Should annual game series releases be discontinued?
In the ever-changing world of gaming, there are some hard facts that don’t change, such as the release of a new Call of Duty game annually, or the constant competition between FIFA and PES ball games.
The question here is: Is this what the players really want? Or is there a better way to maintain a large fan base without having to release new parts annually in the same series?
There are many games that still attract players to this day, despite the obstacles of time and graphics quality. Some of these games do this with bonus content and annual updates, like Rainbow Six Siege, and some by offering massive replay value content that can take players years and years to discover, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
On the other hand, some games abandon the idea of continuous support and work on releasing new parts annually from the same series, such as sports, racing, fighting games, and some well-known series such as Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty. Some companies are also releasing side games from the same series until the upcoming new part of the series, such as Persona, Zelda, Pokemon, and others.
What is the best policy that gaming companies should follow in order to get the most out of their players? Especially with the increasing prices of games, add-ons, and annual subscriptions. We discuss the details of this in today’s article.
The policy must change
To better understand the idea of the article, we have to go back in time to the old generation of games in the days of PlayStation 2, Xbox and Dream Cast. At the time, it was not possible to modify or fix bugs in games after the official launch or provide any kind of additional content to change the game in any way.
I remember suffering in the past with the Kingdom Hearts series of games, where I had to buy the same game two or three times, to be able to enjoy the new bonus content that can only be obtained by buying the same game disc and returning it from the beginning.
Things are now much better. All games get continuous updates since the official launch day and even after a period of launch, the developer is working on fixing all technical problems in the game, and adding new content such as the new Spider-Man suits that were added this week to Sony’s exclusive one year after its launch.
The problem is that most of these updates are in the form of paid packages, or something worse.
The annual issues are not worth the price
You can’t find a game today that doesn’t have any kind of paid extra content like Season Pass or Expansion Pass or as the companies like to call it.
In order to get the game fully, you have to pay more than a hundred dollars to get the full and final version of the game, and that may not be enough either, the company may think about putting additional content in any other way to suck the players’ money for years to come.
Some companies are taking this to a new level, by releasing a new game one year after the previous part. This new game uses the same graphics engine and character as the old game, but with slight changes to the gameplay, and does not add any new content worth mentioning.
Games like Call of Duty, Need for Speed, FIFA, Just Dance and even Assassin’s Creed games. All of these games claim to offer new ideas and additions that are worth sixty dollars a year, plus additional content fees.
But the reality is that the game looks the same without any drastic differences, and even the new part of any of them makes me wonder why these improvements were not added to the game itself and that’s it?
The closest I can think of right now is Far Cry: New Dawn. This game is marketing itself as a new instalment in the series, even though it uses the same map as the old game Far Cry 5, uses the same characters as the old game, and only offers an eight-hour storyline, all this At $40. Is this really what we should accept today?
A game like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, while I like it and gets high ratings, doesn’t add much new to the series. The Nemesis combat system we’ve seen before in Shadow of War, and the ship battle system was before in Assassin’ Creed Black Flag. Of course, this is to be expected. What new can be presented in one year, not more?
How can new parts of the games be introduced correctly?
A new wave that I love in fighting games is the provision of free additional content after the release of the original game, and I’m not talking about the new characters here in the paid bundles.
A game like Street Fighter V offers many new features and systems completely free even four years after its launch as the Arcade system. And a game like Dragon Ball Fighter Z that tweaks the controls and adds arcade options for free even a year after launch.
There are other games that keep you waiting, and then come out with powerful and completely new content that you only need to pay money for once. Such as the addition of Iceborne in Monster Hunter World, and the addition of Torna The Golden Country in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
The Zelda game developer stated that the studio had several DLC ideas for Breath of the Wild, but did not put them in the game directly, nor did they release them. A new game one year after the release of the original game, but chose to wait three years until the announcement of a real new part of the series, instead of relying on the success of the original game.
Another company I want to pay tribute to is ATLUS Games, which treats all their games in a very special way, as they are re-released all their main games in the Persona series with new bonus content such as Persona 4 Golden or Persona 5 The Royal.
The idea here is that the company is waiting a lot and completely changing all aspects of the game and its story by adding new characters, music, endings and events, at the same price as the usual game, making replaying the game a completely different experience.
This does not mean that the original games need such treatment, the base game itself as Breath of the Wild, Persona or Monster Hunter World is excellent, fully worth their price and can be enjoyed for a long time without the need to provide any additional content of any kind.
The companies responsible for these games know how to make their games popular and get players talking about them and waiting for more of them even after they are completely finished.
There are many ideas that can be applied to make the game live: different endings, various paths, a new way of customizing the character, and abilities that can only be obtained by making certain choices.
There are many things to think about before you start developing a new part of the game. And frankly, this is very easy to implement and better than developing a whole new part.
Waiting is the answer
I don’t want new parts of the same game. This means that the game wasn’t fun enough to make me forget that I wanted a new part of it. I want more of the same good content that I got the first time around.
This can only be done by waiting, with a real full game rendered at launch, and then providing one additional content that I can really see the effort in developing, like Blood and Wine in The Witcher 3 or Fallout New Vegas.
For example, imagine that you have purchased The Witcher 3 three times, once with each new addition. This was the case before when we used to buy the same game many times like Kingdom Hearts and Guilty Gear series. But this is no longer acceptable today.
Some games still use this policy, such as FIFA and PES games. But there are some game companies that have finally decided to wait for better content, such as Ubisoft, which delayed the new version of Assassin’s Creed and refrained from releasing new parts of Rainbow Six Siege, even with the arrival of the next generation of consoles, according to the studio.
We also note that Battlefield will not be released this year, and the focus is on supporting the original game. Of course, online games always use this approach, and you won’t find a Fortnite 2, Pubg 2, or Overwatch 2 anytime soon. A game like Destiny proves that a single bonus content can completely transform a game and draw millions of players into a game that is almost finished.
Waiting is the solution, and it is the future, for players to have a few games, but all of them are worth playing, better than having many games that follow the same style without introducing anything new.
Quality always trumps number, and there are hundreds of examples in the gaming world to this point. I hope to see the focus on quality more broadly in the future, and I hope to see companies move away from redundancy and take the easy path in order to attract players.
Annual releases of game series are not the answer, and people never forget a good game. If a developer makes a really good game, they won’t need to develop a new part until it’s time for them, and when they’re sure the game is really worth the wait.