January 29th, 2008
With the development costs of video games rising every generation it comes to no surprise that it was going to get to a point (ie. now) where sequels control a lot of the video gaming landscape. Once a strong brand is formed, millions of dollars can be sucked out of it. So its no wonder there are so many sequels on the market, they are the safest bets in the industry and the key to major financial gain.
With the past holiday line up full of sequels I’ve been casting my eye over several franchises, analyzing the different types of sequels that exist in the industry. I wanted to provide a general outline of the different categories that video game sequels fall into. Here is what I have found:
Bigger and Better
- new gameplay components
- improvements and tweaks
- a more fleshed out and expansive play experience
Most game sequels fall into this category . This type of sequel takes the original game and delivers more content as well as new play mechanics, tweaks and modifications to the original game. Although these games don’t recreate the respective franchise, they offer enough new content and originality to maintain the interest and dedication of the fans while still being open enough for new players to the franchise.
This type of sequel is the most popular because it is a quite a safe bet, risks are kept to a minimum and developers are working with a tried and true template. The other advantage of this type of sequel is that the developers include enough new gameplay to ensure that the sequel won’t be labeled a ‘cash in’ or stale.
Games that fit this category: Metroid Prime 2:Echoes, Halo 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
More of the Same
- some improvements over the original game
- more of the same tried and true gameplay
This type of sequel basically takes the original game, makes some ever so slight modifications and then stacks on more content to make a game larger than the original. These sorts of sequels contain basically no risk except for the risk that the franchise fan base and gaming community alike may be disappointed by the lack of significant updates and see this as a quick grab for cash as developers are milking an already successful title. If developers continue to create a constant stream of these samey sequels they can train their fanbase into never expecting any major upgrades (much like EA Sports).
There is only one example where these types of sequels are generally well accepted and that is if the previous game was so fantastic and brought so much to the table that it’s sequel could get away with little to no original content.
Games that fit this category: Madden, Castlevania, Fire Emblem
A New Beginning (Reinvention)
- reinvented or re-imaged gameplay
- a new artistic style and vibe
- new control mechanics
These games are all about risk, they take an existing franchise and reinvent it. New gameplay mechanics, graphic style, control method, a totally different genre are all examples of how a game can reinvent itself. There are primarily only two sorts of games that get reinvented, ones made by successful developers that want to continue to push the envelope rather than dishing out more of the same and bad games that sorely need re-imaging.
Reinvention can make or break a game franchise and is more likely to upset franchise fans because of sequel’s unconventional nature. With the move from 2D to 3D many popular game franchises were forced to reinvent themselves to keep up with technology. There were plenty of successful games and games that didn’t (and still haven’t) made the transition.
Games that fit this category: Zelda: Wind Waker, Resident Evil 4, Doom 3
Although I have only listed 3 categories of sequels, the truth is not every game neatly falls into one of these categories. The lines between each category are blurred and hence you get games that are a mix between the two. But conclusively speaking these 3 categories give you a solid guide as to what to expect from video game sequels. Next time you’re reading up on your most anticipated sequel try to factor in some of the points I’ve listed so that you can get a better idea of what the final build would be like.