With The Many Reboots And Sequels, Where Are The Fresh Ideas?
Good ideas are uncommon. True inspiration and innovation are scarce commodities. Therefore, when a winning formula is found, we are loathe to change it. This method of thinking even led to the old adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, down fix it’. This has been the case for many a year, and shows no evidence of changing anytime soon.
This goes to explain, at least partially, our ongoing love affair with sequels and prequels in the entertainment industry. Literature and film are both littered with such works, from the many written adventures of Sherlock Holmes to the most recent incarnation of the Die Hard movie franchise, among others. The video game industry is certainly no exception, with this principle being prevalent since it’s earliest days. In many ways the gaming sector is far worse than Hollywood for their release of shameless sequels and cash-in titles. Just cast your mind back to the likes of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man, for instance.
Two recent big-name titles, DmC (Devil May Cry) and Tomb Raider, are both self-confessed reboots of their consecutive franchises (though, in Lara Croft’s case, it’s more of a prequel than a fully-fledged reboot!). Moreover, some of this years most prominent releases, such as God Of War: Ascension, Gears Of War: Judgment and Bioshock Infinite, are sequels. Why then, does the gaming industry in particular, rely on reboots and sequels when we could have new thinking?
In short, cost. Video games are extremely expensive to produce and market. Thus, companies are not willing to risk their financial security on a possibility when they can have a sure thing. When there is established goodwill built up already for a particular game series or title, developers and publishers will exploit this unashamedly. In the case of DmC and Bioshock Infinite, they share little with previous incarnations of the series besides the name and few token nods to fans.
It is not all doom and gloom, however, as the larger firms do sometimes take a chance or two. A few years ago, Electronic Arts decided to not only wheel out the tried and tested yearly iterations of Madden, Need For Speed and Fifa, but also try something different. They took a gamble in 2008 releasing Dead Space and Mirrors Edge. While Mirrors Edge didn’t perform as well as they wished, Dead Space went onto become a fresh, new franchise with Dead Space 3 being released earlier this year.
Console gaming has, for the most part, ceased to be the destination for the innovative. Instead, these games have found a home elsewhere. The PC gaming download service Steam and the download services available for smart phones and tablets, such as the Apple App Store, have become the new abode for more visionary and inventive gaming projects. This is in no small part due to the fact that the cost incurred developing video games for these platforms are vastly cheaper than producing a title for the consoles. Therefore, they can afford to take chances that they couldn’t have under usual circumstances.
Take the beautiful game Year Walk on the iPad, for example. This release is equal parts art installation, storybook and point and click adventure. This title, and others like it, simply would never get made for a console. Things are looking up, though, with the current console generation as smaller-scale games can be downloaded through PlayStation Store, Xbox Live and Nintendo’s Virtual Console. No longer do they have to be full scale, store releases. Saying that, however, Team Meat, the group behind the immensely popular Xbox 360 downloadable game Super Meat Boy, stated this week that they wouldn’t release another title on consoles due to the cost incurred. They went on to announce that as it was far more economical, they would concentrate on producing games for the PC service Steam and Apple devices.
Let’s not be too disheartened as all is not lost. There are new, exciting games still out there, just don’t look towards the console market. Steam, the Apple App Store and downloadable services for Android devices have become the new home for more innovative gaming. These games are not only original, but in most cases relatively cheap to boot. Furthermore, although games such as DmC, God Of War and Tomb Raider are all reboots and sequels, they are all still excellent titles! They may be cynical and not be wholly imaginative, but they play exceptionally well. And at the end of day, is that not why we all play games?