Evolution and Devolution: The Death of Franchises

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There’s nothing more exciting than watching an E3 Press Conference or Nintendo Direct and hearing that yes, your very favorite franchise will be getting a new game. Metroid Prime 4, Shenmue 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Elder Scrolls VI, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; each of these game’s reveals generated massive amounts of excitement and hype, of which flooded the internet for days, even weeks, after the fact. That joy of knowing you’ll be able to experience new adventures in your favorite universe once more, to see a beloved character begin a new journey is enough to drive you to wait, impatiently, eagerly, for that faraway release date.

But while that new reveal may bring delight and happiness, there’s always that faint voice that rings in the back of your head, questioning one important detail: “will it be good, though?”

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Because, despite all the glamour of a reveal trailer, or all the promises made by an overzealous development team, sometimes, the finished product isn’t good at all. Franchises that had released nothing but solid entries in the past wind up stumbling somewhere along the line, turning the end result into something that even the most dedicated of fans may struggle to enjoy. In some instances, the game might be so terrible that it shakes an entire fandom’s faith in the company, or even performs so terribly that it kills a series outright. We’ve all seen it happen before, and we’ll no doubt see it happen again.

Hopefully, it won’t be something we see much of in this next console generation, but sadly, it is an inevitable facet of the industry. There are cases where crunch is unavoidable, where development struggles and suffers, the pressure of it all taking a toll on workers who are just trying their best, to the point where it’s impossible to turn the game into something good prior to the fateful release date.

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The best example of such is Duke Nukem Forever, whose development was marred by lawsuits, layoffs, and the changing of hands between studios over the course of 14 years. The record-setting development time did nothing to better the game, overall. The overwhelming negative reception it garnered led to sales that barely amounted to half of what its publisher had hoped for, and there hasn’t been a new Duke Nukem game since. Perhaps Duke Nukem had been seen as a product of the 90’s--a franchise better left in the past--yet, publisher Gearbox is still re-releasing older games for new audiences on modern platforms, showing that there’s still a desire within the fans to experience the series. Regardless, Duke Nukem as a franchise hasn’t seen a new entry in nearly a decade now, and if the impossible happens and Gearbox does announce a new game, then people will directly compare it to Forever’s reception and infamy right from the start; the predecessor’s turbulent development will loom over the new one's production, from start to finish. At that point, is it even worth trying again?

“Bad” games don’t always kill a series, though. Following upon Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was Super Paper Mario, which attempted to take the turn-based battle system from the previous game, and eschew it in favor of trying something new while still retaining certain elements to reflect the series’ RPG roots. Critically, this change was lamented, but it didn’t prevent other aspects of the game, such as its writing, from being thoroughly enjoyed. What didn’t happen to attain as much success was the next game, Paper Mario: Sticker Star.

Tanabe: Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—"It's fine without a story, so do we really need one?" and "As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.

Iwata: That's a difficult task. In some ways that would be the exact opposite direction from recent games in the series.

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Where The Thousand Year Door and Super had featured lengthier, more intricate narratives, Shigeru Miyamoto believed that neither it nor the established turn-based battle system were needed when it came to the Paper Mario series going forward. As such, the following game, Sticker Star, utilized no experience points, partners, or standard attacks, and had a very traditionally “Mario” story. Not only did it go against what fans were hoping for and expecting, but many also believed that it took away the exact elements that were the core of Paper Mario. The game did sell well, surpassing both the original Paper Mario and The Thousand Year Door, though it could be argued that most of those sales were a result of the success of the formula that fans had come to enjoy from past titles, rather than the drastic changes drawing in new players to the series.

Four years later, another Paper Mario was on the way, and some fans eagerly expected a return to form--a form that hadn't been seen since 12 years at that point. Others, however, felt burned by the previous title being such a departure from the established series so far, and would not trust any marketing until the game was fully released. In trying to “freshen” the series up, or attempt to make newer games stand out from older ones, Paper Mario had lost its identity, and more importantly, lost what players had loved about the series originally. Clearly, Nintendo still sees value in the franchise, but even after the release of Paper Mario: The Origami King, and though the series is still active, rampant debate rings out as the divided fanbase argues whether or not it’s worth the effort and time to pin their hopes “on the next game” being closer to the older ones, yet again.

