: This "Annual-ization" Of Franchises Is Concerning

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This "Annual-ization" Of Franchises Is Concerning

I'm sorry, but I find the entire practice worrisome. It can start with Call of Duty and Madden but where does it end?

I distinctly recall Ubisoft saying - several times - that Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood would be Ezio's last story. ...and yet, here he is again for Revelations, slated to arrive exactly one year later. And oh look, there's Altair, another pre-designed character. Now, I'm not saying the developers aren't doing their damndest to create yet another engrossing atmosphere - the second-to-none environments in AC is the primary reason I adore the series - but you can't tell me they aren't rushing things for the sake of an annual release approach. It's just impossible to avoid.

EA seems hell-bent on keeping pace with Activision in the shooter department and to do so, you can bet they'll have to release a high-profile FPS every year. This year it's Battlefield 3 and next year it'll probably be Medal of Honor 2; it isn't the same franchise, but we're looking at similar technology and shared ideas between internal studios. Now, we're talking about the most popular video games in existence so where does it end? The question isn't whether the annual installments are good; the question is, what do designers have to sacrifice?

Fantastic games take a while to make. It's just a fact. What would happen if Konami forced Kojima to put out a Metal Gear Solid title every year? It would never happen; Kojima would say it's impossible because he's a perfectionist, and each title wouldn't be able to fulfill his ambitious visions. What if Sony told Naughty Dog we needed an Uncharted every year? One could even make the case that Square Enix is trying to release a Final Fantasy title every year; exactly when did they decide on Final Fantasy XIII-2? I'm actually afraid of the answer.

I think it was right around the time they saw CoD and AC - both massive multi-million unit sellers - ruling the roost each year. Then they looked at their flagship franchise, realized it was just about the only chance they had left to restore their former glory (sorry, Deus Ex: Human Revolution probably won't do it), and said..."hey, we need to 'annual-ize' FF.'" I'm just worried about the future, and what we can expect...

7/15/2011 Ben Dutka

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Comments (28 posts)

Lawless SXE
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 9:48:57 PM
Reply

They reckon that they've been tossing around story ideas for AC: Revelations since February of last year at least, so I'm guessing that they're still dedicated to providing good stories. If the next game in the series is not AC3 though... then there are definitely a lot of people that are going to be annoyed as all hell. If it comes out next year, then so be it, but it had better feel like an evolution, rather than a baby step, and I don't mean that solely in regards to setting. But yes, having six studios working on the game just to get it out on time is ridiculous. It kind of makes me hope that there is a gap year for AC3, as it would allow a refocusing, and perhaps actually allow the game to be on the next generation of consoles, which would be huge.

A recent IGN interview with Ted Price of Insomniac mentioned that one of the things that he would most like to see in the industry is a reduction in iteration time. I can see how that would be a good thing from Insomniac, as they switch between their franchises, but the same is not the case from most developers. The only other ones that I can think of to even think of doing something similar are Visceral, with Dead Space/Dante's Inferno/Ripper (reportedly) and Platinum Games. It gives them a reason to expand their offerings, and ultimately blend in elements from their different trials.

In general though, annualisation is a bad thing, as it results in iteration evolution, rather than revolution. Everything starts to feel too similar and that leads to boredom. Alas, it's a bona fide way to print money, as the masses get more into gaming and stick with their core franchises, rather than branching out.
Peace.

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Pandacastro
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:04:24 PM

Did you know AC: Revelations was actually lost legacy for the 3ds?

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Lawless SXE
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:25:45 PM

Strictly speaking, no. The idea of Revelations has been around as long as that of Lost Legacy, but they felt as though they were too similar, so they folded development of the 3DS title into the core one. It does ultimately amount to the same thing though. I wonder if there will be any other non-console spin-offs though, because that is, I think, where Ubisoft could get really creative. Putting a spin-off like The Fall comics onto the 3DS and Vita, rather than following the main characters that have laready been introduced.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:15:46 PM
Reply

Good for getting money in the short run, bad for the franchise in the long run. Everybody knows that once a series reaches a certain point the sales begin to decline and interest wanes. The more often you put these games out the quicker they are milked and the less people want them and feel the need to buy them at full price. There just isn't enough that changes between games and you get the sense you are playing something reskinned. Even CoD won't be immune to this forever. People are a little slow, but eventually they realize they are being fleeced.

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Codeez
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:24:01 PM

Hey world, what was the name of your ebay store again? I saw something I liked the other day when you posted it. Sorry for being a little off-topic.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:37:13 PM

oh I don't have a store, just look for my auctions under SpikeReloaded, but I think I only have 1 active right now for Resonance of Fate, if there was something else lemme know as it might not have sold.

