This NY Times article is the latest in a long line of both EA bashing and bemoaning of sequelitis that is rampant among major video game publishers. This passage is getting the most attention:
By year’s end, Electronic Arts plans to release 26 new games, all but one of them a sequel, including the 16th version of N.H.L. Hockey, the 11th of the racing game Need for Speed and the 13th of the P.G.A. Tour golf game. The company also relies heavily on creating games based on movies like the James Bond and Lord of the Rings series, rather than developing original brands.
The article focuses on the cash cows that are EA sports games. The father of a gamer planning to buy Madden 2006 had it right when he said, “If it wasn’t for free agency, Electronic Arts wouldn’t be doing so well.” Very astute. Sports games do lend themselves to sequels but it’s easy to complain about sequels to other games. But why are we picking on EA for doing exactly what Japanese developers do just as blatantly. We have like, what, 83 different Final Fantasy games? Aren’t there like 27 Dragon Warriors? No one seems to care when those games get a “roster update.” But that’s not my point.
The article got me thinking about sequels. What would happen if sequels weren’t so successful? What would we have missed out on? The first game that came to mind was Super Mario Brothers. The first one is undoubtedly the quintessential video game. A million Marios followed. Super Mario Brothers 2, on the otherhand, wasn’t as great as its predecessor. So what if Nintendo decided it didn’t want to continue with sequels of SMB? We’d never had the pleasure of playing my favorite Super Mario game, Super Mario Brothers 3. And let’s not forget Super Mario World, Mario 64 and a host of other excellent Mario games.
There have been plenty of other sequels that were heads and shoulders above the games to which they are sequels – Diablo 2, Warcraft 2 (did anyone even play the first WC? I did for about ten minutes), Age of Kings (Age of Empires 2), Halo 2 (which I’m sure some would disagree with), and many others. Sequels can be a good thing! A very good thing!
Of course, as gamers, we’d like to see developers augment their library with sequels, not depend on them. New franchises like Pikmin, Viewtiful Joe, and Katamari Damacy would never have seen the light of day if sequels really ruled the roost. While it is apparent that sequels are where the “sure” money is, games like Viewtiful Joe can be a pleasant (and profitable) surprise.
So let’s not be quick to dismiss a sequel. They are an integral part of the video game spectrum. Don’t forget, too, that sequals can tank. There’s probably just as many bad sequels as there are good ones. But that’s another topic for another day.
As an exercise for the reader, what other games would have made you sad if there never was a “2” or “II” after their name?