Lunchtime Discussion: Where Next?

You know how it is, you’re a multi-billion dollar company sitting on top of your huge pile of money with a plethora of games and world class developers in your portfolio. One of your games, your big hitter, in fact the next title in the biggest gaming series ever. Sounds perfect right? Of course there some detractors who are saying that your series may have peaked with its last outing, but what do they really know?

So insanely cleverly disguised hypothetical example aside, the serious question here is when you’ve got a yearly series that’s had a pretty good run so far how do you carry on? How do you keep the series going when you’ve got a pretty well established concept for your series?

Now I’ll be the first to admit that developers are hugely imaginative. Just when you think you’ve seen it all you get a title like flOw or Mirrors Edge that gives you something incredible, something new that you wouldn’t have really thought of before. No, the problem doesn’t lie in creating new concepts or ideas, the problem comes in continuing old ideas.

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I could pick on Black Ops, given the troubles that Activision have had this year with Infinity Ward it’d be easy to conclude that the series might be in some trouble. However looking at the expectation and previews for the newest entry in the Call of Duty franchise it seems that things haven’t peaked just yet. No it’s much easier to look at a series that did peak and then sort of fell apart, like Tomb Raider.

I mean remember how awesome Tomb Raider used to be. It was incredible. In fact Tomb Raider 2 is still one of my favourite titles, just for how great the whole thing felt. However, the series ran out of steam. Whilst the latest ‘not really Tomb Raider’ game featuring Lara Croft does actually seem to be pretty entertaining, the main series has pretty much fallen to pieces at this point. What happened to it?

Some would probably claim that the story failed, and they’d be right. However, more than that they basically ran out of ideas. That’s why Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light felt so good, it was new and fresh. In fact if they’d incorporated some of the basic concepts into a game in the main Tomb Raider series it would still have been great, because it would have added something interesting to the game and introduced a wealth of new possibilities. Sadly, it seems that the grappling hook is about as adventurous as the series is going to get, and it will only suffer for it.

Enough of me, time for you lot. Do a lot of game series seem to fizzle out? Do you think it’s easier to slip into a decline when you’re at the top of your game, or does it happen slowly to every series? Are there any series that clearly seem to be on a downward slope now?

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25 Comments

  1. I think you need to look at it like the business it is! Taking your example (if I have unravelled your mystery correctlly), they have healthy stars like COD riding high and plenty of cash cows like FIFA to milk so invest that money in the Question marks (new IP). When your big brands start to decline you will have a stable of successful new franchises just picking up steam.

    • Also, these companies need to look at new IP sooner and try to prevent the early decline of big franchises.
      By releasing too many, the series will lose it’s shine more quickly. Imagine if there was no more Call Of Duty for 3 years. When the next one was announced, everyone would go nuts.
      In the meantime, you’ve built up a following on some totally new series.

      • Spot on, fella. Feed the system with new IP and something will filter through. There’ll be plenty of ones that don’t work but if they do their research and allow strong creative freedom then the industry can only ever prosper from such endeavours.

        It’ll maintain a continuous cycle of content we’ve grown to know and love whilst teasing us with new games that strive to leave their core cash cows doing what they do best.

  2. if just someone come up with a game that’s like you are in it, like you would see on the screen what you would see like in real life through your eyes, and then like do realistic stuff, like in a war, and shoot enemies and stuff, that would be great!

    • But in a realistic war game, you’d just die and that would be it. No respawn in RL!
      That said, I would love a game that was exactly like life but with no consequences. I think we all would ;)

      • that would be the ultimate hardcore game! you die and you can’t play it again. move over demon’s souls!

        i remember Wizardry 8 had that hardcore mode, where you could only save when you stopped playing and the savegame was deleted when you loaded it again :-D

        a realistic lifelike game without consequences will be the domain of science fiction writers for some time to come.

  3. Just playing through BlackOps now, I wasn’t even going to touch the campaign but I thought I’d get the hang of the controld before heading online, now I can’t stop playing it – its so compelling with great characters and its got the whole ‘Treadstone’ thing from the Bourne series going on.

    The series, far from running out of steam seems back with a bang and better than ever!