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Codeez
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:48:56 PM

It was the Dragon Age auction you had. I would have snatched it up then, but I had to wait for payday. Thanks anyways man!

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Temjin001
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:25:31 PM
Reply

I remember reading an article with Jim Lee (a pro comic artist). He claimed drawing comic books month to month is like making a movie with an unlimited budget but with very constrained deadlines to meet. There's only so much that can be done in so little time. But because of the existing business model that's in place, the medium is constrained to it's marketing cycle.

On a related note.
What I find interesting about the annual game releases of big franchises, is that I believe gaming critics have somewhat paved the way to allow the market to be shaped this way. They've directed gamer interests for many years as to where their money is best spent. Games like Black Ops got nominated for GotY on Spike TV.

I can't say I'm totally against annual releases. I can't say I expect more of a different or better football game every year from Madden.. though, I'm not entirely qualified to say. I also think Ubisoft has done a good job at keeping the AC series strong year to year (though, BH's last 1/5 or so was rushed, no doubt) I think for some franchises the annual model is more palatable than for others. If the quality can remain high for the game type, I don't think it's an issue. Games like MGS require exhaustive effort because it's like creating both a 10 hour, or so, movie, and also an action game. It takes a lot more man hours to construct something like that compared to an open world-sandbox game or also a football game that has a very defined game template.

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telly
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:25:50 PM
Reply

It's a trend I absolutely hate. Even my most cherished series would get old REAL quick if they had new entries every year. God, how lame would God of War be if we were due for what, part SEVEN in the console entries at this point? Even for a mega franchise like Call of Duty, Activision is burning the candle at both ends releasing an entry every year. Mark my words, the sales numbers for that series will go flat in the next five years.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:39:32 PM
Reply

From inFamous 2:

Zeke: "Half as long"
Cole: "Twice as bright"

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Lawless SXE
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:43:10 PM

Are you implying that games with a short development time are better?

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 1:05:33 AM

Hey, it works for Call of Duty's single player. 4-5 hour campaign with more explosions than a Michael Bay film.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 1:06:56 AM

Naw, I'm implying that game franchises which release yearly (with the exception of sports) hit it big with sales for a time but don't last in the good graces of the public as long as others. In other words people are going to get tired of CoD and AC before they get tired of Uncharted.

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SoulController
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 10:48:44 PM
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I cant wait for COD to die. Its setting a bad example in an industry swimming in money with less and less innovation with each passing year.
I love a AC now but dont think Ill buy Revelations.

A lot of these so called journalist need to do their job and call out this obvious cancer to gaming. Dont let us end up like the movie and music industry please!!

Dead Space is my favorite Multiplat franchise. If it was yearly I'd have a fit

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Excelsior1
Friday, July 15, 2011 @ 11:25:03 PM
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i must point out ff13-2 is coming out 2 yrs after ff13. 2 yrs is is a typical developement cycle now. ffx-2's turn around was pretty quick becuase they already have the engine up and running. same case hear. who knows when they decided to do that, but i don't think it's not fair to allude to it as an attempt at annualization. i think our japanese friends take too long making games. the last guardian and even the hd remakes are taking forever. gran turismo 5 took forever. square is so far behind on this generation of games it's ridiculous. ffvs13 is still in preproduction? that's just crazy.

i don't want to franchises ruined with yearly installments, but i do think there are some games that can get by with it. i'm sorry the cod series is not junk. plus they were alternatng between iw and treyarch so it wasn't like it was the same developer cranking out a yearly intallment. 6 developers working on a game to get a game our is pretty crazy. though.

annualization is defintely a bad thing as a whole, but as long as gamers continue to snap up yearly installments of cod it's probably going to continue.

Last edited by Excelsior1 on 7/15/2011 11:29:21 PM

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PSTan
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 12:29:27 AM
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Honestly, I think even a two-year development cycle isn't good for blockbuster games.

Good example: Dragon Age II. While by no means the abomination people make it out to be, I agree with most fans that it wasn't close to the level of detail and polish of Origins. And that game took about 4-5 years to make.

This doesn't mean that some developers are up to the challenge: Naughty Dog produces consistently quality titles over 2 year cycles.

I honestly wouldn't mind waiting 3-4 years for a new game in a series, granted that developers put more time and effort into it.

But perhaps yearly iterations are a result of a need for a source of revenue. Game development is getting more expensive and publishers need to be able to make money.

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 1:04:26 AM
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I wish most developers would take a page from Eat Play Sleep's book and release a new title (Twisted Metal) once every 5 years so it seems fresh everytime.

Imagine how big and incredible AC3 would be with 4 years development time instead of one and a half!!!

