An easy way to guarantee a sack full of money a year is to announce an annual sequel to one of your companies’ most successful titles. I think it’s fair to say that certain companies *wink* EA *wink* are over-saturating the market with the same franchises and creativity is wavering. Corporate greed consumes these large organisations and they do their best to exploit the market with pure unforgivable laziness. Yes ok it does cost money for the research and development to create a new title, maybe open a new studio to work on it etc. But that’s surely a given and companies should accept that video games are not just social fun but they’re a business and require investment to see a handsome return.
Unfortunately, some companies have gotten so big that they think they’re “more popular than The Beatles”. By establishing yourself as one of the leading names in video games it seems that companies feel they can ease off the accelerator now that they’re atop of the pedestal. As soon as I think of this subject I immediately think of 3 companies straight away: Activision, the aforementioned EA and Capcom.
There are people who could have been cryogenically frozen for centuries and will no doubt of heard of Call of Duty or “COD”. The Call of Duty series started out as a solid world war shooter in its early days with some nice innovation in terms of adding a squad to your character as to avoid the lone wolf style most shooters adopted. Move on a few years and Infinity Ward makes the world kneel before them with a certain game called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Within weeks of its release, it ships millions as the world is taken by storm with an epic campaign, a rare commodity it seems in first-person shooters, and an online mode that revolutionised multiplayer games from here on out. The fast gameplay, healthy choice of maps and reward system meant that COD4 would be a community hit for a long-time to come. Activision knew that IW had a breakthrough; they then turned to Treyarch and said “Here’s a winning formula so try to not to deviate too much from it and you’ll make us millions guaranteed!” Of course, Treyarch obliged and would offer up one half a poor campaign and the other half a rather gripping tale with Sgt. Reznov. The multiplayer was largely unchanged with some different perks and weapons, maps to suit the new time period etc; this inevitably meant it was a huge success.
But they took a bold decision to incorporate what go on to be one of the calling cards of the Treyarch instalments; Nazi Zombies. Who knew killing undead Germans could be such a delight, the thrill of surviving an onslaught using random weapons spawned from a shiny magic box and magically repairing weak wooden boards used to prevent zombie infiltration. Well Treyarch certainly did and they were bang on the money, speaking of money, this would start the ridiculous DLC scandal that I believe is happening to COD players. By offering a couple of new maps to add the collection available in World at War (which I think are very poor) and a couple of new zombie maps does not give Activision the right to charge over £8 per pack! Infinity Ward would go on to do this by offering old maps for inflated prices, not even new content!
It doesn’t stop there though, as time passed and Activision continued to churn out Call of Duty title after Call of Duty title, the prices simply became extortionate. Modern Warfare 2 upped the ante to £12 per pack with some of the packs containing maps from COD4. I mean if you really looked, I’m 100% sure you could find a half-decent game or 2 for that price. Unfortunately, there are gullible people who buy into the series they hold so dearly to their 12 year old hearts and fork out their parent’s money for every pack. It gets to the point where you’ve paid £45 for Call of Duty: Black Ops and literally almost as much on getting access to new DLC.
A series that recently saw its timely demise (although we all know it will return when everyone’s forgotten about it) was the plastic instrument game that really kick-started the music simulation series; Guitar Hero. Again what started out as enjoyable and intriguing series eventually got milked more than a herd of cows. It got to the point where multiple games were being released each year without little to any innovation or change apart from an updated set-list. Guitar Hero 4 introduced additional instruments to match its competition (Rock Band). But soon after, it just couldn’t match its rival in terms of sales and along with critical reviews; the series was abolished from the Activision catalogue. It’s inevitable though the series will attempt a triumphant comeback in glittering style to lure back its fan base and more importantly revenue. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the franchise and see if it can reinvigorate a very stale name.
On a quick side note, Guitar Hero started off in 2005 and it took 5 years for the series to fade to black (pun intended). COD4, in my opinion, was the beginning of the money-grabbing for Activision which was 2007. If competitors, such as Battlefield and Medal of Honor, can sharpen their A-game then the COD series may hopefully reach a decline. I don’t hate the COD series; far from it actually. I just can’t stand the way its run and how it constantly finds new way to squeeze money out of consumers instead of rewarding them with free maps as other games have done in the past; like Battlefield 3 did with Back to Karkand.
