The Yearly Video Game Model Is Dying
November 20, 2016 - PC, PlayStation, Video-Game,
Annual Releases, And Yearly Sequels
There will be no Assassin’s Creed installment this fall, no Need for Speed, and the latest Call of Duty Infinite Warfare is taking a beating in the reviews, it seems the yearly video game model is dying.
Since 2007 Ubisoft has released a new Assassin’s installment each year, until this year. Citing a need to evolve the game and offer a “unique and memorable gameplay experiences that make history everyone’s playground” AC is taking a pause. In February the Ubi Blog posted A Message From the Assassin’s Creed Team which spelled out the thinking behind their decision. In part it states, this year, we are stepping back and re-examining the Assassin’s Creed franchise. As a result, we’ve decided that there will not be a new Assassin’s Creed game in 2016.
The demands of the modern AAA game require a massive amount of work, which is impossible to accomplish in one year. As a result only formula based games are yearly releases. With the core engine unchanged yearly games tend to focus on surface changes that are becoming tiresome. This years announcement that Call of Duty would be in space was a tipping point for many CoD fans. With over 3.3 million YouTube dislikes for the trailer, people were wondering what happened to this franchise. Each year the game offers more of the same while slowing stepping away from the core values of the original. What is somewhat surprising is the CoD IP is created by three different developers each working on 3 year timelines, yet they produce almost the same experience each time – except in space this time.
Its not just FPS games, the Need for Speed franchise was previously released on a yearly basis. When EA skipped a release in 2014, it marked the first time it had done so in more than a decade. Now, it’s doing it again. Over 150 million copies of the games have been sold, one of the most successful games ever made. But is seems gamers might be looking for a change. This does present a unique challenge for NFS as it is based in a real world “sport” and can’t be drastically altered and still be a racing game. For more on Need for Speed, which EA called a “full reboot” of the series, check out the publisher Ghost Games post titled Taking Stock.
Yearly installments of sport games will most likely not be going away for obvious reasons, but it will evolve. Players, stadiums, even whole teams move to new cities. But I can foresee a future where the core mechanics are separate from the data resulting in updates that only include player information not new games. This is somewhat already in practice now. The fundamental game play of most major titles has been unchanged for years which will lead to this transformation.
The Trouble With The Yearly Video Game Model
The trouble with annual releases is what those annual releases have become. It would be awesome if a new Half-Life game came out every year if each one held up to the same level of quality. But the same re-skinned version of last years game is not cutting it anymore. A large driver of this trend was the rigid publisher mandated timeframes which demanded a new release – often around Christmas time. Over time this system did not breed good games.
On the positive side, the yearly model did let gamers explore multiple versions of the same concept. There is the argument that “if CoD didn’t come out every year, they might not play anything at all.”
At some point or another a major franchise, be it a movie or video, is going to suffer from franchise fatigue
Pokemon, The Exception
An exception to this trend is Pokemon, beginning with Pokemon Platinum it has been a more-or-less a yearly release internationally for five years. And the consensus from gamers seems to show the game still feels fresh each time. This years Pokemon Sun and Moon easily became a best seller with 10 million units sold within weeks of it’s release. Beating previous version X and Y by a whopping 150 percent. Fundamentally the franchise is the same, but over the years Pokemon games have had multiple different engines (2d and 3d), different regions, new Pokemon, new combat, and increasingly robust networking features.
Unless the other developers can duplicate Pokemon’s success, A yearly video game release schedual is probably going to be a thing of the past, or relegated to indi titles who have the ability to keep a franchise entertaining, and compelling enough for repeat business.
Need For Speed – The Movie