    Series do run out of steam though – for me Gran Turismo peaked with GT3 A-Spec and all that happened since is refinements, Tomb Raider as you say ran out of steam long ago, but Tomb Raider Underworld was a step back in the right direction, if it wasn’t for some control issues I think it would have been 90% meta-rated.

    Guitar Hero has obviously ran out of steam, the core experience of having fun with your mate can’t be made better by constantly revising it.

    There’s much discussion on Twitter over the KZ3 beta and it seems that many KZ2 regulars won’t even be picking it up, or if they do it’s just for the campaign and their attention has been swayed towards Brink as an early next year shooter.

    Problem is if you try and change things, then things fall apart like Tomb Raider’s wilderness years, and if you don’t change things like Guitar Hero then whats the point in buying it, what makes 5 & 6 a must purchase over the GH4 that I already own – will any of them help me have more fun after a couple of beers with mates, no.

    So change & you die, don’t change and you die, sometimes you just have too much of something, but as far as Black Ops goes, I’m about a third of the way through the campaign and its a million times better than MW2, Treyarch have nailed it making last years overhyped MW2 review scores look very silly indeed.

    • Guitar Hero might have run out of steam, but the Harmonix’s spiritual sequels in Rock Band twice pushed the game series into evolution. When RB was launched it went up again GH3, which offered nothing new before Activision ripped it off wholesale the next year with GH:WT. Now Rock Band 3 will have much more realistic instruments. Another fairly big evolution.
      In this case, it’s the changing which has staved off death.

      As for Killzone 3, that’s more down to it being much removed for the Killzone 2 gameplay, rather than the franchise running out of steam.
      Here it’s a case of too much change making people think again. I still believe that KZ3 can and will be a good game, because all the impressions so far are from beta code and it’s evident there’s still many moons of balancing to go before it’s ready for release.

  4. resistance, i dont think 3 is going to be a big hitter

    • On what are you basing this opinion? I think it has the opportunity to be something truly different in the ever-overcrowded FPS genre.

      • i just think, in my opinion obviously, that 2 wasn’t a great follow on from 1, and i dont see them upping the ante from 2

  5. Need For Speed has been going downhill for years. Ea getting Criterion in for Hot Pursuit seems like a very good idea so we’ll see it gives the franchise the lift.

  6. One series I think has returned to top form this year is Smackdown vs Raw and the new 2011 release. The universe mode is simple in concept but really makes the game a lot of fun and has kept me playing it.
    One series I was gutted about when it ran out of steam: Crash Bandicoot :(

  7. Games run out of steam because developers/publishers seem to think in this way:
    “Hey, look, the gamers like our game the way it is! So we should really really completely change this game in the next outing! This way the gamers will like it even more!”

    So they make changes (widely known as “improvements”) to the games we like. And well, we dont like them anymore. Like Tomb Raider. I would have liked to play more of the same, but no, “lets take out the cool traps, lets take out the exploration of cool places! Now lets put in lots of stupid human enemys and lots of fighting! That will please the fans!”
    Funnily enough, Tomb Raider Anniversary (the remake of TR1) was the best Tomb Raider in years…

    • “Funnily enough, Tomb Raider Anniversary (the remake of TR1) was the best Tomb Raider in years…” true that. Apart from TR2 its probably my favourite. I think Underworld would have been good too if they had sorted out the glitches and camera.

  8. They need to to innovate.

    • This… Franchises will only get you so far and in the end, it’s creativity and new ideas that make it. I have no problem with a sequel or two, to improve the original concepts and flesh out the story and characters, but yearly updates don’t work imo, it’s the gaming equivalent of jumping the shark, and imo, CoD peaked with Modern Warfare…

  9. Footy games. They’ve been pants for years really.

    • To be fair, Fifa 09 came as a huge breath of fresh air for the series, but yes overall I completely agree with you on this one.

    • There really is only so much you cam do with a footy game these days, its just tweak after tweak

  10. Good story telling is the key to most games, and all good sequential stories should have new and different elements automatically, otherwise its just an expensive DLC disguised as a new game. I do think some games appeared rushed in places and drawn out in others, for example I think they could have easily got two to three games out of Tomb Raider Underworld.

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