Posted By Robert G. about 10 months ago
Editorial: More of the Same: Why Sequels Are a Safe Bet,
A while back, when the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo was going through the growing pains of showing off new and improved game titles, I did two small pieces regarding the Electronic Arts and Nintendo Conferences. I stand by what I said in both articles–that EA played it safe, and that Nintendo was among the best in show–but looking at the two strictly as developers, one thing became very clear to me: both companies played it safe in many ways.
A lot of people have talked about how Nintendo was a underwhelming conference, and I finally have come to a possible answer as to why. There was nothing new from Nintendo, save for Nintendo Land and the touting of their hardware. For all of the games that Nintendo showed off that they personally developed, only one game was really a new intellectual property, while the rest were sequels or re-imaginings of previous titles that already existed on both the consoles and handhelds.
Not including new IP from third party companies like Ubisoft, the Wii U had little to show in terms of what is new to play, and from the stance of a company like Nintendo, that may have been a large factor in the grumblings from its core audience. But of course, one question then has to be asked in spite of this revelation, do gamers even want something that is new?
If you ask any game addict on the street and they will likely say a resounding yes as they beat their chests with swelling pride for their hardcore status. They would go on to expout how important it is for new IP to keep the market fresh, and how stagnation can be a dangerous thing when dealing with sequels of huge franchises. But the reality is much more surprising compared to the fantasy, as most research would indicate that consumers of video games, by their very nature, prefer sequels over new IP.
This recent revelation is supported by data from Nielsen, a media research group, has shown that on average, most who play video games are actually looking for a sequel to sit down with. In a survey that had over 4,823 players between the ages of 7 and 54, Nielsen used current metrics to derive a score, and compare it to games in the current release cycle, eventually determining a percentile ranking for their rate of anticipation. The overall results were fairly obvious: out of all the current generation titles, only two were new IP’s: The Last Story and Everyone Sing. Both were for the Wii as well, while the entire lineup of anticipated titles for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 were all sequels.
The top spots for each system were as follows: Halo 4 for the Xbox-360, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 for the Playstation 3, and Just Dance 4 for the Wii. Other notable games in the top ten per system included Assassin’s Creed III, Borderlands 2, Madden 12 and FIFA 12.
Now, the caveat to polls such as this is the lack of real context regarding the questioning, with the only real tidbit being the awareness of the titles existence, and the consumers interest in purchasing said titles. That said, it is clear that the general trends for game sequels all have one thing in common, demand from the consumer base.
Of course, many would take offense to such a notion. As we have seen, the gaming culture, by and large, is quick to advocate for innovation and change. But sales trends don’t follow this line of thought. Instead, what is safe is always embraced, at least through consumer trends during a console life cycle. A recent, anonymous Q&A on Kotaku pretty much confirms this. An anonymous insider from a “Mega-Publisher” said it straight in this Q&A covering Day one DLC, the business of making money, and, of course, why new IP’s aren’t bought. The long and short of it can be summed up in the screenshot above.