Warmed Over: What To Make Of Gaming's Spinoffs
Relying on a proven name to sell merchandise is hardly a concept that's unique to the gaming industry. Whether it's TV show spinoffs, movie and book sequels, or anything that starts with “From the makers of...”, the general conversation goes something like this:
“That thing you like? You'll like this, too, because it's the same, but slightly different!”
In the mythical MMOBomb office, located at the corner of Skype Way and Yahoo Mail Drive, we've been talking a lot lately about game companies' efforts to create new games (sometimes very loosely) based on old titles. Our general thought: It's happening a lot lately, and usually not for the better.
For clarification, we're not talking about your basic sequels here, like PlanetSide 2, Mass Effect 3, Final Fantasy XIV, or Madden WhateverYear. Those are usually the same type of game as their predecessors, with a clear storyline and gameplay path from the previous installment, which came out fairly recently.
Rather, it's more a case of taking game X and affixing not just a number next to it, but more often than not, a subtitle and a near-totally new way of playing.
We've covered a lot of games like this recently on MMOBomb.com, from Might & Magic – Duel of Champions to Ridge Racer Driftopia to Nosgoth, which is based on the Legacy of Kain series. Are games like this really meant to continue the legacy of their predecessors or are they just efforts to cash in on a name and gamers' nostalgia with a quickly thrown-together title?
We were generally OK with Duel of Champions' gameplay, though the cash shop left a sour taste in our mouths. We were less impressed overall with Driftopia, which, unlike the other two titles mentioned above, at least is a driving game like its namesake, as opposed to a card game or arena fighter based on a role-playing/action-adventure game.
We don't know much about Nosgoth yet, but if they comments on the article are any indication, Legacy of Kain fans are happy to get something, but they really wish it was a proper sequel. So why isn't that being made instead? Why produce a rather simplistic fighting game rather than a grandiose RPG or action game?
My guess is that those kinds of games cost more and take longer to make than a card game or arena battler. Additionally, the market is rather saturated with RPGs and action games as it is, and companies behind these games' creation are trying to reach a different, wider audience. Online gaming continues to grow, and they see that people are more willing to pay microtransactions for online multiplayer games, where they can gain an edge over the competition, than they are for single-player experiences, where increased power can only get you so far.
It's much harder, more expensive, and a bigger risk to get people interested in a brand new properties these days, so dusting off older IPs, especially when they're available on the cheap, is a great way to tap into an existing audience. While a property that's been relatively inactive for several years might not have as many people interested in its revival, those who are left are probably passionately and desperately interested, leading them to attach themselves to the game even more vigorously and being more likely to transform into the elusive and lucrative “whale.”
It's not just older, idle properties that get this treatment, though. Hearthstone, Command and Conquer, Total War: Arena, and (gack) Final Fantasy: All the Bravest also went/are going the rout of taking a currently popular property and creating a different type of game from it. So maybe it's less of an exploitative thing and more of a simple case of, “We've got something that works, but we don't want to make the exact same thing and compete with ourselves directly” kind of thing. That makes more sense, I think, for strong, active licenses that have new stuff coming out regularly, but it might not fit for older, semi-defunct titles.
Still, whether it's an older game property getting a dubious “revival” or a spinoff of a current, active property, the results are more often than not, very mixed. Maybe this is a case where game developers are thinking a little too hard – that maybe gamers want “same” more than they want “same, but slightly different.” (By the way, anyone seen Half-Life 3?)
What's your take on these kinds of games? If you're a fan of a series, are you just happy to get anything set in the same universe, even if it's not quite the same kind of game? Or are you more of a “must have core gameplay or bust” type? Or is it the gameplay itself that matters more to you than the title?
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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