I think it's amazing Naughty Dog have churned out Uncharted 3 so quickly considering most still rave about Uncharted 2. 2 years is perfect. I'm hoping to see Dead Space 3 no earlier than the end of 2012.

2 years is perfect for franchises. Gives it extra time to be polished and can alternate each year depending on when the busy periods are.

2011 will no doubt be remembered as the greatest time for gaming. More big titles than 1999's incredible year.

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FxTales
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 1:08:05 AM
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In relation to Assassin's Creed I'm not so concerned and that is only because I wasn't disappointed with Brotherhood as it turned out to be a decent game.

I don't recommend it becoming a frequent thing though.

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TheOldOne
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 5:22:57 PM

I was concerned with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to the point that I refused to buy it, because I was convinced that it was too soon to release another one. I thought it must definitely be a crappy game. I was wrong and it turned out to be a great game and surpassing in many ways their predecessors (I loved the addition of the contract assassins and I hope they develop them further on the next AC game).

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FM23
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 1:25:48 AM
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Yeah, I can understand CoD and sport games, but AC doesn't seem like an every year thing but somehow Brotherhood turned out beautiful. Revelations looks like another potential success as well, but lets get AC3 already with more development.

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Highlander
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 2:46:20 AM
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Whatever happened to it will be ready when it's ready? Seriously, I know that these are professional developers and managers in charge of things, but at the end of the day this is a creative process and to an extent, it really is a case of it will be ready, when it is ready - not when you (the Boss) say it should be ready. If you deliver games so often there is far, far less pressure or incentive to get it right because you know you are going to be churning out the next iteration shortly, so whatever is wrong can be fixed then.

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Beamboom
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 7:08:00 AM

I'm afraid that nowadays the classic "it's ready when it's ready" mantra simply put is only valid within the non-commercial sphere, with the open source community being the prime exposure of such principles.
It *used* to be a widespread attitude back when the decision making layer were closer to the ones actually creating the software, cause it sure is how most any developer would prefer to work.


Last edited by Beamboom on 7/16/2011 7:39:00 AM

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Highlander
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 6:35:16 PM

The trouble is that with products like Windows we have come to expect the initial release of a product to be buggy and that only the first service pack will make it solid, so we all wait knowing that the fixes will come. It creates an expectation that all software will evolved and not necessarily be ready when it is released. A bad precedent is you ask me.

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Beamboom
Sunday, July 17, 2011 @ 2:42:51 AM

True. Stuff are buggy on release day today. Although, I read a very interesting story about my first computer a few weeks ago, and there it was stated that it were plagued with a pile of pretty serious bugs. Some were being so serious that it made a heavy impact on something as basic as it's ability to read data from tape. We actually had to re-read data several times before it got it right.

And now that it was mentioned I recall all this. Also, it crashed a lot. It's just, back then we never really thought of it as errors, but more like "it's just how it runs".

That made me think, maybe it was not that the software was much less buggy back in the days, it was just us, the users, who were more used to having to cope with it cause without todays easy access to patches it sure wasn't going to change anyways?


Last edited by Beamboom on 7/17/2011 2:44:39 AM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 2:54:18 AM
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The way I see it, this just leads to games that are the exact same every time they release with no improvements.

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___________
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 4:04:53 AM
Reply

i dont see it as a problem as long as there not rushing it.
this is different to COD or sports games, those are a flooded market where assassins creed is a more individual title.
where else are you going to find a game like assassins creed?
closest game is PoP the other game made by the same developers.
if it was in a crowded genre like COD then ok, interest for it will grow stale with yearly releases.
but AC is such a unique game your really only getting one a year.
as appose to what 40 COD titles per year?
or 20 or so sports titles per year?
as long as they dont skimp on the quality, and try to change anything, im fine with the yearly releases.
in fact the more the merrier, AC is one of my favorite games so the more i get to play it the better!

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Excelsior1
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 4:24:08 AM
Reply

great comments posted above. i think highlander makes a great point about just releasing a game when it's ready. having said that i do understand the pressure on publishers to have a steady revenue stream. it's also important to note the type of game we are talking about. yearly installments in ff would be a bad idea. cod and madden...i don't really see a problem.

i'm not particularly concerned about the ac series either becuase it seems the quality has remained high. i don't think it's our place to judge games based on their develpment cycles. it's the final product that should be judged. each game and situation is unique.

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telly
Saturday, July 16, 2011 @ 11:03:17 AM
Reply

It's a trend I absolutely hate. Even my most cherished series would get old REAL quick if they had new entries every year. God, how lame would God of War be if we were due for what, part SEVEN in the console entries at this point? Even for a mega franchise like Call of Duty, Activision is burning the candle at both ends releasing an entry every year. Mark my words, the sales numbers for that series will go flat in the next five years.

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