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Another series that still sees active development, yet has completely changed from what it used to be is Fallout. Originally existing as a classic turn-based RPG, it then evolved into a first-person action RPG, and most recently, it took those elements and became a pseudo-MMORPG. Players who may have enjoyed the initial Fallout games for their story and writing first and foremost might have potentially lost interest when Bethesda took over and turned the series into something more commonly described as “Elder Scrolls, but with guns”, or even a battle royale. Even when the original developers returned to the series for Fallout: New Vegas, it was still drastically changed from what it once was. Each of the Fallout games are popular in some way, even Fallout 76, and they all have their respective fans, but with each game being somewhat of a departure from the last, you can never be sure that the next Fallout will be something that you’ll certainly enjoy. The dialogue-heavy, meticulous problem-solving days of the franchise have long since passed, and not even its IP holder seems quite sure where to take the series next.

Sometimes, it's best to simply accept the end of a franchise, too. Mass Effect was one of the most talked-about action RPGs throughout the lifespan of the Xbox 360, and later the PlayStation 3. Though the trilogy finished with Mass Effect 3, closing the book on Commander Shepard's story, developer Bioware wasn't done with Mass Effect just yet. A few short years after the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Mass Effect: Andromeda was revealed to the public; a brand new, next-generation entry into the popular series. What could possibly go wrong? Well, going by the game's launch reception, quite a lot. The experience being rife with bugs and glitches was only a small problem, when you put everything into perspective. Bioware had zombified its own creation by reviving it, despite wrapping up everything in the previous game. Though some things had been fixed post-launch, the damage was already done, as the game had reached meme-status across the internet. Something had changed, and the magic that had been previously captured could not be re-created.

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At the end of the day, we, the gamers, are unable to do much but merely wait, and see what the industry has in store for us. Where we actively await the release of Metroid Prime 4 while trying to forget the confusing and disappointing missteps of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, or hope that each delay of Cyberpunk 2077 helped push the game towards its hyped-up greatness, or even dare begin to even think that the next Sonic the Hedgehog game might possibly be fun.
 
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And when they started been cheap and had to sell its best studio, to then continue been cheap and recycling the same old shit.

I just wish nintendo would aod off over hyping old hardware with gimmicks and keep promising better support and what we get is crap from years ago they missed out on due to cheap old hardware.

Im confident as soon as ps5 and xbxsx comes out Nintendo will back track and say the switch is now replacing the 3ds and theyll release a home console subpar to the ps4/xbx1, but will still lack to run anything ps5/xbxsx, or a dumbed down port.

Then 3rd parties will drop support for its new big aaa titles because its not making a profit.

Im sure they do it on purpose so it leaves the market open for its recycled crap and limits competition.
Even if nintendo released a system at the same level as either of them it would still completely fail. There is only so much room for that kind of system in the market. Nintendo simply found it's own place in the market when they flopped because they where trying to keep up with the game cube being that last system they tried with.
 

MetoMeto

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That's nice but this saying does not always apply to a real world.

A "delayed game" doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be eventually good.
As for bad game is bad forever...well sometimes at first a game can be bad,
but when given some time and appreciation you can look past those bad things and discover a good game.

Also, what does "good" means anyway.

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"At the end of the day, we, the gamers, are unable to do much but merely wait, and see what the industry has in store for us."

Yeah, unless you're a big fan and decide to create one for yourself cause they don't want to. (Another metroid 2 remake, Streets or rage remake...... )
 

AaronUzumaki

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I'm not ready to accept that the Mass Effect franchise is dead. :(
Andromeda wasn't even that bad (admittedly, I did play it a year after original release so the game was already all patched up)
I mean they could give it one more try with a better polished game and a story somewhat closer to the original. I'd gladly pay $70 on a preorder for that.

On a side note, what's going on with The Elder Scrolls.
1 (Arena): 1994
2 (Daggerfall): 1996 - two years later
3 (Morrowind): 2002 - six years later
4 (Oblivion): 2006 - four years later
5 (Skyrim): 2011 - five years later
---- Skyrim special edition: 2016
---- Skyrim VR: 2017
---- Skyrim Switch: 2017
---- Skyrim fridge: 2018
etc.

It's been 9 years since Skyrim and nothing really new on the horizon. I know they're working on it but it doesn't seem like development will start until after Starfield is released, which takes us several more years in the future.
If nothing else, Andromeda brought me hours of laughs and good times for all the wrong reasons. I'd hate to see the franchise buried because of EA's awful rush job practices. As for Elder Scrolls, I'm hoping they'll finally move on from the creation engine or build a new creation engine from the ground-up. That thing has been outdated since Skyrim. Also Bethesda is becoming more EA like all the time, so that's concerning. But at least we have Obsidian's take on a TES-type game coming up with Avowed.
 

Taleweaver

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I feel I should mention command & conquer and (especially) Sim city here.

