The Sequel Blues

We have been penalized by the lack of new consoles on the market. I understand the manufacturers don’t want them too often because it’s expensive, but it’s important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity.

-Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft

I’m rarely stunned by the stupidity of words that come from the heads of major game studios, so I have to give Mr. Guillemot credit.  That was a remarkably dumb statement.  One that I wholeheartedly reject.  It was a defensive statement, for something that doesn’t need defending.

Gamers can be an irrational breed of people.  When they’re at their worst, gamers can be reactionary, twitchy, slobbering crybabies.  Or we can shorten that and call it “fanboys.”  I get it with kids.  Santa Claus brings Johnny an Xbox 360 for Christmas, while Bobby gets a PlayStation 3.  They’ll end up doing what kids do, arguing that their machine is the best.  But the bad ones, they’re the assholes who drag this argument out into adulthood.  They’re also the ones who bitch about console manufacturers who push non-gaming content, DLC, and especially sequels.

Minecraft 360 has sold over three million copies. Not bad for a dead platform.

I don’t get the argument against sequels.  Of all the truly stupid shit that gamers get angry over, the resentment of sequels is the one that baffles me the most.  I think many people forget that gaming is a business that exists to be profitable.  That might sound condescending, but it’s true.  When you bitch at developer for being too sequel heavy, you’re essentially telling them to not take the path of least resistance towards profitability, placing their company’s future at a greater risk.

Here’s my question: why does this make you, the angry gamer, so damn mad?  How in the blue fuck does Call of Battlewar Modern Reach 17 possibly affect you?  Other than the fact that you’ll be $60 less wealthy once it’s out because you know you’ll buy it.  Yes you will.

If sequels aren’t your thing, don’t get them!  Their existence doesn’t stop the influx of other purchasing options.  Gaming has entered a second Golden Age of creativity.  The advent of independent gaming, plus the roll out of digital distribution on consoles has opened the door to new and original properties that would never be given a green-light seven years ago.  In 2012, the major digital platforms on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have seen two record-shattering games be released: Journey and Minecraft 360.  Whether these games appeal to you directly or not is irrelevant.  It’s what they represent that is important.  They’re new properties (in Minecraft’s case, new to consoles) that destroys the notion of sequels drowning the industry.  The gaming landscape is full of titles like that.  Rarely does a month go by where there isn’t at least one, maybe two games on those platforms that I just have to try because they look so different.

Are we really ready to let go of the PlayStation 3 when such innovative, never before attempted ideas such as this one are on the verge of fulfillment?

That’s why I think Yves Guillemot’s comment pissed me off so much.  Because it was a pass-the-buck move for something that didn’t require defending or an explanation.  Anybody whinny enough to complain about sequels will never be satisfied with anything because they’re miserable human beings just looking for stuff to moan about.  You can’t please them, and it’s not even worth trying.  Whether they admit it or not, they buy all the mass-marketed stuff anyway.  They just have to try to be “cool” and reject sequels.  That makes them sound non-conformist.  I walked into a Gamestop once (bad decision, I admit.  I think I might have been under the influence of seizure medication) and saw what looked to be a half-man, half-manatee complaining about Crackdown 2 being a soulless cash-in that didn’t really try to be different.  And he said all this with a straight face while wearing a Gears of War 2 tee-shirt.  This is the type of moron you can’t win with.

Why try to justify yourself to these people?  Especially with outright bullshit, as is the case with Mr. Guillemot.  Saying “no no no no, it’s not OUR fault that we’re making sequels.  It’s their fault!  Sony’s and Microsoft’s!  Blame them!  We need new hardware or we simply can’t be original!”  Right.  Because launch-window games are known for their high-risk creative endeavors.  Of course they’re not.  New consoles bring with them 12 to 18 months worth of last-generation gameplay rehashes dressed-up with shiny graphics.  The Wii might have been an exception to that, just because it had that wacky new controller thing, but I don’t think anyone would try to argue the machine sparked a revolution of creativity.  It takes about two years for developers, even first party ones, to get over the learning curve of developing for a new platform.  While that is going on, they stick with what they know.

So Mr. Guillemot is wrong.  New consoles don’t breed creativity.  They might make a game producer’s imagination run wild with possibilities, but that doesn’t necessarily transition to the final product.  That’s why the truly neat stuff doesn’t hit until a console has been around a while.  A new concept, like Katamari Damacy, couldn’t have launched with the PlayStation 2.  Developers stick with what they know works, which is why Touch My Katamari launched with the Vita.

Spec Ops: The Line is technically a sequel, but it’s not really, because the series was never this bad ass.

And that’s why I don’t want this generation of consoles to end just yet.  Look at what the last 18 months have given us.  L.A. Noire.  Journey.  Bastion.  From Dust.  Fez.  Walking Dead.  Catherine.  Dragon’s Dogma.  I just finished Spec Ops: The Line, a game that is a sequel in name only, and I was blown away by its gutsy narrative.  You wouldn’t see anything like that christen a new platform.  You just wouldn’t.  Yea, this console generation has had an unusually long lifespan, but with promising new IPs like Watch Dogs or The Last of Us still on the horizon, why are we already writing a eulogy?  So I reject Mr. Guillemot’s assertion that developers need new consoles to be creative.  An especially hypocritical stance from the guy in charge of the publishing house that is bringing us the next big new IP, Watch Dogs.  According to him, they shouldn’t have even bothered, and instead of focused on the Wii U, which is the new platform his employees need or they just can’t think.  And what is this new platform in essence?  A screen that you have to flail around like you’re trying to swat a fly with it.  What is he doing with that?  ZombiU.  That’s his idea of innovation: holding a screen in front of another screen.  It would be like Firestone deciding the next generation of tires should be square-shaped.  Besides, my faith in that game is nil.  Ubisoft does launch titles about as well as buffaloes do deep-sea diving.  I remember Red Steel.

Sequels are not the problem with gaming.  I’m not even sure there is a problem with gaming right now.  We live in an era that features multiple thriving platforms, and hundreds (if not thousands) of games of all shapes, sizes, and costs that are released annually.  With so many options available to consumers, I simply don’t understand how so many gamers can be singing the Sequel Blues.  If all you can see is sequels, you need to get your eyes examined, because I do believe you’re more near-sighted than Mr. Magoo.

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