:This blog is somewhat jumpy and may or may not make any fucking sense. Hopefully you'll see something you agree or disagree with, but if not, I apoligize for my lack of focus today.
This is not a monthly musing, as evidenced by the title. But the whole idea behind this month's topic has gotten me thinking and reflecting about games and the industry a lot lately. So instead of a "Good Idea, Bad Idea", I'm just going to kind of free write about a topic that I find to be somewhat of a big deal amongst hardcore gamers. I'm talking about Franchise Whoring
. We've all seen it and heard of it, and many of us have of course experienced that feeling in the pit of your stomach when it happens to one of our
favorite IPs. It's become quite common the past few years, although it's been around since gaming's inception. Yet, here we are, still complaining and lamenting about the latest Final Fantasy
spin off. Why?
Many companies have gone through some seriously large changes since the start of this console generation and I'm not quite sure it's all for the better. Things have been great no doubt, as 2007 was one of the best years on record, but I'm skeptical of the future sometimes. Surely we'll continue to be blessed with great games from wonderful companies. But what about the negative side of this generation? What about the problems caused by the cost of developing so called "AAA" titles? These games are expensive, and somebody's got to pay for them. So companies whore out their franchises and IP's, sometimes at the expense of quality, just to make a quick buck. Some purists say this is wrong and they have no excuse, but then again sometimes I understand exactly why the industry does this sort of thing. So how can franchise whoring be a good thing?
If you're like me, when done reading a story on the front page you read the comments, be it on Destructoid or another site. Whenever there is an announcement made about a spin-off title or remake of some sort, there's a good chance many of those comments will be a bunch of fanboys lamenting the whoring of their favorite franchise. For a good example, see practically anything Square Enix announces for the rest of eternity. Also, Mario Party.
The reaction to Square's announcement of a Final Fantasy IV
spin-off for cell phones was met with plenty of skepticism and fanboys giving into their emo tendencies right off the bat. See, Final Fantasy is a franchise beloved by gamers, and us gamers don't like to see our favorite things turned into cashcows. It's depressing and it shows that all these developers we love so much care about is making those dollar bills. That's all well and good, and it's certainly true. Thinking it's about the "artform" is a bit niave in the year 2008, at least for the publishers.
But what many gamers fail to think of is the financial side of things. Final Fantasy XIII
is costing Square an arm and a leg, and by extension so is Final Fantasy Versus XIII
. Now, if Square is devoting so many employees to these projects like they've claimed, how are they going to keep a steady stream of money flowing in, besides raping Sony for exclusive agreement considerations? They either put together a small team or even outsource work on small projects such as spin-offs and remakes. It's the easiest and most efficient way to make money, as it feeds off of gamers love of nostalgia. We're all suckers for it, admit it.
Sure, these games may be uninspired and somewhat lame overall, but if you're a true fanboy you'll buy them. And sometimes, they don't even suck! How many people bought that remake of Final Fantasy 3
over in Japan, where unlike Americans it wasn't their first time playing it? How many of us assholes over here are going to buy that remake of Final Fantasy IV
when it comes to America? It's simply smart business for the publisher/developer, and sometimes even the consumer benefits. So long as the game in question keeps the "spirit" of it's predecessor then we'll be happy with it. I'm ok with remakes and spin-offs, but what about sequels?
Developers have been rehashing gameplay ideas and story concepts since the beginning of time, or at least since games were invented. It's only natural when you think about it. If consumers loved a specific game, wouldn't it be smart to stick with that formula? Of course. Take a look at everyone's favorite Italian plumber, Mario. His games really haven't changed much in the past 20 years. Even when he made the jump from 2D to 3D, the characters, worlds, and story remain the same. Fuck, even the basic gameplay harkened back to his 2D roots. And who could blame Nintendo? The games were still good, and they certainly sold well.
And what happened when Nintendo strayed off course with Super Mario Sunshine
? The fanboys were pissed. They wanted to jump on Goombas, not spray walls with a hose! Who wants to use Mario to clean? Has he been arrested and is now doing community service? (Actually, yes). Fuck the cleanup, we wanted more Goombas! More airships! Isn't it funny how we whine about the lack of originality, but then we whine when companies fuck with our favorite franchise? Think about that.
So what does Nintendo do? They go back to Mario's roots, bringing us something entirely new, yet entirely derivative. They gave us that old-school classic Mario feeling, and we ate it right up. We loved Nintendo for that one. So now it's only a matter of time before we get to see if the next Mario game will be like Galaxy
. Will we complain if it's more of the same, or will we be happy? That's a question I can't answer, as even I'm not sure how I'd feel about a rehash of Galaxy's concepts. It seems like a good idea, but we'll see.
How many DW sequels before we've had enough?
**Start stupid DW rant**
In this industry, there's no such thing as "too much". If a franchise continues to be popular, why fuck with it? Dynasty Warriors
hasn't changed much in years, but it's still hugely popular. The next installment of the series, DW6, is pretty much the same game as the last 10,000. And yet the fans will still buy it. This is smart business on Koei's part, as even the graphics are barely updated. They're saving money and selling the title for the higher next generation price, therfore making even more money than usual. They already have the framework in place, it's just a matter of filling the page or filling in the blanks. Easy money.
But will gamers turn on this admittedly stale franchise one day? If Dynast Warriors 10
is still the exact same game, will it's fans grow tired? (This could be bad example. See Jim Sterling for more details.) I would think yes, they will. It's bound to happen eventually. They'll find something better, something new and original. Eventually we all grow tired of the same shit over and over again. Every franchise has the potential to grow stale, even Mario. It's part of life. Would people go to the movies if the same movies stayed in rotation for months at a time? No, they wouldn't. It's part of human nature to experience new things, to feel that urge for something different. Eventually, even DW is going to need to change it up a bit, or it's going to go the way of the Dodo.
Of course, like most gamers, a few small changes here, a graphical face-lift there, and we're right back in GameStop waiting for a new DW. I'd be there.
**End stupid DW Rant**
Back to random ramblings
If you're wondering where this is going, well, I don't have a clue. I'm amazed how diverse we gamers are and yet how much alike so many of us are. Many of, myself included, are huge hypocrites. We complain and bitch about how nothing is original or fresh, that developers make the same game over and over again. Yet we keep buying them, as community member Yoj1mb0 said in his blog the other day on that matter. If you read my blog on a regular basis, you'll see that I constantly rant and rave about sequels and derivative games, yet I also see the reasons behind them and openly respect them, but it doesn't change the fact that it hurts. When Square gives the world of Final Fantasy IV
to cell phone users, it feels like I'm 5 years old and my blanky was just stolen. It's painful, but in the end it's for the better. It's like growing up sort of. It's just part of life.
In the end, you've got to realize that all of this franchise whoring and all these remakes and spin-offs, well, they're good for the industry as a whole. While it certainly isn't breeding creativity and original concepts, it's definitely doing it's part to help pay for the big games, the system sellers and whatnot. So long as Final Fantasy XIII
and it's various spin-offs are worth the wait, then go ahead and whore all the fucking games you want. I've got no problem with it all. I'll even buy that ridiculous fucking Mog doll, and the Chocobo while I'm at it. Throw another FF7 themed toy set at us, we'll scoop it right the fuck up.
Just finish Final Fantasy XIII so we can complain about how different the game is from past entries in the series and reminicse about the good old days! Then, make an old-school FF and we'll complain about how stale it is. That's just the nature of the beast.
We'll never be happy, us gamers. Not on the internet, at least.
Also, cause this Shark is a fucking beast, like all Great Whites: