The holiday gaming extravaganza is still in full swing this week, and we’re seeing a lot of familiar faces. Marcus Fenix is back in Gears of War 2; Sgt. Nathan Hale returns to fight more chimera in Resistance 2; and yet another Naruto game is coming out this week: Ultimate Ninja 4. While these games are surefire hits with guaranteed sales, why does the industry keep putting them out? The ending of the original Gears of War made it obvious that Epic was making a trilogy and not a standalone title, but there are certainly other offenders. Trilogies are taking over our medium, and it’s pissing me off.
I blame Peter Jackson. He had the brilliant idea of making a Lord of the Rings movie, but he didn’t want to cut anything out, so instead, he created three movies. This was a great idea from a creative standpoint; he could tell the entire story, but from a financial standpoint, it was even more brilliant. You’ve got the first movie, which nets some hype, and lots of people see it. When it comes out on DVD, they buy it, and show the friends who didn’t see it in theaters, and the friends now like it. When the second movie comes out, not only do you have the first fan’s ticket sale, but you also have the new fan’s ticket sale. It’s like a pyramid scheme, except the only people who get any money are the people who built the pyramid. This logic would dictate that each successive movie would make more revenue than the previous one. A quick check on Wikipedia confirms this: The Fellowship of the Ring made $871 million, The Two Towers made $926 million, and The Return of the King grossed a whopping $1.2 billion. Show those numbers to any exec, and what they see is that you can manufacture success.
Of course, the Lord of the Rings movies were good, so I’m not really complaining. What I’m complaining about is that games are becoming trilogies before they’re a success — a series before the first game is even released. It seems like every other big budget title now is part of a trilogy: Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Mirror’s Edge, Too Human, just to name a few. While some titles sell enough to actually warrant a sequel, that’s not the point. The point is claiming that your game isn’t finished, that your story isn’t complete in just this one game. The reason Lord of the Rings worked as a trilogy is because the story was already done, all Mr. Jackson had to do was film it. I’m fairly sure that the creators of the previously mentioned games have a general idea what they want to do in terms of story, but I doubt they have anything even close to final.
So here’s the rhetorical question: Why do companies insist on making trilogies and sequels to games? Why don’t they make something new? That’s the equivalent of saying, “Hey you, company. Why not spend money on something that you don’t know how it’s going to sell? Who really needs brand recognition?” Money rules the world, and it rules the industry. Something’s only good if it makes money. To compare to the movie industry again: Compare the amount of video game sequels and forced trilogies to the amount of sequels and trilogies in film. Why can’t we have the equivalent of a Judd Apatow who uses the same actors in different movies, but never sequels? Why can’t we have one development studio that just hops from good idea to good idea, not sitting on anything long enough for it to start to fester?
I guess at this point I’m just bitching about something completely retarded. The fact of the matter is that even though I’d rather have something new, I’ll still play Gears of War 2. And I know tons of PS3 owners will stick with something familiar with Resistance 2, and they’ll completely pass up something incredible in Valkyria Chronicles, and that will only solidify to the companies that new IPs rarely succeed without a forced marketing blitz. The time for ranting is over; now onto the games for this week.
Naruto Ultimate Ninja: Storm: If you’ve been keeping up with NG+ for the past year, you’ll probably remember that I give a lot of shit to the Naruto games. I think there was a two-month period where at least one Naruto game came out every other week. But hey, they sell, and it’s not like I’m forced to play them. I was a fan of Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit not only because it was fun, but it looked like it came straight out of the anime in terms of animation, and everything I’ve heard about Ninja: Storm says that it puts DBZ to shame in terms of “anime come to life.”
Valkyria Chronicles: A turn based strategy RPG mixed with a third person shooter (kinda) drawn in a similar watercolor style found in Okami. [Actually, more like the cinemas from Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions — Parish] I played the demo at PAX, and I instantly knew two things. One, I was in love with this game. It plays so well, and it looks simply gorgeous; and two, it’s going to slip through the cracks this season. Sure, it’s going to sell well enough to people who already know the name, but I highly doubt that anybody’s going to pick it up on a whim. It’s also made by the same team that developed Skies of Arcadia, the secret best RPG on the Dreamcast.
Legendary: Pandora’s box gets opened and all the evils of the world come out, but from the looks of the trailers, this horror is simply generic FPS where you shoot werewolves instead of nazis or aliens. I was pretty interested in this until they actually started showing it, then my interest quickly waned. If you’re gonna be all about the evil, make it interesting evil.
Gears of War 2: The game that prompted my rant. The original Gears is still one of the best Xbox 360 games on the console; it also showed how excellent a game focused on co-op could be. Many games have tried to copy the success of Gears’ multiplayer campaign, but nothing’s managed to come close. CliffyB also said that this game would be “girlfriend friendly,” but we’ll see about that.
Quantum of Solace: I want so badly for this game to be the next GoldenEye, but I’ve wanted that of every Bond game for the past decade. Solace obviously follows the new Bond flick coming out in a few weeks, but it actually starts at the beginning of Casino Royale. It’s built on a slightly modified Call of Duty 4 engine, but it’s developed by Treyarch, who were responsible for the not-as-well-liked Call of Duty 3. I’m ready for disappointment, but I’m still going to try it.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar: A voice-controlled RTS. When I first heard what they were doing with EndWar, I was very skeptical. After actually playing it, I have to say that they did a helluva job making the game controlled almost entirely by voice (you have to press a button to actually make the game start “listening”). The way EndWar is set up makes the player feel more like a commander on the field than a godlike figure watching the entire battle as in most of the RTS ilk. It’s worth checking out, that’s for sure.
Resistance 2 is also coming out this week, but I’ve got a thing against the commercials, and I’m petty, so I didn’t include the boxart. It’s got a co-op campaign and some massive number of players for multiplayer battles.
That’s all we have for this week, folks. Be sure to talk about this post in the forums, and tell me how stupid I am for questioning the mighty logic of corporations seeking money.