The One-Year Cycle, Innovation vs. Expectation
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.
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.
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.