Take-Two's Aversion To Annualization Is Why We Love Them
A few things I should get out of the way:
Firstly, publishers and developers certainly aren't at fault for pumping out annual releases within the same franchises. They can't be at fault. If it didn't work, if consumers didn't buy them, they wouldn't do it. We created annualization because essentially, we demanded it and we continue to reward it (just ask Activision).
Therefore, it's absurd and illogical to point the finger at anyone or anything outside of the gaming populace. If a new Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed didn't sell many millions of copies each and every year, the companies that produce these products wouldn't have kept that business model. It's not hard to figure out, really.
Secondly, I actually don't mind annualization because in many cases, it does not mean the game only had one year of development time. They often have multiple years; Ubisoft used numerous internal development times on each AC installment, for instance, and CoD is currently in a three-year development cycle with three studios. This means that even though we get a CoD every year, that particular title was in the works for three years (or more). Let's not forget this because it's kind of an important distinction, and oh yeah, most of the games in question turn out to be damn good.
That all being said, it's hard to be a fan of "milking." And there's a damn good reason why Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption publisher Take-Two Interactive continues to resist the trend. During a presentation in New York on Tuesday, Take-Two boss Karl Slatoff was asked why his company doesn't adopt annualization for some of its IPs. Slatoff's response was very much appreciated:
"We don't intend to change annual strategy because of product fatigue. [Take-Two] creates franchise value and [releases have] to be managed deliberately.
It's tempting to have continuous releases and milk a franchise as far as you can, [but] we've seen that fatigue in other franchises in the games industry. With almost every single franchise for us, the latest release is bigger than the one before."
One thing is for certain: Nobody would accuse Grand Theft Auto V of being rushed, and I seriously doubt you'll see any such accusation when Take-Two and/or Rockstar formally announces the new Red Dead (we can't be far from that unveiling now). Sure, we had to wait a while for GTAV and we're approaching RDR's 6-year anniversary. But the difference between GTAIV and GTAV was well worth the development time, was it not? And are we expecting any less of an improvement gap between the Red Dead games? Nope.
This is precisely why you gotta love Take-Two's ongoing policy of avoiding annualization. It's not just about "quality over quantity;" it's also about being so much in love with your IPs that you can't bear the thought of releasing a rushed, watered-down, or less-than-hugely-ambitious product. That's why we respect the hell out of that company, damnit.
3/8/2016 9:15:03 PM Ben Dutka