AAA Game Series: Is Sequel Fatigue Setting In?

Assassin's Creed Black Flag: The sixth main release since 2009.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: The sixth main release since 2007.

Sequels are very profitable these days. We see them everywhere. Films, books, TV series, and indeed in the games industry. People, of course, love the familiarity of jumping into a gaming world that is similar to what they have played before – But can familiarity breed contempt?

A lot of gamers these days are crying out for originality in their games. They want something fresh and new and the indie devs are listening to that. It only takes a quick glance on the PSN or Xbox Live to see that there is a vertiable plethroa of little gems being made by the indie game developers, but not so much by the bigger games studios.

Of course, one of the driving factors behind a lot of the bigger game studios is money. They need to keep their shareholders happy and they need to keep their consumers happy, which is no easy feat by anyone’s standards. The fact is that a lot of people like sequels and game series. I am quite partial to a couple of long-term game series myself.

Call of Duty Ghosts: The tenth main release in ten years.

Call of Duty Ghosts: The tenth main release in ten years.

The problem is that the release schedule for games reads like a who’s who of continuations. These include (In no particular order) Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Origins, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Lego: Marvel Super Heroes, Dark Souls II, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Super Mario 3D World, Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III, Assassin’s Creed IV, Fifa 14, Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, The Witcher 3 and Fable: Anniversary to name a few.

Now, it’s true that some game studios like to take their time over sequels. For example, the hotly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V has been five years in the making. But some studios are guilty of putting out one game a year of the same title that isn’t much different from the previous one. And therein lies the problem. They know that they have a captive audience for their titles, and they will sell.

Last year two new IPs piqued my curiosity. Dishonored from Arkane, published by Bethesda, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning from 38 Studios/Big Huge Games and published by EA. Dishonored sold very well, being the top game on Steam for a while – so well in fact that it is going to be developed into a series. Kingdoms of Amalur, in itself a technically fine new RPG, didn’t do so well. The studio sank amid a huge financial scandal, which is a great pity, as that could have potentially been a great new series had it been given more of a publicity push by EA.

GTA V: A hotly anticipated sequel, coming very soon.

GTA V: A hotly anticipated sequel, coming very soon.

It seems that some rather decent new titles can get buried under the weight of popular sequels. For example, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came out a few months after Skyrim, when people were too busy exploring that particular province of Tamriel to bother with another RPG with a rather large game world to explore. Bad timing by EA.

So should the big game studios push for more originality and new IP’s, or should they stick to the tried and tested?

Of course with the next generation of consoles just around the corner, we are going to be getting a lot of new IP’s, which can only be a good thing – that is until they realise how profitable a good series would be of a certain game, and the cycle starts again.

There will always be a place in the gaming world for sequels to great titles, of course. Some game studios do sequels very well, and indeed that can very occasionally outshine the original. With new technology coming in, they have more and more tools to develop these games further and further.

But remember:

A little originality can indeed go a very long way.