The One-Year Cycle, Innovation vs. Expectation

Posted By | On 22nd, Dec. 2009 Under Editorials


Everyone knows to expect a new sports game every year, but what if there was a new Halo or Uncharted every year? This year at the Spike TV Video Game Awards, we saw the announcement of the new Batman Arkham Asylum, the sequel to a game that released just three months ago. There was no set date for release however, there is a large chance we could see the game in late 2010. The question I pose to you is this; do you want your favorite franchises on a yearly basis?

Of course, it would not be every franchise as not every game could be an annual event, but look at Batman for example; if this were a trilogy would you want to play a new game every year? I doubt Rocksteady would let quality slip and I believe that each game would be of at least the same quality as the previous entry, but would you want that? Personally, I am a fan of the two-year cycle though some games I just can’t wait for. If they did launch a new Batman game in each of the next three years I would buy them all if they were at least as good as the first.

batmanarkhamasylum

Arkham Asylum was an excellent game, but do we need another next year?

The problem with such a system in place would be that innovation would be thrown out the window. When looking at sports games they always feel like the last entry. There may be a few new additions or some slightly more refined existing content, but there is always that inescapable feeling that you are playing the same game as last year. Sure, you could have a new Batman game next year, but how much could it have been improved since the last entry? An annual cycle makes it harder to get a defining feature that sets the new entry apart from the previous entry?

Left 4 Dead 2 is another example. It was undeniably an improvement over the original, but there was still that feeling of playing the same game with a few new additions. When you compare that to a game like Uncharted 2 that added improved graphics, a lengthier story, and full competitive multiplayer you see what can be accomplished with just another year’s time.

left4dead2logo

Left 4 Dead 2 was an improvement over the original showing that the one-year cycle can succeed, but were the improvements enough to make it really worth it?

The issue we have right now is that the industry is not doing so hot. Developers are closing their doors and people are losing their jobs. Publishers see this and maybe, just maybe, this annual policy may be the ticket to some quick cash. They know just as well as we do that a new entry in everyone’s favorites franchise every year would sell. Call of Duty sells millions of copies each year with such a system, why not Halo or Uncharted or Batman? At the cost of quality, many publishers could make some easy money and make fans happy at the same time. Suddenly quality quickly drops, but people don’t notice. Why you ask? Most people will be so caught up in the fact that the next game will be out next year that they will not notice the decline. Anticipation for the next game will be replaced by the gamer simply expecting the next addition in a years time.

While the annual system seems appealing despite its faults, I’d rather stick with a two-year cycle. The two year cycle has proven to provide some excellent games this generation and during the last and as they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! As much as I’d like to play another Arkham Asylum next year, take your time Rocksteady, no rush. That goes for everyone else too. I’d rather wait for quality than lose innovation.

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  • bg93

    Couldn’t agree more. I think that if devs are going to make an incredible game, they need over a year. Insomniac has done an amazing job with putting out a game every year but Resistance 2 and the previous Ratchet needed more polish, especially Resistance 2. The graphics in R2 were pretty poor, so were the textures and the AI had a large number of problems. 1 more year would have done this game good.
    Naughty Dog takes a different approach and decide to make a game every year if they think they can finish what they have on their plate. Jak X and Jak 3 both took 1 year. This gen, both Uncharted games took 2 years to finish in order to polish and refine both games. I think it served them well.

  • David Macphail

    There’s nothing wrong with having a new entry into a franchise every year, as long as the devs can keep the quality up. It really comes down to the devs own way of thinking. If they feel they can keep games coming out every 12 – 18 months with the same level of quality that’s fine, however some devs are perfectionists and wouldn’t even think about releasing a game until it was completely flawless (Gran Turismo 5, for example).

    I don’t really mind much either way, there aren’t too many devs out there that would rush a game out just for the sake of having it out.

  • LevelHead

    I agree. I am especially seeing this with Activision and their own greed. They want to pump out Guitar Hero and Call of Duty games because they make money. However certain developers like Polyphony, the makers of Gran Turismo, should not get away with being untouchables when they take half a decade to make a game that offers no new direction from the company. Any developer can spend 3 years tweaking their game to perfection but there comes a time when you need to keep things flowing. Not releasing tidbits like a cruddy demo or a partial game like GT5: Prologue to earn a quick buck. That’s why I wouldn’t pay $60 for Halo ODST either.

  • name

    no 1 year is far too soon.
    name 1 game that had a 1 year development cycle that was a really good game.
    the only one i can think of is left 4 dead 2, and that was just a expansion pack nothing drastic.
    2 years minimum it takes to make a good game, like infamous, uncharted 2, both those games are fantastic games, both large open levels and both were in development for 2 years,
    2 years is the minimum, i would like to see 2 years making the game than maybe 4-6 months of tweaking, polishing, and play testing the game to make sure everything is perfect and theres nothing needed to be added.
    3 years would be better, especially if your creating a new engine for the game.
    4 years would be the streatch, only the biggest and best should take 4 years.
    anything more than 4 years is a joke, fans start to get frustrated and loose there interest in the series, ala LA NOIRE, alan wake, GT5, heavy rain, splinter cell conviction and half life 2 episode 3.
    all of those games feel like theve been in development since the beginning of time, and i have lost interest in them.
    sad really because im a MASSIVE! survival horror fan so i was so excited for alan wake, but the wait seriously killed my interest for the game.
    i probably wont buy it now, may rent it to see what its like IF it actually comes out.
    same goes for GT5, i mean seriously for christs sake, every time they show a new “gameplay” video it looks exactly the same as the last one shown months ago.
    im constantly saying WTF have they done in the last 6 months?

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