When Does A Franchise Run Its Course?

How many of you actually played New Super Mario Bros U? I’m assuming not many, other than the day one Wii U owners. How about Killzone Shadow Fall; other than those who just wanted to play a “next gen” game on their brand new next gen system, and that’s what was available? How much news surrounded Gran Turismo 6? How innovative is the Call of Duty franchise these days? I can’t help but think of that awesome Batman quote when thinking of franchises that are around for the long term – “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become the bad guy.”

SM3DW Gameplay

How long is too long when it comes to franchises, and is there even an expiration date to set? Let’s take a look at a few franchises.

  • Halo Series – The Halo series began in 2001 with the original Xbox, and really turned some heads. Halo 2, though not as innovative, nor as big a step for FPS games as the first in the franchise, revolutionized online play. But what about the other games in the series (Halo 3, ODST, Halo Wars, etc). There are a total of 8 games confirmed for the franchise, and it seems to me that with every iteration of the game, its value lessens and it becomes more and more a mediocre FPS (not to say you can’t have good times with the game, necessarily). Also, there was only one venture outside of the generic FPS formula in this franchise (Halo Wars). This is Microsoft’s “golden child;” so will this franchise ever die out? Should it die out?
  • Killzone Series – Though not as popular as the Halo series, this Sony franchise has been around since 2004, released 6 games, one of which recently released for next gen consoles. While the first game really gave us a taste of what futuristic FPS games might look like, now the franchise usually receives reviews stating it is mediocre at best, though not terrible either. How many people actually care about this franchise, and should it be snuffed out?
  • Mario Bros Series – Now, with Mario games, there is a plethora to choose from (which I will get into later). What I’m speaking about specifically are the side scrolling Mario games. Mario has been around since the beginning of many gamers’ first step into the video game world. But, there seems to be apathy and loud groans whenever a “New Super Mario Bros” game is announced/released. Case in point, New Super Mario Bros U. Even I found myself uninterested, only playing it because I got the Mario Bros Wii U bundle. Surprisingly, I found the game incredibly fun, unlike the others in recent memory (which were mediocre at best). This is Nintendo’s main man; the mascot of choice. Should this franchise be killed off as well?

Halo 4

If you notice, the running theme seems to be stagnation, and lack of innovation. Each series had moments of innovation and big steps in the right direction at some point, but the later years were not kind to them, as far as creativity is involved. So, how long is too long? I don’t think there is an expiration date. At the end of the day, franchises can run as long as they like, just as long as they sell. So, how can they still sell and appeal to gamers throughout the decades? One word: change.

These franchises need to reinvent themselves, and not just in terms of the original gameplay either. For example, let’s look at our favorite plumber: Mario. Why is he still around and relevant? The answer is twofold – there are games that utilize creative new gameplay, and completely new types of games altogether.

CoD:G

Creative new gameplay can completely change both appeal and entertainment. What are the best Mario games; the ones rated very highly and extremely fun to play? Let’s start back in the 90s and move forward. Mario 64 (Added an immersive 3D world and changed how to play the game), Mario Sunshine (A different bad guy other than Bowser? And you get more story than you ever have before?), Super Mario Galaxy (Drastically changed perspective and affected how the gamer’s mind worked, and introduced orchestral music in the franchise), and Super Mario 3D World (4 player gameplay done extremely well, and some of the best level design/variety in the past decade). Each of these games changed how we played, and they reinvigorated the franchise.

Completely new types of games can give more variety to a franchise, and can draw in a much wider crowd – appealing to multiple types of gamers. Mario is a fighter (Smash Bros), a racer (Mariokart), a golfer (Mario Golf), a tennis player (Mario Tennis), a futbol player (Mario Strikers), an RPG (Paper Mario series/Mario Seven Stars), and even a puzzler (Mario March of the Minis). Now, Mario has appeal to not just the platformer crowd, but most gaming crowds, at least in some capacity.

When a franchise can do these things, and even be somewhat successful in their execution, then a franchise won’t have an expiration date, nor should it be ended. Let this be a warning to both new and old franchises to constantly reinvent the series (ie – inFamous, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Assassins Creed, etc), and stay relevant to gaming culture. This is also a message to indie gamers, and smaller developers to keep pushing the envelope and stirring creative competition within the industry. Franchises aren’t bad, they just need change.

~Mike

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3 thoughts on “When Does A Franchise Run Its Course?

  1. Good post. I think one great example of a series that managed to get new life breathed into it is Resident Evil. After Resident Evil 0, it was clear that the old RE formula was getting tired. They completely revamped the series with 4, giving it a new camera, a huge setting, and combat that focused on intelligent monsters rather than slow zombies. And that game became a huge influence on modern third person shooter design. To bad the quality in that series has bottomed out again.

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    1. I thought about adding that to the list, but I generally tried to stay with first party exclusive games. RE truly is a perfect example: I was never really interested in the RE series (Nemesis was kinda cool). Then RE4 came out and that was a day one buy for me on GameCube – it totally reached out to a brand new crowd.

      Thanks for the input!

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  2. This was excellent, and you really made me start thinking: CAN those other series branch out? Can there be a Halo fighter? A CoD sports? A GTA racer? A Killzone puzzle? A God of War rpg? Some characters lend themselves to certain genres better than others, and this is the genius of Mario…he can do it all, because why the hell not? I mean he’s already a fat guy running and jumping all over the place, so why not do all these other things? I guess Sonic came close and in modern times Little Big Planet (kart racing), but not much else…

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