The problem with modern sequels

28 December 2010

Remember this article from three months ago, which decried the treatment classic game franchises get nowadays? Turns out, the feeling is shared. Which isn't exactly surprising, and maybe I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it, but for the remarks I made in my previous article.

See, the fact that many modern games (and movies) have terrible stories can be forgiven. It's a matter of fashion, and fashions go as easily as they come. But when you make a sequel of a cult classic from decades ago, turning it into a brainless GFX-fest — as is the current trend — simply can't go unnoticed.

Why? Think about it. Fans of a book are often miffed when the movie adaptation doesn't match their vision of the original, even if said movie happens to be very good in its own right. Imagine how fans of the original Fallout games must have felt when the long-awaited third installment turned out to be an over-the-shoulder action RPG designed primarily for consoles. Even if Fallout 3 was a good game (and opinions are divided on this matter), it just didn't have any connection to the titles they had fallen in love with all those years ago.

Mind you, there were good arguments for the upgrade. After all, this is the 21st century. How many people would buy a 2D, story-driven RPG? Enough to support Jeff Vogel, obviously, but likely not enough for an AAA title. Which in my opinion says more about the wastefulness inherent in modern game development than changing markets. But still. When you recreate a beloved strategy game as a dumb shooter, as they apparently did with X-Com, you simply can't expect a warm reception from the old fans. And if you weren't after them, why did you bother with an existing franchise in the first place?

In unrelated news, a friend was arguing recently that brainless blockbusters are Hollywood's way of financing more intelligent movies. So, I guess the latter don't make money? Hmm. I seem to remember a certain big budget science fiction movie from 1982 which was a critical and box office failure. Ten years later, it was already a cult classic, and I bet the rights holders are still making money with it. Its title? Blade Runner. The moral? Truly good movies do make money, in time. The problem is, nowadays there is this obsession in business, and especially big media, to try and get ridiculously high profits very fast. Hence all the movies designed to earn as much as possible in the opening weekend, next month be damned. And I could write at length about the reasons why that's a bad idea, even from a business standpoint.

But that's another story, for people interested in economics. For now, I'll point out that the original Indiana Jones trilogy has had enormous influence on both cinematography and popular culture, whereas the much more recent Indy 4 is already forgotten. All those record earnings right after release? Well that was it. And money devalues fast, you know.