Recently a representative of Sony, Fergal Gara, explained that Sony intended to keep publishing new IPs well into the life of the Playstation 3. Despite having a next-gen console in development, the emphasis on new IPs has not slowed down for either Sony or Microsoft: both consoles continue to acquire and publish entirely new games to the market. This can be a risk on the part of developers: will these games be quickly outdated by new technology, and should they be saving them for new consoles? However, the plethora of new IPs being published for old consoles shows that new IPs are the main thing keeping this generation alive.
Sequels and spin-offs have a real advantage compared to completely new games: you have developed characters, a finished game engine, pre-rendered graphics, and a whole fanbase to ensure minimal work produces the maximum amount of profit. On the other hand, new IPs have to be built entirely from scratch, and there is no guaranteed fanbase to support them. While a developer might enjoy creating a new world, there’s no guarantee that consumers will fall in love with it. The main profit is not made by developers, but by their publishers. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have all bid for new IPs, and it’s paid off for each of them—one new, entertaining IP means one new console for a customer who was hesitant to get a console.
The risk that developers take is much higher, but there’s still an advantage. New IPs give developers an opportunity to expand the number of properties, rather than continue building them up. Developers can attract new fans, who might then go on to buy older games from them if they liked the most recent one. Relying on the same crowd to make all of the profit can be problematic for series if the games start to get worn out and consumers get tired of it. By increasing the amount of stories and gameplay elements a developer publishes, it balances the talent and diversity within a company and allows it to become more efficient—while they tell new and inventive stories at the same time.
If a new IP flops it’s a blow to both the major publishers and developers—and sometimes the cost can be in the millions. Failed IPs are a huge waste of resources compared to failed sequels, but developers and publishers alike can still reap something out of failed IPs: a small increase in console sales, and a better idea of what a developer can publish and the talents of the developer. In example, the commercial flop of Beyond Good and Evil was probably the timing of its release, rather than the quality of the game—and the developers have learned from it and decided to publish with the next generation, rather than this one. Even if sequels have more consistent sales, new IPs draw in new consumers and fans, and keep companies diverse. The risk for publishing new IPs is huge, but for both publishers and developers, the potential for success is tempting. New IPs are what keeps the industry alive and entertaining, even if they don’t always succeed.