C&C is the franchise that was proof that EA sucks. Red alert 3 jumped the shark, c&c 4 did away with base building (which is like Mario games doing away with jumping)... And that mobile game? *shivers*
It took huge amount of sceptism, but the new remake of the original is actually, genuinely good. It's as if EA can't even properly fit in the narrative of being evil.

Sim city just ruined their launch date. The sad part is that there might have been a good game underneath, but that's like saying that that date that doesn't show up might be great: sc-fans would probably still be sobbing about the no-show, hoping that next time they'd get a good time with Sim city reboot 2... If the date's younger sister didn't happen to show up and scored on all fields. Her name? City skylights.

Players who may have enjoyed the initial Fallout games for their story and writing first and foremost might have potentially lost interest when Bethesda took over and turned the series into something more commonly described as “Elder Scrolls, but with guns”, or even a battle royale.
Yeah... You can skip the 'might have potentially' on fallout.
Don't get me wrong : I know the later games have fans. My best friend plays one (4 or 76...i forgot). But they're just different games that happen to have the same name,that's all. For the fallout vibe, I just play wasteland 2 or underrail.
 
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RichardTheKing

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Following upon Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was Super Paper Mario, which attempted to take the turn-based battle system from the previous game, and eschew it in favor of trying something new while still retaining certain elements to reflect the series’ RPG roots. Critically, this change was lamented, but it didn’t prevent other aspects of the game, such as its writing, from being thoroughly enjoyed.
Oi - I love Super Paper Mario! Its gameplay is the best out of all the Paper Mario games, due to minimising the frustrating Action Command system, all but removing the tedious, slow, and dreadful Peach interludes, and having the best worlds and characters. It also lacks the stupid level-up system the first two games had, in which I was always needing more HP (because I sucked at blocking) and more BP at the same time, but couldn't do that due to only being able to increase one stat per level-up; in Super, not only are BP and FP completely gone, but HP is nowhere near as relevant due to being able to move out of the way of attacks.

We needed more Super Paper Mario, in my honest opinion.

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Oh, and where's Pokemon Sword/Shield? The utter lack of content, along with the mandatory Exp. Share mechanic, the lack of exploration, the woeful animations, and the godawful Dynamax/Gigantamax and Max Raid systems completely killed the series, since it clearly displayed Game Freak's lack of passion and care; since this is the second, consecutive pair of games to have such a large list of missing content and mechanics (the first being the abysmal Let's Go!), it suggests future games will also not have all 893+ Pokemon - despite being on the much more powerful Switch, when the DS could hold 649 species and the 3DS, 807. Plus all those alternate forms. Oh, and there were no removed moves prior to the Switch, either, or Abilities.
Lastly, the stupid nerfs need to stop; they already unnecessarily weakened the Steel-type, and special moves, and Gale Wings, and the damage bonuses -ate and -ize Abilities gave, and now the damage bonuses Terrains give, and brought back the tedium and inanity of breakable TMs (except now they're "TRs"), and for the first time ever reduced a Pokemon's base stats (Aegislash), and made King's Shield only decrease an attacker's Attack by one stage instead of two. NO MORE, PLEASE!
 

Xzi

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On a side note, what's going on with The Elder Scrolls.
Bethesda's in a pickle because they've been milking the same engine since Morrowind. If they use it again for TES VI, not only will it be buggy as all hell, it'll look like shit compared to every other next-gen game. Developing a new engine from the ground up is gonna take so much time and money that they might just have to give in and use somebody else's.
 
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anhminh

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It pretty debatable if changing is good or bad. Staying true to status quo may lead a franchise to dead end. Pokemon is a great example of this. Start out as a simple monster collecting JPRG, it turn itself into one of the biggest franchise on earth. But despite keep trying to bring new element with each generation, the game fail to evolve it outdated gameplay that exist since the 90'. The result is fan frustrated with the same old formula after 4 whole generation of repeated the same old thing and it just took one mistake for fan to go on riot.

Then again we have thing like Megaman where people just wish the game exist even if it just the same old recipe.
 

MetoMeto

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It pretty debatable if changing is good or bad. Staying true to status quo may lead a franchise to dead end. Pokemon is a great example of this. Start out as a simple monster collecting JPRG, it turn itself into one of the biggest franchise on earth. But despite keep trying to bring new element with each generation, the game fail to evolve it outdated gameplay that exist since the 90'. The result is fan frustrated with the same old formula after 4 whole generation of repeated the same old thing and it just took one mistake for fan to go on riot.

