I‘ve been hearing a lot about sequels in gaming during this E3 season. There’s a lot. EA is focusing on big name sequels, Dead Space 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Ubisoft is releasing Just Dance 4, Far Cry 3, and Splinter Cell Blacklist. Assasin's Creed is getting a new installment as well. Activision will be releasing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 making it the 9th full release in its franchise not to mention its expansions and handheld versions. Microsoft is announcing Halo 4, which hasn‘t been developed by its original creators, Bungie, since 2010. And personal favorite Rockstar recently released Max Payne 3 and there are rumors growing about GTA 5, even though they aren’t even in attendance at the event. That is just the tip of the franchise ice berg.
Too Many Sequels?
The game industry is doing just about the same thing that the movie industry is during this financially strapping time, hedging bets on name recognition and existing fan dedication. But I don‘t think that the game industry is worse off for it. The game industry’s biggest advantage in the entertainment industry is low buy in. You can develop and release your own game with just guts and time - no actual financial investment necessary. Take a look at Minecraft. A simple, even dumb idea that the big game studios never would have bought into has sold 6 million copies and has registered over 30 million users (some sources indicate upwards of 9 million and this doesn‘t include the new XBOX version). Second, game franchises are better at building story on story in a coherent and cinematic way as with the Halo franchise. And finally games update technology and add in new features with each release. They’re not just making the franchises different, they're making them better. With each new release, there are familiar gameplay elements, some new game play elements and typically a slew of new additions that were included based on feedback from previous releases.
Too Many Sequels!
On the other hand, movie studios are recyclying recycled materials and making it painful and expensive to enjoy them. Comic book movies are a pet-peeve, so if you like comic book movies or graphic novel movies, I‘m sorry. I know the feeling of wanting to see a book get made into a motion picture. It’s fun but it‘s instant gratification that rushes by like a sugar high. If you’ve read the books you know what‘s going to happen and there’s nothing really interesting, surprising or engaging about the movie other than bigger effects budgets. But the studios aren't content to feed you that chewed up cud. They make sequels, and they primarily distribute through price gauging theaters. They make getting (legal) home entertainment about as pleasant and cost effective as a root canal without the pain killer. Finally, with equipment costs and potential personnel costs, it is almost impossible to innovate commercially successful movies at an independant level.
Make It Good, Real Good
Without dedicating themselves to really engaging and worthwhile content, movie studios are doomed to subsisting as an old, traditional entertainment media. Innovating external technologies like 3D TVs is a terrible idea. If the movie sucks, it will suck in 3D. Video game studios have a good thing as long as they are able to innovate. They have to innovate within each iteration of a franchise and they have to innovate distribution, but they also have to pull in the great ideas of the gaming communities and independent developers around them, or they too will end up subsisting to some other new and exciting form of entertainment.