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With the approach of new consoles at the end of this year, the older consoles will see their last batch of new games, and publishers are taking different routes to keep gamers interested in the current generation releases. In the last article we looked at the techniques direct sequels will be using to remain successful. In this article, we will look at how developers are introducing prequels and entirely re-envisioned storylines to make sure their prominent intellectual properties remain important to new and long-time gamers.
Some longer-running series that have a continuous story line have reached their plot’s overall resolution, and now have to take a different and somewhat more creative approach to keeping the franchise going.
For instance, the Gears of War and God of War franchises both ended the primary conflict and story for their protagonists in the third game of the series. However, with incredibly impressive first year sales figures of well over US$100 million for each of the “final” instalments, Sony Computer Entertainment and Microsoft Studios clearly have an incentive to try to keep these franchises going.
To accomplish this, they have decided to go backward rather than onward in the story. Gears of War: Judgment and God of War: Ascension are set to come out this year and will take place before the events of the main trilogy of games. It remains to be seen where they will go from here, but it should be noted that the popular Halo series of games put forward two prequels, Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach, after the release of the third game, before ultimately continuing the Halo franchises main story with Halo 4.
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Much like Halo, these franchises may eventually continue their stories in the future. For now, the focus will be on the success of these prequels, which currently run the risk of underperforming their respective predecessors in terms of physical units sold, as was the case with the Halo prequels.
As stated in the previous article, trying to create a completely new franchise before a console launch can be hazardous, as many gamers might be more conservative in their game-buying habits to save for the new console. Some publishers appear to have taken a page from the movie industry and are creating “new” franchises by rebooting long running game series. For instance, the Tomb Raider and Devil May Cry series have decided to reboot their franchises to make the games fresh and interesting to gamers who may not have grown up with the iconic characters. The games, titled simply Tomb Raider and DMC: Devil May Cry respectively, will serve as an origin story to the characters and boast a variety of new and different gameplay mechanics.
Finally, although many entirely new intellectual properties are typically launched at the same time as new consoles, there are some upcoming releases slated for this year that have garnered a lot of attention.
Watch Dogs and The Last of Us are two highly anticipated releases and both appear to have unique intricate worlds with distinctive gameplay styles. They were met with a great level of critical praise after being unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last year and have very large developers behind them, Ubisoft and Naughty Dog respectively.
Although new IP like these are inherently very risky for developers, Bethesda Softworks’s surprise hit Dishonored demonstrated in 2012 that the right level of critical reception and effective marketing can translate to commercial gains for a new IP. Unlike Dishonored, these new games must also compete with the extra risk of an impending new console launch. In this analyst’s opinion, however, if these games can live up to even half the expectations set by their initial footage, the next generation of consoles will have two new franchises to look forward to.