EA Sports! IT’S IN THE GAME! Yep but sadly it’s in far too many games and far too regularly for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, if you know me then you’ll know I’m sport guy and I love that EA produce titles to help everyone replicate their favourite sports. What I have a problem with though is that they’re far too frequent, excessive and unjustified. Having yearly instalments to games is something I’m greatly opposed to and truly do not like companies that do this. As for the rest, possible solutions to this could be: instead of charging full price, as in most cases the games don’t have enough new content to warrant a full RRP so they could be offered a lot cheaper than full price (but we know that’s not going to happen). Or they could do the consumer-friendly plan and release a new game every 2 years with lots of new features whilst offering downloadable patches every year for new squads and kits etc. One of the leading heads behind the Madden franchise even said “EA Sports head admits Madden franchise was not as ‘innovative’ as other games”.
One thing I’ve noticed which irritates me more than most is the presentational aspect as the menu layout for each game whether it’s Fifa, NHL, NFL, they all look very similar and I just feel this is unforgivable and EA could make the effort to create new menu’s to make the package feel different; instead of a new colour scheme every year. I admit I’m one of the people who buy Fifa every year, being a football enthusiast, I’ll give in because I will argue my heart out that it’s worth a new purchase every season as a game of football has so many possible unwritten dynamics. But it still annoys me that EA probably don’t consider any of these options leaving me to being suckered into buying the new edition every year. Why always me?
Japan is synonymous with vibrant colours and terrific games which is why they always give birth to some of the leading game companies. One of which (Capcom) is particularly recognised as the creator of the popular fighting franchise, Street Fighter. With a Hadouken here and a Hadouken there, or a Shryouken here and a casual Shryouken to Akuma’s big ugly face, it’s got one of the largest fanbases in the world. Tournaments are commonly held to declare the immortal champion of Street Fighter with the winner usually possessing godly amounts of skill and technical ability. Capcom also capitalised on many of the characters featured in Street Fighter to wage a war against characters from the comic series of names; Marvel. Whilst these fighting games are fun, eccentric, filled with combos, engaging and profitable; Capcom found an ingenious way to line their pockets even more. Ever since Street Fighter could walk on home consoles, super-duper deluxe mega awesome turbo combo editions have been released as a cheaper alternative to the original. These editions would include a few new characters, maybe a new mode and lots of new costumes. Similarly with Marvel vs Capcom, new ultimate editions of the games have been released on exactly the same principle and it’s just money-grabbing at its finest. Only the true dedicated SF and MVC enthusiasts would splash the cash to complete their respective collections. Capcom will argue that it’s a cheaper way of letting new people into the game whilst having lots of new content to the original. This would be true if the newer edition wasn’t released so soon after the first one; Super Street Fighter 4 was released within a year of SF4 being released.
Not all do though and I should give an honourable mention to one in particular that doesn’t as they don’t try to exploit their loyal followers. Rockstar are synonymous with truly quality titles (Grand Theft Auto, Read Dead Redemption, L.A Noire etc). Even the DLC they release are usually good-length stories e.g. The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned have enough content in them to satisfy a high price-tag. Whereas you get ridiculous prices being paid for some new maps that have been programmed in, Rockstar go about recording a monumental amount of new dialogue for their adventures. They’re an honest company who want to provide people with content well worth its weight in gold. Assassin’s Creed has become a yearly release whereas Grand Theft Auto 4 was released in 2008 and Rockstar are still crafting and sculpting the perfect sequel in Grand Theft Auto 5. It’s probable that the game will come out in 2013 and the reality is that it could be released in 2016 and it will STILL become the best-selling game of all time. That is the gargantuan reputation, popularity and success that they have earned with their meticulous approach to both game-making and business.
I’m sure there are more examples of the right and wrong strategies used by different companies and how they go about their business. I just find it hard to understand the willingness and naivety of people to openly buy pretty much the same game every year. I want new titles, new characters, and new stories; not recycled repetition…unless it’s Fifa obviously. But the way the industry works isn’t going to change and because it all boils down to the abstract noun that is money. This headline from none other than Forbes magazine sums things up perfectly “Despite Lackluster Innovation ‘Modern Warfare 3′ Sets Record First Day Sales”. In a nutshell, this represents a lot of modern day gaming and it won’t change for the foreseeable future. I look forward to seeing Call of Duty: Modern ware 1337.