Then again we have thing like Megaman where people just wish the game exist even if it just the same old recipe.
I wouldnt say its a debatable (i ean you can debate it but what i mean is...) in sense that if a franchise is established, core elements and what makes it what it is should NOT be changed EVER, thats not debatable imo. Cause if you DO change it, than its not that game anymore, just a game starring that character (if character it self is not also changed seriously).

As for game it self, ofc its debatable, and for example as much as i love new tomb raider games, they are nothing like tomb raider i really love. I dont feel the same way, and my desire for the same feeling that i look in tomb raider while playing is not there. Its good though, just not the tomb raider i know..and i know tomb raider. Objectively speaking i mean. Lara croft is starring ofc, you have all superfacial visual elements but they...killed the her spirit so to say.
Imagine it like a ghost in the shell (not an anime). Shell is tomb raider but the ghost is missing, not the same person, just looks like it. Thats what new tomb raider games are imo. Thats not a bad thing per se, just not a good tomb raider game since series is already established and solidified thats why i said its not debatable, its pretty much know fact what TR is. If you followed lara adventures from very beginning and mindset of creators youd know what i mean.


I must mentioned the new movie based on a new TR game (with that flat chest girl) the thing i noticed when i watched the whole movie is that its to damn realistic. at the end lara is saving the world from bio terorists lol.
WTF, Ethan hunt?! LoL i mean even mission impossibe had some unrealistic scenes mre or less even thought its based on more realistic themes, but TR was never about realistic stuff...i mean in games and Angelina Jolie movies super nartural forces and skeletons attack lara and she actually trawel and explore and there is mistery and everything.... but new TR games she is regular rich girl powered by neo-feministic powers and saving world in realistic fashion from bio terorists in japanese island. Thats perhaps cool mivie to some people but thats not a tomb raider.


Now you can change a franchise, but never take its "soul" out, is my point.
 
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tl:dr Now you can change a franchise, but never take its "soul" out, is my point.


Wow, what a wall of text, you seem to be a real dedicated player !^_^

I fondly agree with what you said. I never could get into the new TR, something was missing, lacking, felt fake. Maybe realism and UTTER VIOLENCE pulls me off, I liked the exploring/survival sections, but over the top and gory bow/pickaxe fights, sheesh.

Mystery, discovery, DIFFICULTY of the first games, it felt different, not a passive cinematography like nowadays. You can't help it, 3D and exploration was new back then, do you remember the first time you saw the T-REX in the jungle, or the subterranean sphynx ? I do, 'cause it was fresh and new.

Standardisation my friend, it is even the very essence of Dante's inferno. :evil:
Passionate gamers, the core audience of GBATEMP if I'm not mistaken, the thrill they seek today, can only be found in niche.

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Electronic Arts killed Command & Conquer :cry:

Just to make it revive, with just a bit more of stuttering. At least, we can still play openRA ! But no fans, only EA could have done that :


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Aaand, an interesting documentary for C&C fans:
 

gameboy

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rip kingdom hearts. Wow was KH3 really bad. graphics bad. Gameplay bad. Story bad. Content bad. Coherence bad. combat bad. Replayability bad. voice acting bad. mini games bad. level design bad. did i forget to say the graphics were bad too? ps2 level.

there was also one part where they made you play a terribly boring sledding mini game to get the last weapon too.

sadly the only thing i did enjoy was the gummi ship boss battles.
 

Pokemon_Tea_Sea_Jee

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Pokémon series is not canon after Gen 1 and 2.
That as from someone who has a lot of favorite pokemon from =gens that came after.

I pick and choose what I accept. I like Gen 1 and 2, some newer Pokémon and some newer regions.
 
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SANIC

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Pokémon series is not canon after Gen 1 and 2.
That as from someone who has a lot of favorite pokemon from =gens that came after.

I pick and choose what I accept. I like Gen 1 and 2, some newer Pokémon and some newer regions.
Saddens me that Gen 4 and 5 were the best gens
 

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Dead Space... 2 amazing entries I still play followed by microtransaction filled 2 player action game. Franchise killed. I still long for a return to survival horror for it but hay it's EA we are talking about. Hell just give me remastered versions of the first 2 games. Every E3 I sat through so much sports shit (and I like sports games) to see if someone at EA finally woke up and thought "Dead Space. A story driven single player horror game... That's what we need!"
 
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Hambrew

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where development struggles and suffers, the pressure of it all taking a toll on workers who are just trying their best, to the point where it’s impossible to turn the game into something good prior to the fateful release date
no man's sky: AHAHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAH- wait what were you saying? i was making myself good post-launch
 
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