Archive for September, 2009

The (Gaming) Sequels of Fall

Fall is upon us and that means new game releases. October is D-Month for games as they want to make an early splash on the retail shores and coast inland all the way to D+24 (Xmas Eve). This is the gaming industry equivalent of the summer blockbuster season.

And like Hollywood producers, game designers can’t fight the allure of the sequel. If the first game sold 1m+ copies, why no make a second? Or a third?

Examples of upcoming sequels are Halo 3 ODST and Grant Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony.

They represent the latest installments (although technically these are notstraight sequels) of two of the most successful game franchises of the decade.

GTA defined the decade with it’s innovative (although not entirely new) sandbox game design, twisted vision of America and great soundtracks. Halo was (and still is) the Xbox’s flagship game, the game that put the Xbox (and it’s successor the 360) on the map.

No wonder the gamezines and gaming websites are abuzz with talk of Mass Effect 2, Fable 3 and the like. Sequels offer more of what the player wants, good gameplay, improved graphics and more storylines. That certainly is what pushed the success of the GTA sequels (Vice City, San Andreas and the Stories Series). Northstar stayed with what worked and tweaked what could be improved. So did the folks at Bungie with Halo.

However, “more of the same” is not always good. Far too many times sequels feel more like clones that instead of expanding what was already there instead play the same. Core fans of a franchise may not mind, but it certainly won’t attract new gamers. Plus a developer always runs the risk that by not concentrating on new game engines and upcoming graphic/console technology they will get stuck behind the curve. It certainly happened to the folks who made Command and Conquer (although they still spitting them out).

And if you wait too long between installments your fans will move on to different fare. So while sequels are a comfortable strategy, marketing wise, they do have their pitfalls. So expect to see more of them, especially through the magic of downloadable content. Instead of releasing an entire new game, they can release a patch/upgrade/episode online. Has worked well for the folks who made Fallout 3 (itself a spiritual successor to Fallout 1-2 which in turn was a spiritual successor to the old C-64/PC game Wasteland).

So get out your wallets, plop your plastic on the counter and get ready for another sequel.

And better way to usher this season of sequels than with a trailer for Assassins Creed 2: