When I am talking about franchises, I am talking about Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, The Elder Scrolls, Civilization, etc. Basically, a franchise is the reiteration of an established IP. Now, is it a good thing that developers and publishers just reuse popular IPs? Doesn’t that make it more difficult for games to be original, creative and suppress the creation of new IPs?
Well, I don’t think there is a flat out yes or no answer as to whether or not franchises are good for the gaming community. I think it all comes down to looking at a few individual franchises.
There are a few franchises that do create some innovation on top of themselves and continue to be more original. I am going to use Assassin’s Creed as my example. Now wait, I know people are like, “What? It’s been the same game for a while now hasn’t it?”.
No. The jump between Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2 was massive. AC 1 was very repetitive and had no variation really, but was still fun because it was brand new. AC 2 added whole of new stuff to vary gameplay and mechanics. The combat was very different, AC 2 added dual hidden blades, the gun, poisoned blades, and a few more things as well.
From there, AC Brotherhood added the whole hideout and recruit system, including the ability to explore the modern day world with Desmond, changing up combat some more again, and making the player stick to just Rome eliminated players travelling between cities. All of those changed the game quite a bit.
The only time AC fell short was with Revelations, there was not really much added to the game at all. The only new thing combat-wise was the hookblade and bombs. You could totally get by without crafting any bombs whatsoever though; they were not integral to the gameplay. The hookblade was good for climbing around, but that’s about it. The tower defense thing was rather terrible too in my opinion, and slowed down a rather fast-paced game.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed has done well for itself because it is continually innovating and making big changes to keep the games feeling fresh and original with every new iteration.
I am going to talk about two here, The Elder Scrolls and Call of Duty. I know I am going to get a lot of flak for including the deity that is Skyrim, but The Elder Scrolls franchise has not done a whole hell of a lot of changing in the past few games. The combat has been very similar and rather bland. There has been little innovation there, which should not have happened considering the kind of game it is.
But wait, what about the Dragon Shout stuff? Okay, that is one thing in the combat, but the Dragon Shouts were not “key” to the combat. You could take them or leave them. Even when you used them, they had relatively long cooldowns and you would likely only use one per fight, maybe none.
Even how you traveled around was the same. The differences have come in setting and story. Changing setting and story is not nearly enough to cover up the glaring stagnant or broken gameplay.
Now Call of Duty. Call of Duty is doing it wrong for a number of reasons, some which are the same as The Elder Scrolls. The first thing being that it is oversaturating the market with yearly releases. As consumers, we are just getting Call of Duty rammed down our throat. Wait, Assassin’s Creed does this too… Nevertheless, they have something new to actually look at each year.
Also, the gameplay has been similar since Modern Warfare. It has all been one man army, and run and gun. Yes, every game comes with “new” maps, perks, killstreaks, weapons, etc.; however, a lot of the guns feel the same, maps are not enough to justify a new game, and the goals have still been the same. Nearly all of the mechanics have been exactly the same.
Very few things have changed for the better. There hasn’t been much of a graphic update for a long time either, MW1 looks very similar to MW3.
Both franchises have not changed enough to be classified as innovative, creative, or original. At least Skyrim and Oblivion added on a whole lot of new content to mess around with.
These are the franchises that really have no excuse and are obviously milking the franchise for money. The biggest offenders are the annual sports games. Now I am going to take 2k games out of this a little bit, at least for their NBA games. The last few have had some cool new stuff in them that were unique and fresh, like MJ: Creating a Legend and The Jordan Challenge in 2K11 or NBA’s Greatest Mode in 2K12.
Madden is one of the most popular and probably the biggest offender. I love Madden, but I haven’t purchased a new game for a few years so I am stuck with old rosters, but that’s about it. There has been little innovation in the way Madden has been played for quite a few years. They may tweak little things here and there but those could easily be fixed or added in a patch.
For that matter, that is what should have been happening with Madden for years. Every year people are paying for a new roster and you are restricted to that one year of the game too. You can update your roster during the actual football season, but once it is over, you can’t anymore.
On top of all that, the games usually get their online support and services cut within a couple of years of release, forcing people to buy completely new games if they still want to play online.
I will give Madden credit for this year as there does seem to be some decent stuff added (like new physics) to justify me finally buying a new game, but it has been years since I could ever say that.
If a franchise is done correctly, I don’t think that we need to worry a whole hell of a lot on new IPs as long as the franchise keeps feeling fresh. If franchises have got to the point where nothing is really new and the development is rather stagnant, then it is time for the developers to move on. If they think and feel they have done everything they can with a franchise, and the consumers will feel the same way, then it is time to move on.
Franchises that are done well are a good thing, they leave out a bit of the unknown about new IPs that will keep people away from playing. Good franchises can almost be a safe bet for a consumer if they don’t feel like/know how to look deeper into the release of a game to know more about it.
Bad franchises should move onto new IPs, and hell, they may create a new franchise with it, or they may just create some great new standalone game. Maybe it won’t be great, but it will be different.
Ugly franchises need to rethink their whole business and development, I don’t even know if they could move onto new IPs without repeating what they did before.
Franchises can be beneficial but there are many franchises that refuse to move on. Assassin’s Creed may very well be one of those in the next few years.