Can all these sequels be a good thing?
(Hi. I’m Scott Colby. Normally I write for D Pad D Bags, but today the Controller Online guys were nice enough to let me write for them. Thanks, Controller Online!)
Few things spawn conflicting schools of opinions quite like sequels. For every giddy fanboy that can’t wait to sit in line for five hours just prior to the release of the latest entry in his or her favorite series, there’s an equally adamant sourpuss that thinks sequels are stupid or can’t believe such-and-such is making yet another gratuitous grab for cash by extending a story that was already perfectly closed. Sequels–and, to a lesser extent, prequels and spin-offs–polarize fan bases simply by trying to be better than what came before.
The fall gaming season has been a deluge of franchise expansion. Borderlands 2 took us back to Pandora astride the mighty Butt Stallion. Resident Evil stumbled through its sixth numbered installment. Benjamin Franklin dished out some questionable dating advice in Assassin’s Creed III. Medal of Honor fought a war. Pokemon, the Master Chief, Kasumi, Sack Boy, Professor Layton, and Mario have all made triumphant (for the most part) returns. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Epic Mickey 2, Hitman: Absolution, and FarCry 3 all loom large in the next few weeks of holiday shopping. That’s a ton of sequels, ladies and gentlemen, many of which are of the expensive-to-produce variety.
Some people are quick to dismiss such games. “Developers should stop making so many sequels and try something new!” has become a relatively common refrain across message boards and throughout entertainment rooms. Fresh, innovative gameplay is certainly something I can get behind; show me something new in gaming and I will lap it up quicker than a Lohan can down a martini. New is good! Good is where money should be invested so good can be better! Right? Well…yes and no.
Gaming, you see, needs these sturdy franchises with which to prop itself up. In a market where a significant number of consumers preorder products without waiting for final reviews or the chance to try them in person, sequels sell. Spin-offs sell. Anything that includes a popular franchise name sells. Realistically, this is where the money for developing new properties like Dishonored comes from. There’s nothing wrong with exploiting a bit of simple supply-and-demand; that’s just good business.
But if smart capitalism isn’t enough to send the blood rushing to your loins when you think about sequels, think about this: these titles are pillars of the industry. They are, for the most part, familiar, comfortable expressions of popular ideas. Halo 4, for me, was like an old blanket (albeit with a few new patches and missing stains I’d grown attached to). I fired the game up and was able to dive right into it without opening the manual or having to play through a tutorial. I recognized all the main characters, and it was good to see them. It may be a big, over-produced bit of testosterone, but it’s my big, over-produced bit of testosterone, and I’m glad it’s back.
So please, dear readers; don’t begrudge your friends, companions, or even enemies their favorite sequels. Gaming simply wouldn’t be the same without them.