Publishers: Here’s why your sequels aren’t selling
I don’t think gaming has ever had a year quite like 2016. Dead Rising 4, Titan Fall 2, Dishonored 2, Watch Dogs 2 and plenty more besides have all failed to set cash-registers ringing, regardless of their quality or hype.
Now, just a few weeks after their release, these ghosts of Christmas’ past can be found languishing in bargain bins for less than half their original price. Other than reminding me once again that I’d be mad to buy a game on its launch date what else can we (and publishers) learn?
1) Make new IP, not sequels to games that didn’t sell
Other than disappointing sales figures, what do Titan Fall 2, Dishonored 2 and Watch Dogs 2 have in common? Easy: the original games in these series also failed to sell as predicted. Why then would Bethesda, EA and Ubisoft assume that the sequel to games that failed to elicit much excitement (beyond critical acclaim in the case of Dishonored and, to an extent, Titan Fall) suddenly turn into cash cows?
Of these three Dishonored 2 is the odd one out in that the game is truly special – one of the contenders for Quit or Continue’s game of the year in fact. Even so, I don’t need a sequel. Let the chaos at Arkane go and build a new, original experience that draws upon the ingredients of Dishonored but betters them.
Game that could prove the rule: Horizon: Zero Dawn
Sony finally let Guerrilla Games do something other than Killzone and the result is a game that looks like it’s going to be truly special. I for one have never been able to resist dinosaurs or Zoids and I expect the sales figures will show I’m far from alone. Isn’t this better than getting yet another Killzone?
2) Stop releasing games in the Battlefield/Battlefront and Call of Duty window
It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that next October/November we’ll get both Battlefront 2 and a new CoD. Given that most gamers will likely buy one of these (or both), why would you take the risk and release anything at this most competitive of times? Dying Light and Far Cry Primal and even the success of FireWatch and The Witness show that a Q1 release can deliver success for games that might have been crowded out. We’ll never know how Titan Fall 2 might have done if released in February, out of the shadow of Battlefield One and Infinite Warfare, but I’m willing to bet it (and EA) would have been much better off.
Game that could prove the rule: Resident Evil Biohazard
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this much excitement for a Resident Evil game and Capcom just might (assuming it doesn’t slip) have found the perfect release window. The Christmas rush is over, the games have been bought or proved uninteresting and we all have Amazon vouchers that need blowing on something. Not to mention it’ll give me another reason to get my PSVR back out of its box…
3) Learn when to put a pin in something
The Last Guardian might not be a direct sequel, but in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus it certainly has close cousins. It was in development for so long that it famously skipped an entire console generation and, unfortunately, it shows. The game controls like a refugee from the PS2 era and, though very pretty, has lost that cache afforded to it by its spiritual predecessors. In short, it was always doomed to failure.
It’s a real shame as if TLG had surfaced when it was meant to – in 2011 – it would have been remembered as PS3 great. Unfortunately it’s a PS4 curio instead and the fact it’s price has already been slashed to £25 shows it’s simply not what gamers are after right now.
I know what you’re thinking: Final Fantasy 15 had a similar gestation. The situation’s different though. It was torn up and restarted, while other Final Fantasy games (despite being a bit crap) have surfaced to propagate the series. It also helps that it doesn’t play like it’s a relic of a bygone era.
Games that could prove the rule: Shenmue 3 and FF7 Remake
I’m going to humbly suggest that neither of these games will see the light of day and slowly walk away. If I’m wrong, the burgers are on me.
4) Reboot rather than recycle
There are few gaming moments as disappointing as waiting for a new game in a beloved franchise only to find it’s nothing more than a continuation of what came before. Or worse, that irritating gimmicks have been injected that ruin what enjoyable gameplay there could have been.
Examples are everywhere: Resident Evil 5 and 6, Gears of War Judgement (and some would argue Gears 4 too), Halo 4 and 5 and God of War Ascension spring to mind immediately. Hell, even Uncharted 4 had something of the ‘OK, but this is the last time’ about it. Indeed, just about the only genre that can get away with a simple lick of paint is the racing genre.
Thankfully it seems that publishers are slowly learning that we want something new, even in the series we love. The mighty Assassin’s Creed has gone back to the drawing board, Halo Wars 2 is giving us another break from FPSing and Resident Evil Biohazard seems to offer a whole new spin on the franchise.
Games that could prove the rule: Assassin’s Creed (Egypt?) and God of War
Both of these franchises were getting tired and both are now due a reboot in (I’d assume) late 2017. If both sell I’d fully expect plenty more publishers to take a good long look at their flagging series ahead of doing something similar. Halo for sure needs a rethink, Far Cry similarly needs a shot in the arm and even CoD needs an upgrade (not that we’ll see that while it continues to make bank).
About Quit or Continue
Want to know more about Quit or Continue? Well, the short version is that we’re four 30-something blokes who love games, don’t have the time we used to and want to guide people like us to make the right choice when they buy games.
We review games in the book club-style to tell you if a game is a waste of time. And, even better, we’re here to make your voice heard, so please let us know your thoughts on this or the game’s we’re playing right now @QuitorContinue.