Sequels are like flies, they seem to only show up when you least want them to be around and when one shows up you can expect many more to follow. That isn’t to say that all sequels are bad, because they aren’t all bad. Sometimes games were made to be stretched out over multiple games and console generations. There is sometimes a story that needs to be told and it quite simply could not fit into one game, or new gameplay features that could really enhance the experience and make for a better game. Most of the time, though, a game series will simply go on too long and create a stagnant, dull series of games that come out year-after-year and only hurt the brand.
The sales might be good, the review scores might even stay up there for a while, but in the end, most of these series become so stagnant that it only becomes a bane on the industry as a whole and holds it back from reaching its true potential. We see the same thing in Hollywood, as popular films tend to continue on into trilogies and then from there, we see trilogies become sets of trilogies or reboots. I can’t think of a single person who needed a reboot of the Spider-Man films so close to the last trilogy, just like I can’t think of that many reasons why Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, needed to be broken up into three separate films, other than to make more money. After a while, the consumer picks up that they are being milked for all that they are worth and further releases only taint the original that much more.
While Tomb Raider has seen almost universal acclaim and a marked growth in the character of Lara Croft from just eye candy to a fully-realized character, why continue milking Lara Croft for all that she is worth? Crystal Dynamics could have just as easily worked on an entirely new series of games with a female heroine that followed in the same basic tradition as Tomb Raider. It would come without the baggage of being called Tomb Raider or the sordid history of Lara Croft the pop culture sex symbol that needed to be remade into an actual human being instead of walking eye candy.
The name Call of Duty might still sell a game on the name alone, but the basic product has gotten to be so stale and recycled that what originally made the Call of Duty games so unique and fun seems to be lost in its own hype. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was nothing short of amazing as a new course for the series, looking to modern times and modern conflicts and providing a really fun single player experience and a legendary multiplayer experience. Every game in the series since then has tried to recapture that and has failed on many levels, even if more and more consumers are buying the games.
God of War was a fun hack-n-slash series on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 that saw the muscle-bound hothead Kratos go to war with mythological gods. At the time it was a breath of fresh air for hack-n-slash fans and did a lot of cool new things, like using QTEs in a fun and unique way. God of War: Ascension is a prequel to the God of War games, elaborating on a story that we didn’t really need to have elaborated and creating an interesting plot hole in making the gameplay more advanced even though it is a prequel.
Trust me, I understand the arguments that can be made; series make money, gamers come to know and trust brands, but then how do you explain the success that Naughty Dog has seen? They made a few games in the Crash Bandicoot series before stopping, the same for the Jak and Daxter games and will hopefully discontinue the Uncharted games soon and go off on a high note. They are launching the much-anticipated “Last of Us” this year and have shown that taking risks and making good games is all that you need to do.
The rest of the industry needs to catch up with them and others who do the same and just focus on making good games, not milking fans for all that they are worth. Series like Tomb Raider, God of War and Call of Duty have run their course and made their money, it is time to move on.