"Wake me when you need me." Which video game sagas could benefit from a break in the years ahead?
Complacency is an immeasurably dangerous product of the successes of a franchise which can often cripple the appeal of a series to its very limit. Indeed, what with the increasing trend of hit annual video gaming franchises releasing every Autumn, it seems to be inevitable that developers and writers can become more complacent about the supposedly guaranteed financial safety of their respective franchises.
Nevertheless, as we reach the climax of the current-generation and the dawn of a whole new generation of console hardware, it is intriguing to wonder which franchises will carry through to 'next-gen' with the most success when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch this November. Will some series whose success seemed virtually assured fall by the wayside this Winter? It's difficult to know for sure right now, given that not every video game franchise is making an automatic generational conversion. All the same, in a speculative manner, I've compiled together a list of five acclaimed video game sagas which could do with a rest before their next outing. Certainly, we want to see these franchises return, but perhaps not in such an almighty hurry:
HALO- It came as little surprise that once Halo 3 took its franchise's sales to new levels of acclaim and financial success, Microsoft Game Studios opted to annualise the saga. Thanks to that decision, since 2008 we've had Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4 with just twelve month intervals between each release. Sure enough, though, the franchise formula began to wane thin somewhat after five consecutive yearly releases. With any luck, by taking a year off in 2013, 343 Industries will have allowed themselves the chance to enhance their Halo experience to a level of quality that truly befits a series that once represented the unquestionable pinnacle of the FPS genre...
ASSASSIN'S CREED- When we took our first steps with Altair ibn-La'Ahad in 2007, naturally it was impossible to guess that the storyline of Assassin's Creed would expand far beyond a single instalment. Six years later, and we've played through a variety of historical experiences during Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin's Creed: Revelations and Assassin's Creed III. With Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on the way this November, the series certainly shows no signs of slowing down, yet it is important to note that ACIII suffered in its critical reception due to game-breaking bugs and a sense of general deja vu, and thus Ubisoft Montreal needs to beware of boring its fanbase with future potentially predictable outings beyond and including Black Flag.
SUPER MARIO- As if Nintendo didn't already have enough problems at their colossal flop of an E3 'conference' this year, it seemed as if even their most reliable franchises were lacking in innovation these days. Case in point, the Super Mario series, which made its return at the Nintendo Direct conference in the form of the new WiiU exclusive outing Super Mario 3D World. That the developers at Nintendo can only think to provide a lacklustre remake of a 3DS gem just as they did with New Super Mario Bros U seems to suggest we're miles away from any Galaxy moment on either console, perhaps meaning that it's best for Mario to stay hidden in one of those iconic green pipes once he has warped down them!
BATMAN- Firstly, a disclaimer of sorts- we here at On-Screen cannot wait to play Batman: Arkham Origins later this year. However, for many there is a sense that Origins represents a stop-gap instalment from Warner Brothers Montreal while Rocksteady presumably hone an Arkham 3 for next-generation consoles, and that the new instalment utilises a lot of the same location and combat-based assets of Arkham City doesn't help in this regard. Without a doubt, Arkham Origins could be one of the video gaming highlights of 2013, yet Warner Brothers should still be on guard for the chance that they could potentially send the franchise into a stale state if they keep up a rapid release schedule.
CALL OF DUTY- If ever there was a franchise that summarised beautifully the issues of predictability and repetition that can arise with annual series, Activision's Call of Duty does the trick. Not since 2008 have we gone a single year without a new COD video game arriving on our shores, and while the series' financial successes are continuing, there's an ongoing sense among critics and many fans that a period of recuperation and evolution behind-the-scenes of development could do the franchise a world of good. Perhaps it's naive, but this writer truly believes that were Call of Duty: Ghosts to be the last we saw of the saga for at least two years, fans would then see the overall franchise return in ruder health than ever before...