Today I saw a short news story on Kotaku in which the editor shared with the world the words of Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick, who said that just a “very small segment” of gamers want new IPs and changes in the gaming world, while the vast majority is happy with sequels. At first, I was enraged and I started to spit fire, but after I managed to calm myself down a little, I decided it would be best if we looked into the situation a bit deeper.
And since I’m completely lazy to do some solid research and see how do new IPs sell compared with sequels (because, after all, from a publisher’s point of view it’s the profit that makes a game a success or a failure), I used my memory and my personal touch to judge on the situation.
The first thing that popped into my mind was Electronic Arts’ new IPs of last year: Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space, two really good games who weren’t very successful sales-wise. On the other hand, Call of Duty World at War and Guitar Hero whatever number still sold madly. So in such a case I think we could say that indeed the sequels have won the battle and the gamers love them.
Still, the world of games isn’t made of Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space, Call of Duty and Guitar Hero. No, there are tons of other titles out there, most of them new IPs and only a few are sequels. This would turn things around and actually mean that gamers do prefer new IPs over sequels, right?
Well… it’s still wrong! It is natural to have more new IPs released each year and much less sequels because money is a huge factor here: sequels are only made for successful titles. PERIOD! And actually, all these new IPs we see released every year and we like to lie to ourselves that they’re made by people who really wish to innovate and create something new, are mostly made with hopes that sales will be high enough to make a sequel possible.
Because Kotick is right: sequels are much safer than new IPs, as long as they’re well done and they don’t screw up the gamer’s experience completely. And it is natural: we all (or most of us, anyway) tend to go for the “safe” product – the one we have tried in the past and the one we knew we loved. That goes for computer games and any other thing in life. Why spend 60 bucks on a new game the developers promise to be awesome, when I can buy the sixth sequel of whatever game but be sure that I’ll enjoy the ride? Why try adding mayonnaise on my burger if I always eat it with spicy ketchup only? It’s the same thing!
I personally tend to go for the “safer” products and, even though until now I would’ve told everybody that I hate the “big guys” for delivering sequels after sequels, I still buy them: since 96 I buy, yearly, the yearly release of Football Manager (even though in 96 it was Championship Manager). This means that me, the one that said he hated sequels, buys a new iteration of the same game for 13 years! And I never complained (and of course, it’s not just Football Manager the game that I buy on a yearly basis, there are many other sequels I enjoy playing).
However, there is a bit of wrong in Kotick’s statement: it’s not that a small segment of players want new IPs, or that we would all play sequels only. No, we want a balance – that’s the key to… everything! Because if there’s going to be one year in the future when we’ll only receive sequels and zero new titles… well, that’s when human kind will start heading down the path and we’ll soon implode. Because trying something new leads to evolution. And no, it’s not evolution to keep upgrading the same game over and over again.
What do you say? Am I right or wrong?