The current generation of gaming has seen an explosion of sequels the likes of which makes the previous eras pale by comparison. In only a few years’ time, we’ve seen four Ratchet & Clank games, three Prince of Persia games, three Splinter Cell games, seven Mega Man Battle Network games…and don’t even get me started on the loads of rehashed sports games and fighting games. As you can see, sequels are running rampant. But is it a good thing?
Producing this many sequels is a double-edged sword. The obvious positive aspect is that you can build series loyalty very quickly for newcomers, as well as pleasing longtime fans of the series. Case in point: I’m a hardcore Mega Man fan, as my readers are well aware, and with seven MMBN titles, four Mega Man Zero titles, three Mega Man X titles, plus a few anthology collections, all released within the past few years, I’m happy as a pig in shit.
The negative aspect to the whole sequel game is that developers will sometimes latch onto a series so badly that they’ll either neglect their old series, or fail to come up with potent new games altogether. Again, I can use Mega Man as an example. With the success of Mega Man X, Mega Man Zero, and especially Mega Man Battle Network…the original series, which hasn’t seen a game since 1998, has fallen by the wayside. (The Anniversary Collection doesn’t count.) Same thing with Legends; even though that’s getting ported to the PSP in Japan, what Mega Man fan wouldn’t want to see Legends 3?
Fortunately, it’s not like Capcom is slouching in other areas; they’ve built the successful Onimusha and Viewtiful Joe franchises in the meantime. Smaller developers, though, may not be so lucky. If a developer soaks a lot of time and money into a game, and it does well, there’s tremendous pressure to follow up that game with something in a similar vein; nine times out of ten, that’s a sequel. A smaller publisher may not be able to afford to create multiple franchises, and may just be stuck with the one profitable one they’ve created. And if that series ever tanks…they could be shit’s creek without a paddle.
You can see the problem here. More sequels? Great for fans and marketing, but not so good for smaller publishers. Finding the balance is a tough job, but hopefully we’ll see more of that next gen, rather than another overload of sequels.