One of the many aspects video games share with other types of media is their franchise potential. The difference between video games, books and movies, however, is that sequels, spinoffs and reboots in the gaming sphere reach an entirely new level of ubiquity compared to any other form of entertainment.
While there are unquestionably a few standouts when it comes to films and books, video game publishers and developers operate in this realm almost as a rule – but why is this?
Much of this reliance owes its roots to the relative infancy of gaming as entertainment. Unlike with other forms of media, there are many gamers today who were alive to see the inception of the industry, and have been following it closely for decades. This form of long-term relationship creates an enormous appreciation for the predecessors of the games we have today, not just in terms of what they accomplished at the time, but also for their continuing legacies.
It is these legacies that developers and publishers overwhelmingly target, on various levels and with differing goals in mind.
Take Pac-Man for example, one of the highest-grossing and most famous games of all time. When making sequels for this game, the goal is to draw from the charm of the original title, meaning ghosts, eating pills, and setting high scores. This comes with problems when it comes to the overall evolution of the gaming landscape and being able to appeal to an audience that is now familiar with much more complex forms of gaming.
Sometimes, like with the Pac-Man World style of games, this changes the base gameplay considerably, borrowing instead from 3D adventure games that were all the rage at the time of this series’ release. Other times, as with Pac-Man Championship Edition, these games are more faithful to the base formula, while upgrading graphics and expanding possible gameplay modes. Each targets a slightly different audience, but both draw from the fame of the original.
The other major aspect that makes sequels and reboots so common is the issue of cost. AAA gaming development is now an incredibly expensive process, meaning major developers are hesitant to take chances when it comes to new IPs. Combined with the industry’s focus on following trends, this can lead to games which are related to their predecessors in name only, while the gameplay itself is far removed.
This is illustrated through the snail’s pace of modern release schedules for the biggest budget upcoming releases when compared to other forms of gaming which are cheaper to produce. Online casino slots, for example, have not fallen down the rabbit hole of unsustainable prices, and so they can more easily offer greater variety and originality than many AAA games. These have hundreds of themes and settings, and continuously try something new, owed in no small part to the lower overall cost of production and risk of failure.
If the current trajectory is anything to go by, we should expect these current trends of sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes to continue into the foreseeable future. While some of these, like the battle royale genre, are already tiring us out, we are at least content to see that some developers use newer trends and technology to iterate on a classic, and not just rely on it. More God of Wars, please, and less Fallout 76’s.