Return of the Sequels: The Safe Bet Strikes Back
Josiah Motley | On 25, Apr 2013
“I wish Activision would come out with something new!”
“Oh look, another sequel. How original.”
Have you ever heard a friend say that? What about yourself? Ever catch yourself mumbling those words?
Why do developers produce so many sequels to games instead of creating something fresh and original? Gamers continue to shout this from the rooftops on a daily basis. Why aren’t developers listening? There are a couple different theories for this:
Developers are out of ideas.
This is one of the most common reasons many people give when debating the issue. “Game companies have ran out of ideas.” or “There isn’t anything new to do.”
This answer is debatable – at best. To say that companies who specialize in hiring the best in the business have “ran out of ideas” is utter nonsense.
How many people reading this have thought of a concept that hasn’t been in a video game? I would venture to say quite a few of you.
The same goes for developers. They are, at their core, gamers.
What is a more likely scenario, especially pertaining to the last year or so, is that companies are not trying to start what could be a new franchise on a system’s final voyage. Why begin a new flagship on what could be considered old technology when you can hold off for a year and release it on something new and shiny that contains better tech?
There is another theory as to why companies do not release more fresh ideas, this one being much more plausible.
Sequels are easy money.
They are safe bets. At the end of the day a company needs income to continue to be profitable and produce new games. Consumers, many of whom are on a limited budget, have to pick and choose which games to purchase. This was discussed briefly here but deserves to be touched on again.
Consumers can read reviews and look at gameplay for hours, but at the end of the day gut feelings play a huge role in decision making. With a sequel, you know what you are getting without too much risk. If you liked Game A, there is a good chance you will also enjoy Game A: Part 2.
On the other hand you have Game B, a completely new series that has been receiving relatively good reviews online. It’s not your typical genre or game of choice, but it seems interesting. You only have enough money for one game this month. Do you risk your hard earned money on the safe bet or the unknown gamble?
Chances are, many of us will go with the safe bet. We work hard for our money, and 60 dollars for a new game is a relatively large investment.
Not only can sequels be considered easy money in terms of sales, but developing sequels theoretically should be cheaper than developing a completely new franchise. Yes, developers might update graphics, levels, and polish, but overall costs of developing a sequel should be substantially lower.
However, developing a new series is much more complicated, time consuming, and expensive. Think of your favorite series, now think about every intricate detail of that series. That had to be developed at some point. Branding, development, characters, coding, all of this came from scratch, or from near scratch. That is a lot of money and man hours, all in hopes that consumers will latch on to your new lead character.
Not to mention the marketing of a new series. Consumers know what Call of Duty is, Activision doesn’t need to explain to consumers what Call of Duty is or why they should buy it. New series, on the other hand, have to convince users to invest in their new idea. Commercials, Youtube videos, press release material, everything will have to be pushed heavily and into every available marketing avenue.
Production costs in relation to revenue has the chance to skyrocket through the roof, or crash miserably through the floor with a new series. Many companies cannot handle the stress of a huge failure.
Consumers typically have a very different view from developers, and rightfully so. Consumers want the best and freshest games for their money. Developers want to deliver that, while still being profitable. Sadly, it will never be that simple. The world runs on money, and for companies to continue to bring us new games they have to think about their budget. While it is easy to critique game companies, and criticize them, for their decisions; other factors have to be taken into consideration.