Eurogamer published an article yesterday titled “MS doing more Fable, Halo, Gears, Forza.” Not only does it mention the upcoming Forza Motorsport 4 and Gears of War 3 but also the possibility of a new Fable game as well as the rumored Halo: Combat Evolved remake from Saber Interactive.
Many gamers might rejoice at the subject of that article. After all, those are the four biggest 360-exclusive franchises out there. New releases in any of these franchises would surely be considered blockbuster titles.
The problem is that it’s just more of the same year in and year out. Why is there so little innovation in the gaming industry today? Halo, Fable, and Forza are all franchises that have carried over since Microsoft’s Xbox Original days! A Halo: CE remake would be the sixth Halo game in the series (seventh if you count real-time strategy game Halo Wars).
At E3 in 2008, Peter Molyneux said that not only were there plans for a Fable 3, but also a Fable 4 and Fable 5. It looks like this series will be continuing for some time into the future as well.
Gears of War hit the scene in November 2006, about one year after the release of the Xbox 360. Since then it has become a huge success selling over ten million copies combined. But what other exclusive franchises have been released on the Xbox 360 since Gears joined the lineup? Mass Effect was once considered a console exclusive series but now that Mass Effect 2 hit the PS3 that can no longer be said.
It is disappointing that Microsoft has not found a new blockbuster exclusive franchise since Gears of War was released five years ago. When MS does have quality new titles on the 360, there never seems to be a sequel. For example, Lost Odyssey was a very well liked Japanese role-playing game. It was released back in 2008 so it had a much smaller install base of 360 owners to work with but yet it still sold nearly 1 million copies worldwide. You always seem to hear people praising it on forums as one of the best RPGs of this generation and easily one of the best on the console. It didn’t review well, however, and was criticized for being “too traditional” so a sequel never came. Lost Odyssey could have been a great series and might have even become the next Final Fantasy (the studio was founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi, after all). It is sad to see Lost Odyssey be forgotten.
It seems that unless a new game is immediately a hit, Microsoft doesn’t bother locking up exclusivity for sequels (or even helping fund a sequel if they are the publisher as they were on Lost Odyssey). Why is this? Surely Microsoft must recognize that not all new IPs are going to automatically be a huge success. Not everything can be a Gears or a Halo right out of the gate. These are exceptions and not the rule. Gamers need to grow accustomed to a new IP and have time to spread the word about them.
There is no doubt that a Lost Odyssey 2 would be even more successful than the first one because everybody who liked the first Lost Odyssey would buy it and recommend it to friends. When the first one was released, nobody really knew what to expect. It was a brand new game from a brand new studio. Buying it was riskier than buying a more trusted franchise with a brand name that you knew you would like. As for being “too traditional,” there is a serious lack of classic RPGs around these days which makes another traditional RPG even more appealing for the generation of gamers brought up on the turn-based combat of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Microsoft isn’t the only guilty party here. Not by a long shot. Third-party publishers also stick to what they know. Why bother risking millions of dollars on what could turn out to be a flop when you can just release another installment of a proven franchise and rake in the sales?
Had Activision not gotten rid of the numbers in the titles of Call of Duty games, we’d be up to Call of Duty 8 next. That’s kinda of ridiculous. How many Resident Evil games will there be? Or how many Final Fantasies?! Gamers have been playing these same franchises for years. It’s time for some new IPs.
This has been a problem for awhile now. Industry analyst Michael Pachter has said that developers simply can’t afford to take risks. “It’s easier to sell a (bad) Iron Man game or a 50 Cent game with the right license and it’s hard to create a new Dead Space. The cost of potential failure (on a new idea) is too high,” Pachter said back in 2009.
The cost may be high, but if publishers didn’t take risks, we would have never ended up with Halo or Gears in the first place. Publishers and developers need to recognize that sometimes taking a bigger risk offers exponentially bigger rewards in the long run.