to the table. The others were slick but soulless spin-offs that retained the same familiar formula and attempted to milk fruitlessly from the well-worn teat of their franchise.
BioShock Infinite succeeded because it had new things to say and do, and it’s novelty struck a chord with gamers. Judgement and Ascension failed because they had little new to say and do, and this lack of progress frustrated gamers.
It’s the same reason why the reveal of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag found itself met with a resounding chorus of ‘meh’ earlier this year. Some people are excited for it, of course, but many gamers expressed only a weary sense of boredom. After all, the Assassin’s Creed series has now been churning out annual installments for quite some time, and each new episode brings with it less ingenuity, progress and imagination.
Simply put, there’s a growing level of ‘franchise fatigue’ present among gamers these days, and with choices about where to spend money limited by financial considerations, it seems increasingly likely that novelty will win out.
How timely then, that this year will see the unleashing of a whole wonderful wave of exciting new IPs. After waiting years for just a trickle of originality to emerge we’re now being met with a veritable deluge – and what a tantalising prospect it is.
From gadget-hacking techno-adventure Watchdogs, to mind-bending sci-fi epic Remember Me; from first-person horror Outlast to post-apocalyptic survival thriller The Last of Us – 2013 is a year in which we’ll see more fascinating new creations than at any other time since the beginning of this console generation.
I for one am glad, and I strongly suspect that many of my fellow gamers are too.
Unimaginative cash-ins are flopping and the bold and beautiful are selling like hot-cakes. As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly the way it should be.