Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Mario, Halo—these are just a handful of the many franchises that get slammed by gamers for receiving a new entry on a relatively consistent basis. Now I know that new IPs are absolutely essential in moving the industry forward, but at the same time I can't help but find myself annoyed by how often a game gets trashed simply because it has a number at the end of its title.
Why is it that we loathe sequels so? I think there's this inherent belief that the publishers behind successful franchises like the ones mentioned above, only seek to milk their established properties for all they're worth. After all, it's a business, and everything at the corporate level is motivated by money. While I'm not denying the fact that there is certainly some veracity behind this belief, there's also much more that needs to be taken into consideration.
First and foremost, we can't discount the developers—you know, the people that actually make these games. When we think of the "evils" of Call of Duty, Bobby Kotick's face instantly comes to mind, but he's not the one slaving day and night making Black Ops 2. No, that game is being made by the passionate team at Treyarch who've been working to make the latest Call of Duty the best experience they possibly can. They're not just checking out and riding the coattails of the franchise's success; they're a team with a heavier burden to deliver another solid title in an established series.
Now I realize this doesn't change the fact that we see a new one of these games every single year, but the devs behind this series must be doing something right. You may not want to play a new military shooter every year, but clearly plenty of other gamers do. And if you're going to knock them for failing to innovate, all I can do is shake my head. Black Ops 2 is not only offering a completely new and fully fleshed out zombies mode, but also taking a number of bold risks with its single-player campaign.
But enough on Call of Duty. Let's get into another series, namely Assassin's Creed. It's hard to argue against the fact that Revelations dragged out the Ezio storyline a bit too far, but if putting up with one slightly disappointing game means that we get Assassin's Creed III the following year, I'm completely fine with that. The upcoming trip to the American Revolution has been in the works at Ubisoft for quite some time, across several different studios and requiring loads of money. If it weren't for the incremental annual installments raking in additional funds, we likely wouldn't get the ambitious adventure that's launching in just a couple of weeks. Creating a quality game isn't cheap and sometimes sequels that feel more like cash-ins are a necessary part of the process.
Instead of continuing to defend my position, franchise by franchise—believe me, you'll be glad I've decided to spare you from gushing on 343i and Nintend —I just want to briefly highlight why I love sequels so much. I'm sure I'm not the only one who loves a good series. Whether it's a television show like Lost or an epic film trilogy like The Lord of the Rings, there's so much to be gained from building upon an established universe. The same goes with video games. I love the Halo universe and can't wait to explore the humanity of Master Chief in the upcoming fourth installment, but if the series were to pass away upon Bungie's departure, we'd miss out on a richer, deeper look into this incredible universe. Believe me, it's not all about Microsoft milking its money-maker.
Think about it. If every studio was creating something completely new, we'd have no long-standing franchises. That means no recurring characters, no fleshed-out universe and ultimately no persisting charm. Fans flock around their favorite franchises because they've come to identify with them. That kind of relationship builds over time and would be completely undermined if we didn't have sequels. Let's also not forget that a follow-up allows a studio to refine or even realize their initial vision. Just look at Assassin's Creed (yes, again): If Ubisoft didn't get the chance to go back and revisit that series, we never would have AC2 or the upcoming third installment that's taking us to the freakin' American Revolution!
I rest my case.